Electric Cars Generate Positive Vibes In The Capitol

Sep 17, 2015

Drive Electric Florida Day at the Capitol on Thursday may have struck the right chord with the right lawmakers. This may be the year industry promoters get what they want in Tallahassee.

Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, sings the praises of plug-in electric cars before taking a demonstration ride Thursday at the Capitol.

If there is such a thing as a souped-up electric car, the Tesla Model S is it. There’s an upgraded 90 kilowatt battery and a “ludicrous” setting that takes it from 0 to 60 in just 2.9 seconds.

It wowed Democratic Senator Oscar Braynon of Miami.

And just as electric car technology improves, so does the industry’s political traction in Tallahassee. Carmakers have a relatively modest legislative agenda and they also have the attention of Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

“We’re talking about what that might look like. So I think there are a lot of different opinions on how we can make electric vehicles more successful in Florida.”

The industry is plugging a network of 50 high-speed charging stations from Pensacola to Miami. Each station could be installed at highway rest stops with a price tag of up to $40,000 each.

Without them, a battery powered car wouldn’t make it from Orlando to Tallahassee.

But the public wouldn’t have to shoulder the entire infrastructure burden, says Anne Louise-Seabury, electric vehicle program manager for Florida Power and Light.

“Places where privately funded infrastructure makes sense is in a destination location like in a mall or a shopping center, where it attracts the users to come to the business. They charge while they’re shopping or dining. That sort of thing.”

Electric car supporters also want to prohibit homeowner associations from banning charging stations. And they don’t think the law is strong enough to discourage traditional drivers from stealing electric-car parking spaces.

Braynon predicts electric cars will be the wave of the future because real waves are already washing out roads in Miami Beach. Braynon and others blame climate change caused by fossil fuels.

“These types of things are scary. And they make you think, you know, will my kids or grandkids be able to call Miami-Dade home, or will they have to move to Orlando.”

Brandes expects legislation to move quickly through his committee.