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Obama gives big boost to electric cars with national charging corridor

People in the United States are running out of excuses for not ditching fuel burning cars.

CREDIT: Flickr/ khengsiong

The All-American road is on it’s way to being greener than ever.

The Obama administration announced Thursday the establishment of 48 national electric vehicle charging corridors, covering nearly 25,000 miles, across 35 states and the District of Columbia.

This means electric vehicle (EV) drivers in these corridors can expect either an existing or planned charging station within every 50 miles, according to the Obama administration. New roadside signs were also unveiled to help motorists find stations — similar to the way that gas stations signs do now.

While EVs have been around for about a century, they have struggled to compete with gas-burning cars, due to the cost of batteries and the lack of recharging infrastructure. Gasoline cars were cheaper, and electricity wasn’t as widespread when EVs first appeared, making gas stations more convenient.

But in the past couple of years EV technology has become cheaper as mainstream companies have moved to create EV models. Just in the past eight years the number of plug-in EV models has increased from one to more than 20. Meanwhile, battery costs have decreased 70 percent. But while electricity connectivity is widespread, charging infrastructure has remained an issue. The Obama administration is taking steps to fix that.

“We have increased the number of electric vehicle charging stations from less than 500 in 2008 to more than 16,000 today — a 40-fold increase,” the White House said in a statement.

Map of the EV charging corridors. CREDIT: Department of Transportation

The White House also said 24 state and local governments agreed to introduce hundreds of additional EVs into their fleets.

California will buy at least 150 EVs and add charging stations in state-owned parking spaces.

Los Angeles will triple the city’s current EV fleet to 555 vehicles from about 200 by the end of 2017, Reuters reported. Two hundred of them will go to the police department. Los Angeles will also add another 500 charging stations by the end of next year.

Atlanta will add 300 charging stations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport by the end of 2017.

In addition, major companies and utilities agreed to support the EV charging corridors. These include BMW, General Electric, General Motors, Nissan, PG&E, and Kansas City Power & Light.

As infrastructure scales up, the Department of Transportation will produce two studies on charging station technology. One study will identify the number of charging stations the country needs to incentivize EV market penetration. The second will determine best practices for EV fast-charging installations, the White House said.

The White House announcement comes a day after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that average daily gasoline consumption in June was the highest ever, breaking records set in 2007. Moreover, the transportation sector this year surpassed energy generation to become the most polluting sector. That means greenhouse gases and pollution associated to climate change and disease are now linked more to our vehicles than to our electricity consumption.

Meanwhile, EV sales did not met President Barack Obama’s goal of 1 million by 2015. However, worldwide the technology is spreading, with more than 2 million EVs expected to be on the road by the end of 2016.

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