On October 27, the Senate Finance Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding Modernization subcommittee chaired by Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) met to hear testimony from the automotive industry and electric cooperatives.
Amy Tinsley, Executive Director of the SC Automotive Council (a council within the SC Manufacturers Alliance), provided the subcommittee with a thorough overview of the automotive industry’s role in South Carolina’s economy. She noted that since 2019, nationwide sales of vehicles have declined due to COVID and the semiconductor shortage. The impacts of this shortage will likely continue through 2022 and into 2023.
When it comes to electric vehicles, Tinsley said that delivery modes would be among the first to adopt along with drivers in urban areas. However, this will be something that comes into play over time.
Leighton Yates, Director of State Affairs for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, told the subcommittee that while the majority of light-duty vehicles sold in the United States are powered by gasoline/diesel, the auto industry plans to invest $330 billion in vehicle electrification by 2023, with 130 models in the market by 2026.
Yates said the industry’s transition to electricity will be an evolution, not a revolution. However, by 2030, we should expect fewer internal combustion engines and more electric vehicles on the market – and on the roads.
Mike Couick, President & CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC), called the shift to electric one of the biggest challenges of his career.
“We have got to get it right,” said Couick. “This is not just the electrification of transportation; it is the electrification of the economy.”
Couick provided a thorough overview of necessary infrastructure scenarios and urged the subcommittee to allow flexibility in rate structures and focus on a cost-causation approach. Otherwise, there could be inequities in who is paying to power these electric vehicles.
While there was no discussion of transportation-specific financial impacts during Wednesday’s meeting, the testimony offered a glimpse into the magnitude of changes that come with a transition to alternative vehicles.
The subcommittee is expected to meet again, possibly in December.