One of the many commercials featuring Lance Armstrong during this year’s Tour de France promotes the forthcoming Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car that will have a range of 100 miles. GM is introducing its much talked-about “plug-in” hybrid this fall, the Chevy Volt, while Tesla Motors and Toyota are teaming to provide all-electric cars with ranges extending to 300 miles!
The bottom line is that electric cars are coming, and both state and local government jurisdictions need to seriously think about their impact. But like so many truly revolutionary changes throughout history, the full ramifications – and challenges – only become clear as you get closer to them.
Most parties at the vortex of this trend – car companies, utilities, local governments – seem to agree one of the biggest challenges will involve creating the infrastructure to support electric cars, as well as finding ways to manage the costs that cities may incur in building and supporting the infrastructure.
What all of these things will have in common is the need for new approaches to every phase of the government permitting process. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article noted that widespread adoption of the Nissan Leaf is somewhat out of the company’s hands because much of the vehicle’s success may boil down to cities making changes to their permitting processes and states providing communities with code guidelines for charging stations.
Are local governments prepared to handle these watershed changes in an efficient manner that produces real revenue to help offset the costs? Most probably aren’t. But I believe technology that streamlines permitting processes and strengthens collaboration between state and local governments can go a long way toward helping mitigate these challenges.
Electric vehicles are on their way. But state and local governments across America must plan and prepare to support them. In order for electric vehicles to achieve their full potential, governments will need the vision and the tools to make it happen.