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What’s the biggest electrification milestone that needs to be hit in 2023?

A driver charges his electric vehicle at a charging station

From transmission network modernization to global EV battery manufacturing standards, the milestones the experts see as critical in the next year are wide-ranging.

This story is part of "The Future of Mobility," a Protocol special report. Read more here.

Anthony Allard

EVP and head of North America at Hitachi Energy

In 2023 we need to see meaningful progress toward the expansion and modernization of electrical transmission networks in the U.S. Transmission is the biggest bottleneck to the success of the clean energy transition.

States and power utilities have established aggressive GHG reduction goals, which is great. To achieve them, we need to shift away from fossil fuels and toward energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro. We also need to electrify key sectors of our economy, like transportation and manufacturing.

This will depend on more robust transmission networks that can move this electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s needed, reliably and economically. Unfortunately, many of the best sites for large-scale wind and solar development are in remote, rural areas that are underserved by high-capacity transmission infrastructure. New systems built to serve these locations often need to cover long distances and cross state or national borders, passing through multiple jurisdictions.

This can make siting and permitting very difficult. Political dynamics, public sentiment, and regulatory requirements can be the deciding factors in the success or failure of a project. We have seen recent successes, such as the approval of the Champlain Hudson Power Express project, but such instances are rare.

Due in part to this fragmented process, the U.S. lacks a nationwide grid, or even sufficient transfer capacity between the existing regional interconnections to move large amounts of power between regions. Such a plan, and more streamlined processes to implement it, would be an important step in the right direction.

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Felipe Smolka

Partner and e-mobility automotive leader at EY

The most significant milestone in 2023 is to conclude and fine-tune the IRA guidelines on how global EV and battery manufacturers should look and invest in the U.S. EV market. We must ensure these players can develop fast enough to take advantage of the incentive pools made available by several state and federal programs. We expect the U.S. market to be a super vibrant EV ecosystem with more than 85 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2035, supported by lots of innovation but also robust and scalable manufacturing.

Cross-sector collaboration will also be essential for the long-term transition to EVs in the Americas and globally. This means that all e-mobility players must find ways to collaborate and, in some cases, co-create for the benefit of consumers going through the electrification transition. The proximity between large sectors such as automotive, energy, power and utilities, and government will play a significant role in how consumers will open their appetite to continue to purchase EV products that work for them.

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Claire Miller

Director of tech and innovation at Octopus Electric Vehicles

In the U.K. in the electrification of transport, the official publication of a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate is a key milestone in 2023.

In 2021, 11% of vehicles sold in the U.K. were electric vehicles: By 2030 that figure must be 100%. Demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is far outstripping current supply.

In order to make significant and meaningful progress to meet that deadline, a minimum amount of sales each year must be EVs. And that minimum amount must rise appropriately year-on-year.

A ZEV mandate gives vehicle manufacturers clear targets to meet as we work toward the ban on the sales of ICE vehicles in 2030. It also presents the opportunity to make sure those vehicles are fit for the future, for example, by making them digitally connected and designed to support the grid through bidirectional charging.

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Grant Goodale

Co-founder and carrier experience officer at Convoy

As a freight industry, our goal right now should be the widest possible adoption of electric trucks in the shortest amount of time. The faster we can get fossil fuel-powered rigs off the highway, the better for the supply chain — and our planet. While alternative fuel vehicles hold enormous promise to revolutionize the trucking industry, they have largely been unattainable for the vast majority of America’s three million truck drivers, 86% of which are small carriers with six or fewer trucks or independent owner-operators.

This is due to several significant unresolved challenges. It starts with the availability of charging infrastructure. Without a place to charge, electric trucks are limited to day cab range - that works for some fleets who operate locally, but not all. Worries about range and having the flexibility to travel longer distances as the need arises will also be concerns until charging infrastructure is addressed. Additional challenges for small carriers include understanding how charging can be efficiently worked into a driver’s daily schedule, the significant up-front cost to purchase a new electric truck, as well as the corresponding insurance premiums.

We have to acknowledge these and other adoption blockers for small carriers, and then work hard to identify solutions in the years ahead. The technology is here and could be readily available in short order. We need collaboration to find the conduit between technology and the professionals we hope will adopt it.

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Debra Smith

CEO and general manager at Seattle City Light

The biggest milestone regarding electrification we need to hit in 2023 has to do with answering the key question: who is responsible for paying for the costs of decarbonization? We know electrification is a necessary component of addressing climate change. And we know that heat pumps, which use far less energy than other space conditioning and water heating technologies, are a critical component of electrification. But the cost of transitioning from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps are prohibitive for most home and building owners. Facing inflation and the threat of a recession, most owners will be prioritizing other needs. The Inflation Reduction Act is a necessary first step in identifying funding resources, but the funding gap is larger than the IRA alone can fill—the entire state of Washington will receive ~$160 million for upfront heat pump incentives, but the funding gap is several hundred million dollars just for heat pumps in the Seattle City Light service territory. Despite our work to center equity in the energy transformation, we run the risk of creating a new equity issue: those with financial means or the lucky few who are eligible for and can access IRA funding will electrify while the rest of homeowners and buildings owners will stay on fossil fuels. If we can mobilize other funding streams in 2023 to build on the momentum created by IRA, we'll remove the burden to pay for decarbonization from the customer and move toward a more equitable and affordable energy transition.

