Where the Rubber Meets the Road
South Carolina state lawmakers and agency decision-makers got to experience electric vehicle technology during an EV Ride and Drive event this past week in Columbia. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy along with the Conservation Voters of South Carolina had a great time riding along with leaders as they got to experience EV technology firsthand. Most of the lawmakers and agency leaders who participated had never driven an EV before. SACE staff rode along and discussed the economic, public health, and environmental opportunities and benefits of electric transportation. The event was co-hosted by South Carolina state Senators Marlon Kimpson and Scott Talley as well as Representatives Deon Tedder and Bobby Cox.
Ride and drives are a fun and exciting way to build awareness, especially for state leaders charged with policy-making and procurement. Until you drive an EV, you can’t viscerally feel the value. But the benefits become clearer and more tangible after you experience electric vehicles’ smooth, quiet, quick, and clean performance.
Explosive Investment in EV Manufacturing and Jobs
Participants got a sense of the magnitude the electric transportation industry is having on South Carolina’s economy. South Carolina has seen explosive growth in announced investment into electric vehicle charging manufacturing, vehicle assembly, battery assembly, and battery recycling. Thus far, $7.1 billion has been invested in South Carolina with 4,200 jobs. In 2022 alone, $6.3 billion dollars and 3,420 jobs were announced for the Palmetto State.
This flurry of recent investments is, in part, because of the incentives for clean energy production in the federal Inflation Reduction Act including the New Advanced Manufacturing Production Tax Credit. And these federal dollars are being reinforced with actions like Governor McMaster’s executive order that initiated an interagency process to coordinate the state’s EV infrastructure rollout and further ramp up EV supply chain manufacturing recruitment to bolster the state’s economy.
Federal Funding to Support EV Charging and Vehicles
In addition to federal incentives to support domestic EV industry manufacturing, there are federal dollars to support the purchase of electric cars, trucks, and buses, and increase charging infrastructure availability. South Carolina will receive approximately $70 million dollars to install high-speed chargers along highway corridors over the next five years through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. States like North Carolina and Florida have initiated stakeholder engagement around the NEVI program planning. These stakeholder conversations are critical for ensuring the best possible outcomes and we hope to see the South Carolina Department of Transportation initiate a similar stakeholder process for South Carolinians.
This week’s event was also an opportunity to highlight South Carolina’s success in receiving the Environmental Protection Agency clean school bus program funding. South Carolina was third in the nation in total funding, receiving $58 million dollars for electric school buses. Of note, South Carolina is a leader in electric bus manufacturing. As an added bonus for the state’s economy, many of the drive trains, batteries, and charging stations for electric school buses are made by Greenville-based Proterra, a leading manufacturer of electric transit buses and school bus components.
Building on Progress and Lessons Learned
A hot topic of conversation at the legislature event was the state’s newly released electric vehicle website which highlights the growing electric vehicle industry and the state’s capacity for further industry expansion and is a product of Governor McMaster’s Executive Order that encourages industry efforts and aligns state planning.
South Carolina has already unleashed significant growth in the clean energy sector through policies like the Energy Freedom Act that passed in 2019. The law paves the way for solar growth and competition in South Carolina and its passage demonstrates the legislature is willing to embrace clean energy.
By also electrifying transportation the state can address its top two carbon-emitting sectors and take action to reduce the state’s exposure to climate risk, support the public’s health, and promote a robust clean energy economy in the Palmetto state.
We were grateful for the opportunity to speak with South Carolina lawmakers and look forward to working with other states to further propel the electric transportation market and all of the benefits surrounding it forward.
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.
Featured image left to right: SACE Electric Transportation Program Manager, Dory Larsen; Representative Annie McDaniel