Bingaman on the Current State of Electric Vehicles

September 17, 2008
02:33 PM
“Thank you all for coming here to testify today to give us your thoughts on the current state of electric vehicles and their prospects for widespread use in the United States. It’s difficult to find an article in the newspapers lately about the automotive industry that doesn’t mention hybrids or plug-in hybrids as the future of the industry, so it seems like a good time to hear from some of the experts on exactly how close this electric car future is.  It’s also a good time to talk about this issue since people are understandably focused intently on the price of gasoline and wondering when we’re going to have some real alternatives. 
“Whether your reasons stem from a desire for environmental, fiscal, or national security, the case for seriously reducing our reliance on foreign oil is exceptionally strong.  In fact, the case has become so obvious in this time of high fuel prices that essentially everyone has embraced it.  Sometimes lost in the rhetoric around this issue is the fact, which I think most people agree on as well, that the United States must dramatically reduce it’s consumption of oil in order to make any progress on these important issues.  We consume roughly a quarter of the world’s oil production and unless we address this fact, we are ignoring the elephant in the room. 
“Since we have significantly reduced our use of oil in electricity generation and home heating, we are now left with the transportation sector as the main opportunity to reduce our use of oil.  Over 80% of forecast increased oil demand in the future comes from the transportation sector and its use there is a significant contributor to both global warming and local pollution.
“Electrification of the transportation sector provides an intriguing potential solution to several problems.  The clearest benefit is to consumers, as they would pay costs estimated to be less than a quarter of what they pay now to get around.  Add to this the benefits to the nation both in balance of trade and national security in reducing our need for expensive oil and allowing instead the use of abundant domestic electricity sources such as wind and solar.  And even if fossil fuels remain the dominant sources of electricity, their emissions are much easier to control in stationary power plants than in 200 million internal combustion engines.  The technical hurdles associated with carbon capture and sequestration from cars and trucks are surely much greater than developing the next generation of batteries.
“There’s another interesting possibility presented in the connection between our existing electric infrastructure and the need for a smarter, more robust, and diversified grid to enable widespread renewable use.  If electric vehicles can truly become integrated with the grid such that they can provide the energy storage and dispatch-ability needed for renewable sources such as wind and solar, then they may provide a key ingredient we are lacking today. 
“These are exciting possibilities, but they are still just possibilities unless we can put in place policies that get us from the auto show prototypes to the showrooms across the country.  The people here today have made great progress towards this goal and I look forward to hearing from them on how we can help them continue to advance.”
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