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Forum Speakers Forecast Growth For Electric Vehicle Industry

Experts: Speed Of Sales Increase May Depend On Cost, Stations

electric car
Duane Burleson/AP Photo

The electric vehicle market continues to slowly grow, and supporters of the alternative-fueled cars say they can see both opportunities and challenges ahead. This was the message from an electric vehicle forum held Tuesday in Milwaukee.

The event was sponsored by some Wisconsin electric utilities, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wisconsin Clean Cities Program, a partnership called Midwest EVOLVE and the nonprofit organization Seventhwave.

Whether it’s plug-in vehicles or gas-electric hybrids, the electric vehicle (also known as EV) market represents just a tiny fraction of cars currently on the road. Many experts say the percentage will go up.

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Retired economist Dan Santini studied the industry while at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. He said car makers are adding new electric models and anticipating growth.

“There’s a lot of momentum to advance the technology, a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the public for specific technologies,” he said.

But Santini said the biggest challenges to the industry remain the cost of some of the higher performing electric vehicles, and setting up complete corridors of charging stations for the vehicles that need plugging in.

Some would-be drivers of EV’s complain of what the industry calls “range anxiety,” or concern that the vehicles won’t make it to charging stations.

Lorrie Lisek, of Wisconsin Clean Cities, said funds from a national settlement with Volkswagen over the firm’s cheating on emissions tests will help pay for more charging units.

“I really feel that that can be a big game-changer nationally, and we’re going to see things, depending on how the states roll out their plans and what they decide to do. Because 15 percent of that money can be used for EV infrastructure,” Lisek said.

Lisek also said some states and cities have incentive programs to get more firms to switch their transportation fleets to electric vehicles.

Representatives of several Wisconsin companies attended the forum, and took part in test drives of some EVs.

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