Utah Election Vehicles: Is Utah a Good State to Own an EV?

Utah Election Vehicles: Is Utah a Good State to Own an EV?

Jay Fox thinks he was one of the first to own an electric vehicle in New Jersey when he bought a Nissan Leaf in 2010.

However, the switch to electric wasn’t exactly a smooth transition. He received a tax credit, but that was the only support available to electric vehicle owners just over a decade ago.

It’s a very different story today.

Fox, now the executive director of the Utah Transit Authority, points out that “huge government programs” are enabling future electrification, such as helping transportation companies buy electric vehicles as infrastructure slowly shifts to accommodate an increasing number of electric vehicles. can. However, this growth will undoubtedly bring more new challenges than he experienced in 2010.

“We need to build a charging network for (more electric buses),” he adds. “We don’t want to do that alone.”

UTA is of course not alone in this. Numerous cities and counties across the state are starting to look at electric vehicles, as well as government agencies, local businesses, and more. Power companies, government officials and engineers are also exploring ways to expand access for anyone looking to switch to electricity.

All of this inspired Fox and UTA to bring everyone together for an electric vehicle forum, which could be the first step in a massive electrification master plan to take Utah’s transportation into a whole new travel era. Friday’s event brought together state transportation officials, energy and environmental experts and government leaders, including keynote addresses from Utah Rep. Blake Moore and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

With electrical expansion in full swing, most of Friday’s message was about how to coordinate turnout.

The case for electrical

Environmental groups have long pushed for electric vehicles as an alternative to gas-powered vehicles, a major source of Utah’s annual emissions, according to state regulators. Similarly, Daniel Mendoza, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah, explains that there is a “staggering” air quality difference simply by switching diesel buses to electric.

But there’s a “business sense” to switching buses from diesel to electric, says Hal Johnson, UTA’s project development manager. He says the agency’s three electric buses are three to almost four times more efficient than diesel buses in terms of energy required per mile. The three electric buses run at 15 to 20 miles per gallon, compared to the diesel buses’ 4.5 to 5.5 per gallon.

A Utah Transit Authority bus drives along Fort Union Boulevard in Cottonwood Heights on Friday. UTA held a transport electrification forum also on Friday to discuss its plans to move more towards electric vehicles in the future.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“If you start looking at combustion engines, you lose about 80% of your efficiency just to heat and mechanics in the system,” he adds. “Electric drive is simply more efficient.”

That is why UTA is striving to expand its bus fleet. It expects 22 new electric buses in Salt Lake County next year, which will be equipped with air quality monitors to help… join a year-old network that better monitors air qualityj. The agency also expects to add about 200 buses to its fleet over the next two decades, eventually replacing older buses when they retire.

This means that UTA is well on track to convert about 40% of its fleet to electric by 2040. The agency also has 11 electric buses with the upcoming Ogden Express project and 10 electric on-demand vans.

The FrontRunner commuter train could also be electric by 2040. UTA’s long-term plans advocate being electrified by 2040, although those plans aren’t quite as solid, in part because they need new funding to make it happen, Johnson explained. He adds that mechanics have helped improve all locomotive emissions since the service was rolled out in 2008 in the meantime.

These goals reflect many places, including Utah’s largest city. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall pointed out in a pre-recorded message that the city currently maintains 71 electric vehicles across various branches of the city’s fleet. The city’s goal is to have plug-in options covering “the majority” of its fleet’s sedans by the end of 2023 as it explores electric options for other fleet vehicles and to make options for public electric vehicles more accessible. to make.

“We want to make it easier for those who live, work and play in the capital to do their part to reduce emissions by driving and easily charging electric vehicles,” she said, adding that the city has 20 has installed public charging ports in the city. which are free to use within the parking time limits. “But we need to do even more to make it easier for people to charge their cars.”

Regan Zane, the director of Utah State University ASPIRE Research Centeralso shared new technologies being developed to charge larger fleets, from UTA buses to trailers to even trains, without the need for a plug-in cable.

The aim of the center is to devise ways to integrate charging into parking garages and roads, to reduce the size of batteries and make them last longer. This could also help expand the network to more rural communities.

“(It’s) becoming a hot topic,” he said. “It’s certainly on the minds of many.”

The energy to power it

Solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources are also seen as ways to increase electrical benefits, especially as new technology seeks to exploit the vast energy potential of the various sources. As Mendenhall put it, clean energy plus electric vehicles will “reduce overall carbon emissions and improve air quality.”

The work to harness those energies is underway; however, there is no timeline to bring it to fruition. Gregory Todd, who recently began working as a new energy adviser to Governor Spencer Cox in the Utah Office of Energy Development, and Laura Hanson, state planning coordinator, explained that Utah supports market demand for these newer technologies over government regulations.

Cox’s records have a Utah Energy and Innovation Plan that seeks “affordability, reliability and sustainability” within the state’s energy system through a “set of commitments,” Hanson said. This could be renewable energy, but it could also be fossil fuels to meet the state’s goal of having a more energy independent grid.

James Campbell, Rocky Mountain Power’s director of innovation and sustainability policies, said the company is still pursuing its goal of reducing its emissions by nearly 75% by 2030 by 2030 and nearly 100% by 2050. It’s looking so to “huge” wind and solar construction in the near future, such as the upcoming Elektron Solar projectan 80 megawatt solar farm northwest of Grantsville in Tooele County that will open in 2023.

That said, he cautioned that more needs to be done to achieve any utility’s primary goal of “keep the lights on.”

“We will have to find other technologies,” he said. “So right now, nuclear power is the only zero-emitting technology that can provide base load combined with massive amounts of renewables with massive amounts of storage.”

Hydrogen is another option. A plan for the world’s largest industrial green hydrogen production and storage facility near Delta in Millard County recently received a conditional pledge of more than $504 million in federal funding for the construction.

Working together on a future

About half a dozen individual plans or objectives were discussed Friday. All the ideas floating around about the move to cleaner technology fueled the need for a forum, which Fox hopes can be turned into a massive masterplan for local, state, and state agencies to use.

He wasn’t sure it would attract that much interest, but it attracted more than 100 government employees or industry experts. Most seemed to agree that cooperation is needed as the state ventures into the future.

“In my opinion, the key to this is collaboration, working together to achieve goals greater than all of us when we work individually,” said Andrew Gruber, the executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council. “And in Utah, we have a really strong track record of working together like this. … With this partnership, I’m very confident that we can do this.”

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