Electric vehicles are the future, with big carmakers firmly committed to the platform.
The general public has yet to embrace the electric vehicle, but like digital cameras, cellphones and other tech that quickly became an indispensable part of daily life, all predictions are the electric vehicle will eclipse the gasoline-powered car in the next 10 to 20 years.
But electric vehicle owners still live in a “range anxiety” era, with their vehicle able to go only about 150 to 350 miles between charges. Range anxiety comes into play if attempting road trips, especially in spread-out Western states.
“We have a lot of holes in New Mexico” with no convenient charging stations, said Colin Messer, director of the Land of Enchantment Clean Cities Coalition. “I know range anxiety. Range anxiety is a real thing. You have to know where to charge up. Electric vehicles are ideal for a second car. If you just start up a car to go to work in town or the store, electric cars are ideal.”
Help may be on the way.
Public Service Company of New Mexico on Dec. 18 filed a Transportation Electrification Program proposal with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to introduce rebates for residential and nonresidential electric vehicle charging stations and offer discount rates for charging cars during off hours. Pending commission approval, the program could be in place in early 2022, said Alaric Babej, PNM’s project manager in product development.
PNM proposes offering a $500 rebate on the purchase of residential charging stations that can cover a large share, if not the entire cost, of a 240-volt Level 2 charger that can fully power a vehicle in two to six hours. The rebate could be as high as $1,500 for low- and moderate-income residents, Babej said.
“As more and more people get electric vehicles, we wanted to make sure low- and moderate-income people don’t get left behind,” he said. “You can find really good deals on used electric vehicles.”
PNM is complying with a 2019 House bill to produce a Transportation Electrification Program by Dec. 31, but the state’s largest electric company is itself electrifying its fleet. Currently, 7 percent of PNM’s fleet, mostly light duty sedans and some bucket trucks, are electric, with a goal to purchase 25 percent light duty vehicles by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, Babej said.
“We see that the utility needs to be a leader in this space,” Babej said.
PNM’s transportation electrification proposal also offers $5,000 rebates for installation of Level 2 public charging stations; workplace and fleet charging stations; and charging stations at low- to moderate-income multifamily residential communities, he said.
Santa Fe has about 30 public electric vehicle charging stations, according to PlugShare, a database with more than 300,000 charging stations across the country.
PNM owns four public charging stations — two in Santa Fe at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center and at Sprouts Farmers Market in the DeVargas Center. Other PNM stations are at Coronado Center in Albuquerque and the visitor center in Silver City. Drivers can charge up for free at these PNM stations.
The Genoveva Chavez charging stations were installed in 2017. In 2020, there were 1,200 unique charging sessions lasting 30 minutes to three hours and consuming 10 megawatt hours of power, Babej said.
In addition, electric vehicle owners will be able to charge up at discounted rates during off-peak hours. Residential users will be able to charge vehicles at less than half the normal rate between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Nonresidential users will pay one-third the normal rate in the summer between 5 and 10 p.m. and about half the rate the rest of the year between 5 and 8 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.
“I think it’s a good start,” said Glenn Schiffbauer, executive director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a down payment from a sustainability standpoint. They cover all the aspects we would want.”
Schiffbauer said the Green Chamber will play an active part in the third component of PNM’s program: community outreach and education.
The Green Chamber was one of 28 entities PNM collaborated with to draft its Transportation Electrification Program. The city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County were involved, as were the New Mexico Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance and Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico.
Babej said the program as proposed would be in force for about two years, then be updated with the newest development in the electric car world.
“It’s a nascent market,” Babej said. “Where PNM can get involved is addressing these barriers,” like residential charging stations and covering more of New Mexico with public charging stations.
Electric vehicle sales have grown steadily during the 2010s but only started to become a mainstream player in 2018, which saw an 81 percent increase in U.S. sales from 2017, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
The electric vehicle count in New Mexico has nearly tripled from 716 vehicles registered in 2017 to 2,046 in 2020. Santa Fe County has seen a surge in electric vehicles from 145 in 2017 to 422 in 2020, according to the state Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division.
Colin Messer has leased a Nissan Leaf electric car for about two years and his son, Mateo Messer, 24, drives the Leaf to make deliveries for Kitchen Angels one to four times a week.
“To be honest, I like the power. That’s probably the biggest selling point for me,” Messer said. “It has the ease of modern technology. It’s very responsive.”
Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts electric vehicles will achieve 10 percent of global passenger vehicle sales by 2025, 28 percent by 2030 and 58 percent by 2040. Global sales were at about 2.6 percent in 2019. Bloomberg did acknowledge the “market will be bumpy for the next three years” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As with many things, New Mexico faces the urban-rural divide with the shift to electric vehicles, said Charles Henson, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association.
“I think that until ranchers, farmers and tradesmen find the electric pickup truck a viable option, we will most likely move at a slow pace of acceptance” in New Mexico, he said.
New Mexico awaits the Ford F-150 electric truck, potentially set for a 2022 release.
“It’s going to be the game-changer for much of New Mexico,” Schiffbauer said.