EV technology is improving every year

December 30, 2022

The following letter is in response to a commentary by Rep. Jesse Vanderwende opposing the state’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 that appeared in the Dec. 23 edition.

There are good reasons to be cautious in making such a monumental move, even if over a nearly 13-year period, but the commentary downplays the accelerating related trends that have a chance of making this possible. Let’s revisit some of the points.

By quoting USEIA figures on the mix of fuels used to power the national grid, the commentary ignores the ongoing shift to renewable energy that is underway. Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is steering us to generate 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2035, the year this ban on new sales would take full effect. Even now, the latest figures for Delmarva (PJM power grid) show over one-third of power generated from nuclear and about 6% from renewable sources. Costs of solar have plummeted in the last decade and adoption is picking up. The Orsted wind project alone should produce enough energy to power 300,000 homes by 2035.

While it is true that just 1% of vehicles are electric today, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that annual EV sales have skyrocketed from 10,092 in 2011 to 459,426 in 2021. A graph of this growth shows the sort of rapidly accelerating S-curve adoption that many new technologies enjoy – 62% in the last year. About 6% of all autos sold in the third quarter of 2022 were fully electric.

Arguments about EV range and price are also misguided when considering a long-term plan. The IBM PC in 1981 cost $5,126 in today’s dollars. It had just 16K of memory and no disk storage was included. Today’s computers are light-years faster, more capable and can be had for under $500. That’s what innovation and achieving critical mass tend to do with most new technologies, and a lot of it is going on with EVs. Entirely new battery materials are being brought into being. Ranges will continue to increase and charging times will keep going down.

This 2035 target is akin to President Kennedy’s creation of the Apollo moon landing program. In 1961, very few of the required technologies were in place or ready to support a crewed lunar landing. The ambitious goal triggered the necessary planning and innovation required to make it a reality in less than 10 years. We all know the importance behind why we are doing this. Let’s lean in and get it done instead of acting like it’s a pipe dream. If, after best efforts, the 2035 goal becomes impractical, we all know that politicians will be forced to make necessary adjustments to face reality.

Darrell Piatt
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