Our electric future is sliding away


News recently broke that General Motors (GM) and Bechtel, the largest construction company in the U.S., will partner to create a new company dedicated to building a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the country. While no dollar commitments have been announced, the chargers will be available for use by all electric vehicles, regardless of manufacturer. The groups have also stated that they will focus on installing their new chargers in urban areas where EVs are likely to see higher adoption rates.

While an ever-growing number of companies are committing to building these charging stations, the ability to take a trip anywhere in the country using an EV has not yet become a reality. This is particularly true for the truckload industry, where long-haul routes do not provide the flexibility to seek out sparse charging stations, and where the technology to mass produce electric heavy-duty trucks has so far suffered from high costs and low demand. The same issues have historically plagued the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks – truckload carriers have not had the cost incentives to more widely adopt these vehicles, in addition to the lack of easily-accessible fueling facilities.

Like most conversations taking place within the trucking community today, the issue of EV charging circles back to infrastructure reform.

While the GM and Bechtel partnership is great news, and TCA applauds the work done by private companies to install stations where they see fit, a nationwide network of EV charging stations will not become a reality until the federal government provides the backing to do so. The easiest way for the government to do this is as a part of a larger infrastructure package, where funding could be directed toward “green” initiatives such as EV or natural gas stations.

Unfortunately, the infrastructure talks in Washington have taken a turn for the worse. Regardless of which side’s story you choose to believe, the last meeting between President Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was cut drastically short after non-infrastructure related issues became the focus of discussion.

If the executive and legislative branches of our nation’s government cannot come together to agree to an infrastructure package, not only will we neglect to improve the status of our crumbling roads and bridges, but also we’ll miss out on the opportunity to jump start the transition toward alternative fuel sources and the transportation network of tomorrow.