U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.); former Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, senior adviser to The Pew Charitable Trusts; Phyllis Cuttino, Pew Clean Energy Program director; and Nissan leadership at Nissan Americas headquarters discussed the role that electric vehicles (EVs) can play in growing the clean energy economy. In remarks at the Tennessee Electric Vehicle Summit, they were unanimous in acknowledging that EVs are key to attracting jobs and investment, achieving energy independence by reducing America's reliance on foreign oil, enhancing environmental sustainability and improving overall vehicle efficiency.
In March, the United States spent $39.3 billion on oil imports, the highest level in nearly three years, and net oil imports represented 65 percent of the U.S. trade deficit. These figures underscore the need for change to the nation’s transportation system.
By 2030 plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles could make up 22 percent of U.S. auto sales and advanced batteries could represent a nearly $100 billion market. Nissan introduced the all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF in December 2010. The LEAF is currently available in select regions of the nation, including Tennessee.
In May, Sen. Alexander, along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), introduced the "Promoting Electric Vehicles Act," which would accelerate the deployment of EVs in communities across the United States and assist companies in switching their vehicle fleets from gas to electric through two competitive grant programs. The legislation would also invest in the development of advanced batteries.
“If the United States pledges to making 25 percent of new vehicles electric by 2020 and deploying 10 million charging stations, it could help strengthen economic, national and environmental security far into the 21st century,” Granholm said.
Scott Becker, senior vice president, administration and finance, Nissan North America, added, “Nissan wants to be part of the solution in addressing our nation’s energy challenges, and is committed to leading the way in zero-emission mobility and supporting policies that will establish the clean energy economy. The Nissan LEAF and the batteries that power it will be manufactured in Tennessee starting next year.”
Although the United States has made critical initial investments in EVs and charging infrastructure, it will face intense competition for production and installation of these technologies. China hopes to produce 500,000 EVs annually beginning this year and is investing $15 billion in EV research, purchase incentives and charging stations. South Korea has launched its Battery 2020 Project, which aims to invest $12 billion in new technologies to become the world leader in rechargeable battery production in 10 years.
The Tennessee Electric Vehicle Summit at Nissan Americas in Franklin brought together leaders from the government, the electric power industry and auto manufacturing to explore the future of EVs and the challenges that must be addressed to accelerate the clean energy economy.