When Glades County recently announced plans to buy 13 electric school buses and electrify two charging depots, it highlighted a trend of electric vehicles rolling into Florida’s rural areas. You may enjoy spending the day gazing at alligators and flamingos in the Everglades, but it’s comforting to know that when you need to charge your car to get home, there are 12 superchargers at the Miccosukee Service Plaza on Alligator Alley (I-75).
National parks in South Florida also offer charging, from Biscayne National Park to Everglades National Park and a station in Big Cypress Preserve. As EV adoption continues to grow in urban areas, some government funding is also supporting infrastructure development in rural America. The bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates $7.5 billion for EV charging stations, with priority funding earmarked specifically for rural areas.
EVs create immense benefit from the state level down the individual driver, but unfortunately, bills recently filed in Tallahassee would make it harder for local governments to adopt them. SB 1084 - Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would totally preempt regulation of EV charging stations. The bill states, “A local governmental entity may not enact or enforce an ordinance or regulation related to electric vehicle charging stations.” Local leaders, who understand their communities best, should have the authority to make decisions about local charging infrastructure – but this legislation takes that away from them.
Another bill would amend existing EV charging statute 366.94, which already preempted regulation of electricity sales and rates. However, this new law would prohibit most land-use regulations as well, including zoning regulations that address technical requirements for EV charging station installation and operations. These standards can cover such aspects as safety guidelines, compliance with electrical codes, accessibility for disabled individuals, and facilities for payment transactions.
We should be promoting EVs – not putting up stop signs. With expanded transportation electrification comes far-reaching advantages, from financial savings to increased security.
Those 13 electric school buses coming to Glades County serve a dual purpose. On average, school buses are parked for up to 18 hours a day during the school year. When they aren’t being used to transport students, electric school buses can be used as mobile sources of power via their battery storage. Experts are exploring advancements in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, which make use of bidirectional batteries (meaning energy goes in and out) that can store surplus energy and then return it to the grid during peak times of use. Think of an electric school bus as a giant generator on wheels. These buses can provide power to emergency shelters or meet other needs during extreme weather events, like hurricanes.
Each electric bus in Glades County will also save the school district between $73,000 and $173,000 per unit over their lifetimes, thanks to the savings in fuel and maintenance costs down the line.
EVs are also important from a national security standpoint. The U.S. currently imports around 40% of its oil from the Middle East, which has long made the region strategically important for U.S. foreign policy. Yet adoption of EVs, from cars to school buses, reduces America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
In rural and urban areas alike, it’s easy to see the many benefits of EVs. Florida should keep driving toward national safety and local savings – and put the brakes on legislation that would hinder transportation electrification.