Future of Electric Vehicles Called Into Question

Use of electric vehicles in Wisconsin is facing changes and challenges due to state legislation and public opinion.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, contributing to 27 percent of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. With the environment in mind, many people have switched to driving electric cars.

In 2017, 90,302 electric vehicles were estimated to be on the road nationwide. The largest concentration of electric vehicle drivers are in California, Washington and Hawaii. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has fewer registered electric vehicles than Illinois, Michigan and Illinois, with only one electric vehicle per 1,000 registered conventional vehicles.

Several electric vehicles parked at charging stations. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In September 2017, Governor Scott Walker approved a two-year state budget of $76 billion that issued a $100 fee on electric and a $75 fee on hybrid vehicles. These fees would bring in $8 million to the state’s Department of Transportation. Walker backs the fees, saying it is only fair that electric and hybrid drivers pay for the roads they use.

An additional fee may make potential electric vehicle buyers wary of purchasing a vehicle.

2016 marked the highest record of miles driven in Wisconsin, at about 64 billion. Since 1970, the annual mileage for the state has increased by over 100 percent. A lot of miles calls for a lot of gas, gas that isn’t found in the state.

Wisconsin lacks any fossil fuel resources.  All petroleum is imported from other states and countries, causing a large amount of money to leave the state. In 2012, 76 percent of out-of-state expenditures were from transportation.

A 2013 report by the Wisconsin Energy Statistics Book found gasoline and diesel prices underwent greater price variation and experienced higher price increases than electricity prices between 1970 to 2012. Investing the state’s transportation into the electric market would allow for more predictable prices and less money leaving the state. The transition to more electric-heavy transportation may not be the right answer for the environment however, unless the state’s primary electricity source is reconsidered.

From 2012 to 2016, 52 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity came from coal. Not only is this amount one of the highest in the Midwest, but it is higher than the nation’s use of coal for electricity, which is around 38.6 percent.

Minnesota, in this four year timeframe, decreased its dependency on coal from 45.3 percent to 39 percent. Illinois also experienced a decrease in coal dependency.  Illinois and Minnesota are migrating to relying more on renewable resources and less on coal, both states aim to reach 25 percent renewable resource use by 2025. In comparison, Wisconsin had a 2015 goal of 10 percent use of renewable resources for electricity.

Lynn Markham, land use specialist for the Center of Land Use Education, said, “Overall, I view encouraging electric vehicles and updating our sources of electricity as two prongs in a multi-pronged approach to decrease the money Wisconsin sends out of state for energy, increase Wisconsin’s energy independence, increase jobs in renewable energy installation and reduce the air pollution and greenhouse gases from gas and diesel-powered vehicles that harm people’s health.”

Shannon Columb

About Shannon Columb

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