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New Hanover County Republican Party



NC counties shouldn’t mandate EV infrastructure market doesn’t want

by | Mar 14, 2024

New technology is exciting, but politicians who flex their influence and power to force premature adoption do a disservice to their communities. As a New Hanover County commissioner, I write to caution my county — and all the other counties and municipalities in North Carolina — against imposing harmful electric vehicle (EV) mandates.

In January, county staff proposed an amendment to our Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to “incorporate standards for electric vehicle charging stations.” If passed, this amendment will mandate substantial EV infrastructure across our county. Practically speaking, anyone with 25 or more parking spaces planned on their property would be required to install EV infrastructure in 20%. If building an apartment, hotel, or parking deck, that requirement increases to 30%.

I made a motion to deny this change to the UDO, and it was tabled. I urge my fellow commissioners to join me in denying it when it comes back around in June (if not before).

Why oppose EV mandates?

First, only approximately 0.6% of vehicles registered in New Hanover are EV, and that number is even lower for our neighbors in Brunswick and Pender. Of those few EV owners, most charge their cars at home. Yet we are considering mandating EV infrastructure in 20–30% of parking spaces outside of the home. This proposed mandate is functionally a tax on the 99.4% of New Hanover County citizens who do not drive EVs. Forcing private property owners to subsidize the few who want and can afford expensive EVs is wrong.

Second, the cost of installing and maintaining these EV-ready spaces will also be passed on to the average consumer. A commercial business that costs more to build and maintain will inevitably have to increase its prices. A great way to make housing less affordable is to force builders to include costly features that residents do not want or need (otherwise they would already include it).

Third, this push is premature. EV technology is in its infancy. County staff estimates that EV ownership may reach 2–3% in New Hanover over the next few years. But what if the equipment mandated today soon becomes obsolete? Remember, for example, the endlessly updated phone charger cables you’ve thrown away over the years (your junk drawer may still be full of them).

Additionally, the EV industry is propped up by federal subsidies, meaning that the true current and future demand for EVs is likely much lower than projected. And many of those projections about future EV usage derive from organizations or government agencies that have a vested interest (financial, political, or otherwise) in the EV industry’s success. The self-interest of market participants is smarter than that of bureaucrats who don’t stand to lose a cent if they are wrong.

Finally, global EV growth is slowing, and many manufacturers are scaling back their EV programs. The main reasons cited: it’s too early and the demand isn’t there. A couple of years ago, companies like Mercedes-Benz were proclaiming that they would be manufacturing and selling only EV vehicles by 2030. But they are now realizing that is simply not possible or even desired by consumers and, therefore, are reversing course and will continue to manufacture and sell gas-powered vehicles into the future.

Not everyone agrees with my opposition to EV mandates. I recently received an email from a Wake County citizen after he read an article where I was quoted expressing my opposition. He explained that he owned multiple EVs and had to rent a gas-powered vehicle in order to travel to New Hanover. He argued (politely, I should mention) that more people would drive EVs if charging stations were more widely available to people like him. To that end, he urged me to change my position and support the proposed UDO amendment.

“If you build it, they will come” may be correct in many instances, though that reasoning does have its limits (i.e., would more people ride horses if we built more troughs?). Regardless, I am not opposed to building EV infrastructure, but I am strongly opposed to the government mandating EV infrastructure in this manner. Nothing and no one are stopping private actors from incorporating EV infrastructure into their plans, and many are doing just that voluntarily.

Indeed, the free market is uniquely qualified and better suited than the government to anticipate and satisfy consumer demand. Any time the government tinkers with supply and demand it causes a market distortion and reduces economic efficiency. Local government should not be in the business of creating artificial demand for a consumer good or service, and it certainly should not be picking winners and losers in emerging industries. Artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, virtual reality — do we really want the government embarrassing itself by trying to predict what the future of technology will look like?

The market is a second-by-second aggregation of countless private actions, while government action is based on the limited knowledge of a very limited number of actors at a specific moment in time. A small sample of elected officials and their staff cannot (and should not) be trusted to accurately predict long-term market trends, especially compared to individuals and businesses who risk their financial success investing in our community.

To be clear, I am not opposed to EVs. I love new technology. I am also dedicated to protecting the environment. The state should never stand in the way of technological advancements that have the potential to improve society. But I am firmly opposed to the economics, timing, and fairness of making the 99%+ of New Hanover County residents who do not drive EVs subsidize those who do.

Mercedes-Benz recently explained in their February 22, 2024 “Outlook” report that “automotive markets continue to be characterized by an exceptional degree of uncertainty” and that their ambitious EV plans would be dramatically scaled back. In this same report they also made clear that “customers and market conditions will set the pace of the transformation.” Not the government. And that’s how it should be.

– Dane Scalise, New Hanover County Commissioner