Electric vehicle charging station sign
Credit: BXGD / Flickr

Millions of dollars in new funding for electric vehicle infrastructure could soon be available in Florida, where lawmakers and regulators have a full slate of transportation-related legislation, dockets and decisions to make. The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center recently flagged Florida as one of six states to watch in the first quarter of 2018 for electric vehicle policy. Here are some of the reasons why:

Florida Smart City Challenge Grants Program: A bill (CS/CS/HB 633) sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would establish a grant fund through the Florida Department of Transportation to fund local innovation related to shared, electric or autonomous vehicles.

“I want Florida to prepare for the future,” Brandes said. “The bill will encourage cities to think bigger as relates to transportation. The world is going through three radical transportation shifts: getting shared, electric and autonomous. We want cities to competitively bid for a basket of funds so they can be laboratories of innovation.”

Cities would compete for funds, up to $6 million each. The Legislature appropriated $325,000 for the program in 2017, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the appropriation. 

Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection plans to spend $160 million from its Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement on projects that promote zero-emissions technology.

“They will issue a request for public input and develop a statewide plan,” says Alexander Kolpakov of the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition, which works with vehicle fleets, fuel providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to reduce petroleum use in transportation.

Duke Energy Levy Nuclear Plant Settlement: A proposed settlement with Duke Energy Florida related to its Levy Nuclear Plant could funnel up to $8 million to electric vehicle charging investments and help deploy 530 charging stations at customer properties. At least 10 percent of the charging stations would be installed in low-income communities.

The state’s Public Service Commission approved the settlement agreement in November 2017. Another settlement with Gulf Power, approved in May 2017, also includes an EV charging pilot program.

Studying Solutions for Gas Tax Revenue: As the state seeks funding for electric-vehicle infrastructure, lawmakers are also discussing the hole EVs could leave in the state budget by reducing gas tax revenue. Another bill, SB 384, calls for a study and report on the issue.

“Let’s start planning to offset those declining revenues,” Brandes said, “so we’re prepared when the number hits 5 percent and has a significant impact.”

The discussion around gas tax revenue is an important one for states to have, said Heather Brutz, transportation finance and operations manager at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.

“The electric vehicle market will grow quite a bit,” Brutz said, “enough to make a dent in gas tax revenue and put significant pressure on transportation budgets.”

Jill Neimark is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes for venues such as Science, Scientific American, Discover, Nautilus, NPR, Quartz and others.