Vice President Kamala Harris visited Prince George’s County, Maryland, to announce a $7.5 billion plan to construct an electric vehicle infrastructure system.
As part of the effort, a joint office will be formed between the federal departments of Energy and Transportation to oversee a goal in building 500,000 charging vehicle stations nationwide, especially in rural, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach neighborhoods.
Both agencies will also launch an advisory committee on electric vehicles and appoint members by the first quarter of next year. The joint office will issue guidance and standards for states and consult with manufacturers, environmental and civil rights groups and tribal communities.
“Climate change has become a climate crisis and it demands urgent action,” Harris said Monday, Dec. 13 at the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation building in Brandywine. “The future of transportation in our nation and around the world is electric.”
One main reason for electric vehicle use: reduce gas emissions and battle the climate crisis with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It resembled a message Harris presented Nov. 5 when she toured NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
Harris toured the maintenance facility Monday where four electric county buses continue to be tested and scheduled to go on the road in February. She even charged one of the county’s vehicles at a charging station manufactured by SemaConnect of Bowie.
“There’s no sound or fumes. So how do I know it’s actually working?” she asked Mahidhar Reddy, founder and CEO of SemaConnect.
Reddy showed the vice president a person must have a card in front of a screen at the station to “authenticate” the card. A light turns green to show the vehicle has been fully charged.
Antoine Thompson, executive director of Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition and a resident of Upper Marlboro, said his organization pushes for transportation equity when it comes to purchasing and accessibility to recharge elective vehicles.
“There’s just not enough charging stations,” he said. “We need to address the issue of vehicle equity.”
That’s why $2.5 billion of the electric vehicle infrastructure plan will provide local governments to compete for grants for local governments to incorporate charging systems for both private and commercial uses.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said another goal will be to provide a $7,500 credit for individuals to purchase an electric vehicle. But that amount remains pending in the Senate as part of the president’s $2 trillion Build Back Better Act.
Granholm said she leases an electric vehicle and solar panels in her garage.
“That means, literally, I am riding on sunshine,” she said. “That’s why making these electric charging stations everywhere across the country is so critical. We need to make sure these electric vehicles are accessible to everyone. The future is electric.”
The electric vehicle plan designates about $63 million for Maryland.
Locally, Prince George’s officials continue to work on a climate change plan that includes registering about 15% of the 620,000 vehicles on the roads traveled in the county as electric vehicles by 2030.
The climate proposal notes the county would track and report annually the number and type of electric vehicle charging stations in the county, the number of electric vehicles and the number of households that switched from electric vehicles to gas-powered vehicles.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said Harris’s visit to the majority Black jurisdiction for a second time in less than six weeks shows it’s being recognized for local efforts to improve the environment.
“What we are noticing is that Prince George’s County, very quietly, has been leading in a number of areas and it is being recognized by the vice president as well as by this administration,” she said. “We’re really grateful for that.”
Del. Susie Proctor (D-District 27A) of Accokeek, who attended the vice president’s visit in Brandywine that includes part of her district, said educating residents about electric vehicle use remains a major step.
“Everything we do will be about education,” she said. “So many people are not accepting the fact that electric cars are our future . . . but having the vice president here to promote this is so refreshing to hear. We are going to be with [the Biden administration] to promote this.”