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The following commentary was written by Scott Coenen. Coenen is the executive director of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a voice for conservatives in the state’s energy policy debate. See our commentary guidelines for more information.


The most popular vehicle in America is the Ford F-150. Over the last few years, Ford averaged nearly 2,500 F-150s sold every day in the United States. In May, the automaker unveiled a long-awaited advance in the next generation of vehicle technology: the electric F-150.

After years of working on battery advances, manufacturing capabilities and vehicle design, Ford released the details of the electric F-150 Lightning, and the results are impressive. The base model has 230 miles on a single charge and an MSRP under $40k.

The two largest impediments to advancing the electric vehicle (EV) market are sticker cost and range. As battery technology advances, energy density increases — allowing for more miles to a single charge — and cost decreases, making EVs more cost-competitive with traditional engines. Ford, Tesla, General Motors and a host of other automakers are proving the results, introducing new electric models with higher ranges and lower costs than ever before.

As a result, the EV market is poised for a decade of aggressive growth. This can be hugely beneficial to everyday consumers that now have the opportunity to tap into a new technology at a cheaper price, and Wisconsin stands to benefit economically. In our state, without oil or natural gas deposits, we send nearly $9 billion out of state to purchase fuel for our vehicles. EVs offer us the ability to “fuel up” with an energy source that can be locally generated right in our backyards or even on our rooftops, bringing jobs and investment back to the state.

For conservatives, the benefits to embracing this new innovative technology are substantial. Policy is now being pursued among leaders in our state. Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, recently introduced legislation to break down a regulatory barrier to new entrants in the market. Their bill would simply allow electric vehicle makers, from Tesla to new startups like Fisker and Lordstown Motors, to sell their vehicles directly to consumers. This is already allowed in 28 states across the country. Fisker, in partnership with Foxconn, is reportedly considering manufacturing their vehicles right here in Wisconsin. Shouldn’t they be allowed to sell those vehicles however they see fit?

This is not the only policy being pursued. Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R- New Berlin, and Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, have been working on policy looking for ways to encourage private sector investment into EV charging infrastructure across Wisconsin.

These efforts signal an emerging consensus among conservative policymakers in the state — pursuing conservative policy reform that seeks to open market-led growth in new technologies. Make no mistake; we are in a race against China and Europe to capitalize on the coming EV market. With competition and leadership from automakers new and old and forward-looking conservative policy, the United States and Wisconsin can lead the race.