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Asaf Nagler

VP of external affairs for ABB, E-mobility North America

2023 is going to be the year of NEVI — the new $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program created as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Deploying the first round of funds for building out public charging stations along highways is no small task, which will require collaboration across the entire transportation industry. It is also an opportunity for significant learnings and education across the sector, from new e-mobility economy participants to seasoned incumbents, including governments, drivers, fueling retailers, charging operators, workers, and more.

Collaboration and joint learnings across the e-mobility economy will be integral to scaling up the EV charging industry and ensuring that we set the foundation for affordable, sustainable, and user-friendly charging experiences for all drivers. Dispersing the first round of NEVI funding across all states and territories in 2023 is a milestone that will speed the journey toward scaling up the EV charging industry.

To set the country on a sustainable growth electrification journey, NEVI program designers should focus on three things.

  • Provide flexibility to allow the market to choose the best-fit charging technology and business models to serve their drivers and use cases.
  • Set up charging stations for success by requiring evidence of well-developed and well-resourced operations and maintenance plans that will ensure charger reliability.
  • Incentivize owners, operators, software providers, EVSE manufacturers, contractors, and utilities to openly collaborate on designing and executing deployment and operations plans to promote high-quality charging experiences.

Carrie Atiyeh

Senior program manager of the transportation fuels and technology team at the Colorado Energy Office

Hitting any EV milestone is like sitting on a three-legged stool — all the parts need to be present. Automakers have to provide vehicles people want at a price point they can afford; the government has to set policies to catalyze the market through incentives and public investments in charging infrastructure; and consumers have to be aware of all these components to make an informed decision about EV ownership.

Driving electric is still a new experience for most individuals. In Colorado alone, 63% of non-EV drivers say they plan to purchase an EV by 2030. To achieve Colorado’s goal of 940,000 EVs on the road by 2030, the state is investing in charging infrastructure to meet and sustain consumer demand and supporting EV purchases with a state tax credit. But our efforts won’t be fully recognized unless Coloradans learn about the benefits of driving electric and the available resources that can make EV ownership a reality.

Today only a few states have invested in consumer campaigns to increase EV awareness and education, notably California, which leads the nation in EV registrations. In Colorado, we just launched EV CO, the first state campaign that provides Coloradans with EV resources and top-of-mind information around charging, state and federal incentives, and the growing availability of EVs for every driver and lifestyle. Relevant and accessible information, for both near-term buyers and those who are still several years away, will be critical to increasing long-term EV adoption.

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Spencer Reeder

Director, government affairs & sustainability at Audi of America

We’ve seen a great building of consumer interest in our electrified portfolio. The overall industry EV sales data is reflecting this trend as well, particularly in those states with supportive policies. However, for EV adoption to continue to accelerate nationwide in 2023, to support the shared ambition of reducing emissions and confronting climate change, consumer purchase incentives, both federal and those offered at the state level, need to be simplified, both to bring in more EVs into these programs and to reduce consumer confusion. The complex and exclusionary approaches we’re seeing emerge in some of the purchase incentive programs will attenuate consumer demand in the mainstream market precisely at the moment it’s poised to hit escape velocity. This would be an unforced error.

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Jonathan Levy

Chief commercial officer at EVgo

2022 itself has year of major EV milestones, especially as it put to bed myths on consumer demand. We’ve seen EV sales hit 6% in Q3 2022, nearly triple what it was in Q3 2020, and that now extends well beyond California to states like Colorado (7% of new LDV registrations) and New Jersey (5.6%). At this point, consumer demand is outpacing vehicle availability. It is tremendously exciting to see automakers committed to literally more than $1 trillion in investments to build vehicle and battery capacity to meet the surging consumer interest to date. So in many ways, the first key EV milestone in 2023 is seeing enough vehicles on dealership lots so anyone can go electric whether or not they have a reservation or are on a waitlist.

As a charging solutions provider, EVgo is focused on access to reliable and convenient charging infrastructure, as that enables mass adoption. As a result, we are laser focused on working with automaker partners like GM, Nissan, and Toyota as well as fleet partners like Uber, Lyft, and MHX, and public policy stakeholders to expand our network and provide options across communities and vehicle types. To get from that 6% sales number in 2022 to 50%+ in 2030, 2023 will need to leap over milestones on # of EVs sold, EV models available, and EV fast charging stations deployed, and we are fired up to clear those milestones on the way to ubiquitous EV adoption.

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Kameale C. Terry

CEO at ChargerHelp

The biggest milestone that needs to be hit in 2023 for electrification is an agreed-upon metric for measuring the operability of EV charging stations. This metric would ensure mass EV adoption. At ChargerHelp we are excited to play a role in ensuring that all stations are operable no matter the issue.

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