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Jeff Brandes wants Florida to prepare for future wave of electric cars

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Soon, a lot more electric vehicles will be on Florida roads. Jeff Brandes wants the state to get ready.

At least seven electric cars are coming to market by 2020, according to Business Insider, with several considered to be relatively affordable. That will make a total of 39 different models of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles and 44 models of EV’s operating in North America.

This week, the state senator from St. Petersburg filed SB 384, which calls on the Florida Transportation Commission to review all sources of revenue for transportation infrastructure and maintenance projects and prepare a report to the Governor and the Legislature when electric vehicles are determined to make up a certain percentage or more of the total number of registered vehicles statewide.

“I think many states are going to wake up and realize that a significant portion of their fleet is has transitioned to electric vehicles,” Brandes said Friday.

The Pinellas County Republican explained the main goal of the bill is twofold: It triggers the FTC to come up with a plan on how to fund roads once two percent of all cars in Florida are electrified. That’s crucial since Florida roads are predominantly funded through gas taxes, which electric vehicle owners would not pay.

“At two percent it’s noticeable but not meaningful,” Brandes said. “But at five to ten percent it becomes a huge challenge to fund road projects.”

The bill also calls on the state’s Department of Emergency Management to think through what a large increase of electric vehicles on the road would mean when an approaching hurricane would require mass evacuations, as was the case last month as Hurricane Irma approached the Sunshine State.

“Imagine Irma when you have 10 percent of vehicles that can’t get gas someplace, but they have to physically plug in and charge,” he envisions. “We need to be thinking through those challenges as well, and the earlier we do it, the better we’re going to plan for the future.”

The legislation would be timely. EVs are on track to beat gasoline cars on price, without incentives or subsidies by 2025, according to “From Gas to Grid: Building Charging Infrastructure to Power Electric Vehicle Demand,” a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Meanwhile, Brandes announced the latest Florida Autonomous Vehicle summit is going to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay Hotel next month. Officials from Tesla, Lyft and Uber are scheduled to speak, and the event will feature expanded breakout sessions with guests from all parts of the industry.

That event takes place on November 14-15, and more information is available here.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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