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Event Recap: The Shift from Gas to Grid—A Roundtable on Transportation Electrification in Rural Communities

Event Recap: The Shift from Gas to Grid—A Roundtable on Transportation Electrification in Rural Communities

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On February 28th, 2023, ASP Board Member Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn USN (Ret.) delivered keynote remarks at a roundtable event hosted by the Electrification Coalition that explored the challenges and opportunities with increased vehicle electrification in rural Florida. The event attracted community stakeholders, industry leaders, and local policy makers with an interest in learning how electrification infrastructure expansion can create job opportunities and generate economic potential for traditionally underserved communities. Through roundtable dialogue, rural Floridians offered insight into their electrification needs and concerns while also being educated in the array of funding opportunities for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

To set the tone for the event, VADM Gunn spoke about electrification from a strategic and tactical standpoint; exploring how fossil fuel dependence limits U.S. foreign policy, how the military is exploring the use of electric vehicles (EVs) for combat applications, and how a diversified energy portfolio can generate prosperity and economic gains.

Widespread adoption of EVs throughout the U.S. can deliver real strategic benefits including diversified energy resources and reduced dependence on unpredictable and adversarial oil-exporting partners, which also affords the U.S. greater strategic latitude in foreign policy and national security decision-making. In tandem with these advantages, greater electrification can reduce U.S. exposure to energy supply shocks and mitigate the risk of fuel disruption for military operations.

Indeed, these vulnerabilities have been demonstrated in the past by the infamous 1973 OPEC oil embargo, the 1979 energy crisis induced by the Iranian revolution, the 1980s Tanker War, Iraq’s occupation of Kuwaiti oil fields in 1990, and most recently by Russia’s leveraged position as Europe’s principal fossil fuel and natural gas supplier prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

Furthermore, EVs are a natural fit for tactical military applications given their advantages in lethality and logistical footprint.

Despite the attractiveness of EVs for the military, not all consumers are positioned to access their benefits. The main obstacles to wider EV adoption for rural Floridians remain range anxiety and insufficient charging networks. VADM Gunn spoke with business council representatives who want to invest in EV fleets but are reluctant due to the distance of their communities from the chargers being installed along highway corridors. Potential EV customers are also concerned with proprietary and incompatible chargers, older and slower charging stations, and the imbalance between available chargers and users.

Ultimately, as the military expands renewable energy infrastructure on its many bases in rural America, and rural Florida in particular, it will play a crucial role incubating and promoting national electrification as well as addressing the pragmatic concerns of rural EV owners.