JONESBORO — Electric and hybrid vehicles are growing in popularity. But they remain a rare sight on the streets of Jonesboro.
In fact, they’re pretty rare anywhere in Arkansas, said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Only 1,709 electric vehicles are registered in Arkansas, less than 0.01 percent of the 4.1 million registered vehicles in the state, Hardin said. An addition 21,213 (about 0.5 percent) are hybrids, which run partly on gasoline, like a conventional car, as well as an electric motor and battery.
Only 66 electric vehicles are registered in Craighead County, with an addition 6443 hybrids. Nine EVs and 154 hybrids are registered in Greene County, Hardin said.
While the vehicles can be charged at the driver’s home, drivers who are on long trips need to find public charging stations or risk getting stranded.
That and the current price of the vehicles are among factors holding down sales.
President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package includes proposed funding to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and other measures to encourage the switch from traditional fossil fuels.
That would be a big increase over the 41,398 charging stations currently listed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Only 105 are in Arkansas, and according to the data center, only two are in Jonesboro.
One of them is at the Embassy Suites for the use of guests, said Kraig Pomrenke, the hotel’s general manager. He said the three universal and four Tesla superchargers may be made available to others, for a price, later.
Mayor Harold Copenhaver said recently he was working with City Water and Light in hopes of placing charging stations in city-owned downtown parking lots. However, CWL spokesman Kevan Inboden said it’s a little early to make a commitment.
“We definitely want to look for ways to help our ratepayers and the city when we can, but are still early in the process of determining what, if anything, we can do regarding these charging stations,” Inboden told The Sun.
Entergy Corp., which serves electric customers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, announced in March creation of the Electric Highway Coalition in which six major utilities developed a a plan to create a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf Coast and Central Plains regions.
“At Entergy, we are taking an integrated approach toward a carbon-free future that includes working with industry peers and customers to electrify other sectors of the economy like transportation and the maritime industry,” said Leo Denault, chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation. “Initiatives like this proposed regional EV charging corridor will help lower transportation emissions and provide community benefits for all our stakeholders.”
The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030.
The world’s major automakers have made it clear they believe electric vehicles will dominate their industry in the years ahead.
But recent opinion polls show that a substantial majority of Americans believe those years are way down the road. Right now, the time just isn’t right, according to surveys late last year.
One, by Consumer Reports, showed that only 4 percent of adults with a driver’s license planned to acquire an EV the next time they buy a vehicle. An additional 27 percent said they would consider one. About 40 percent express some interest – but not for their next purchase. About 29 percent don’t want an EV at all.
Likewise, when J.D. Power surveyed people who intend to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next 18 months, only about 20 percent said they were likely to buy an EV. Roughly 21 percent were unlikely. The rest were undecided.
General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen plan to spend a combined $77 billion developing global electric vehicles over the next five years, with models from pickup trucks to small SUVs. GM has gone so far as to announce a goal of ending gasoline – and diesel-fueled passenger vehicles entirely by 2035 – and to become carbon-neutral by 2040.
Only 260,000 fully electric vehicles were sold last year in the United States. That’s out of a total new-vehicle market of 14.6 million. In fact, the demand trend is toward less-fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.