The electric transportation team at SACE hosts electric vehicle ride and drives to create space for uninterrupted, hands-on learning about the technology and benefits for lawmakers and their staff.Dory Larsen | March 24, 2022
As the electric vehicle (EV) market heats up in the Southeast, the team at SACE is putting legislators in the driver’s seat. During legislative sessions, we provided lawmakers and staff in Georgia and North Carolina opportunities to experience electric driving first-hand, learn about technology, and better understand the benefits of electric transportation.
The latest numbers on EV market growth in the Southeast are demonstrating that this is the place to be. For example, year-end updates to SACE and Atlas Public Policy’s “Transportation Electrification in the Southeast” report found that Georgia has the highest EV manufacturing employment in the region employing over 10,000 Georgians. Additionally, manufacturing investment in North Carolina reached $1.3 billion. For some context, 33% of the national total of manufacturing jobs and 43% of the national total of manufacturing investments are happening in the Southeast region.
With all of this growth and economic development in the region, the timing is right for southern states to capitalize on Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Funds by harmonizing their policies on actions that will continue to accelerate this economic growth. However, it’s challenging to make decisions on an unfamiliar issue.
You can’t understand what you don’t know
According to public documents, 13% of Georgia legislators professionally identify as lawyers. Other professions listed are physicians, farmers, and business owners. So you would anticipate they would have a tremendous amount of subject matter expertise in those areas. The electric vehicle industry is new enough that many lawmakers know little to nothing about EV technology and likely none work in the EV industry. That’s why offering legislators a first-hand opportunity to drive an EV and learn about the benefits EVs bring to their communities is critical.
Three EVs, two sides of the aisle, and a lot of fun!
In September 2021, SACE provided a ride and drive in Raleigh, North Carolina, along with co-sponsors Representatives Julie von Haefen (D) and Harry Warren (R), to highlight bipartisan support that will promote EVs in the state. The event served up rides for over forty legislators and their staff as well as members of various state agencies. The drives give us an opportunity to answer questions and spark the curiosity of legislators.
Q: Can you take this on long road trips?
A: Yes, you can take this car on a road trip through rural America, it was driven to North Carolina from Florida on autopilot.
Q: So, where is the key?
A: It’s an app on my phone or a key card that looks like a hotel room key. Well, how do you turn it on? It’s already on, but it doesn’t sound like it. All-electric vehicles are very, very quiet.
Q: How do you know when you need to charge?
A: The display tells you how many miles you have left to drive and the navigation system shows you where to charge and how to get there. All the guesswork is taken out.
Many were captivated by the self-driving features and how fast and smooth the vehicles perform.
During a busy legislative session on March 3, 2022, Georgia Senators Kimberly Jackson (D), Ben Watson (R) and Representatives Chuck Martin (R), and Spencer Frye (D) co-championed another great EV ride and drive event. There was even a resolution passed to commemorate the day as “Electric Vehicle Day” at the state capitol. As legislators whizzed around the streets near the Capitol building in Atlanta, they were able to ask questions about the vehicles themselves.
Q: I didn’t have to use the brake to stop, does that mean it requires less money on brakes?
A: Yes, wear on the brakes is significantly reduced with regenerative braking. Fuel costs are also much lower.
Q: I heard about how people-powered heaters in Texas during the bad storms last year. Can this car do that?
A: What you’re describing is vehicle-to-building technology. The answer, yes, vehicle-to-building technology exists today. Electrons can flow back and forth between our vehicles and our buildings. We need to be re-framing vehicles as portable energy sources and designing our buildings EV-ready.
Q: How many of these vehicles are in use right now? What are we talking about in terms of numbers?
A: Over 2.4 million EVs have already been sold in the United States and over 250,000 in the Southeast.
Driving is believing
The ride and drives provide an opportunity to talk to lawmakers and their staff with their undivided attention about the benefits of zero-emission vehicles like reduced air pollution, lower cost of ownership, reduced climate emissions, and job creation with lawmakers. These uninterrupted conversations allow for powerful learning. The drives provide a safe space for drivers to let their guard down and ask questions as they’re experiencing the technology in real-time. The drives also created quite a buzz. In Atlanta, folks who didn’t even ride with us were posing for photos with the wrapped Model X and we overheard several conversations about it inside the Capitol building.
We’re so thankful for every participant who chose to come drive with us. We’re equally grateful to the legislative champions and their staff who made these two capitol EV ride and drive days possible. We’ve been invited back for next year’s sessions in both states and we’re excited for the opportunity. We’re also looking to co-host additional events in other states. If you are interested in collaborating with our team to get an event scheduled for your local government please reach out to us.
Electrify the South is a Southern Alliance for Clean Energy program that leverages research, advocacy, and outreach to promote renewable energy and accelerate the equitable transition to electric transportation throughout the Southeast. Visit ElectrifytheSouth.org to learn more and connect with us.