Is the Tampa Bay Area charged up for electric vehicles?

If electric vehicles are the wave of the future, are Florida cities and counties ready? The League of Women Voters of Florida recently released its first progress report on electric vehicles.

“Our goal is to be ready and poised for what we believe is an exciting future with EVs helping reducing the cost of transportation, cleaning up the air and water, and adding jobs,” says Deidre Macnab, past President of the League of Women Voters. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

In the past few years, The Florida League of Women Voters has championed issues ranging from gun safety to solar power.  Now the organization is raising awareness and educating the public about electric vehicles.  

“We like to think of ourselves as forward thinking on the issues,” says Macnab, who is also co-chair of the League’s Clean Energy Committee.

In releasing its Fall 2019 Report on EV Readiness in Florida, the League looked at the number of public charging stations in the state available for electric vehicles. Since electric vehicles don’t need to fuel up at the pumps — they need to be charged up — it makes sense that lack of charging stations could be a barrier to consumer interest.

So how is Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay Area doing to get charged up?  

A Tesla charging station on Swann Avenue in South Tampa.The League ranked Florida counties and cities based on information from the Department of Energy division that compiles listed charging locations in the U.S.  The final report was then developed using the number of listed locations per 10,000 residents.

Monroe County, home of the Florida Keys, came in first with 4.06 stations per 10,000 residents.  Franklin, south of Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle -- the third least populated county in the state -- came in second with 2.50 stations. They received an “A” grade in the League report.

So did Pinellas and Sarasota counties, which ranked 7th and 8th respectively. Both had 1.01 charging locations per 10,000 residents. Hillsborough didn’t fare as well. It came in 23rd, with 62 locations per 10,000 residents -- a “D” grade.  

At the bottom of the list was Clay County near Jacksonville, which came in 48th and received an “F” for .09 charging locations per 10,000 residents. But that was better than the 19 counties in Florida with no listed charging stations at all.

The report also ranked 29 Florida cities with 10 or more charging locations.

Tampa was 21st, with 1.8 stations per 10,000 residents, and St. Petersburg was 29th, with .6 locations. Naples came in first, with 13.8 charging stations per 10,000 residents. St. Augustine was 2nd, with 10.7. 

“Yes, the data was a bit of a surprise, says Macnab. “We saw that it’s not just the highly populated urban areas that have begun to move forward with charging stations and prepare for the future of EV’s.”

In releasing the EV Readiness Report Card, the League also included a link to the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, Advanced Technology Vehicles Sales Dashboard. That dashboard lists EV sales and market share for all 50 states, along with Washington D.C. The results were encouraging for Florida.  

Florida ranked 4th nationwide with 13,705 electric vehicles sold in 2018, behind California, New York, and Washington State. North Dakota came in last. 

Bryan Beckman, a Clearwater resident and member of the executive committee of the Suncoast Sierra Club, owns two EVS:  a fully electric vehicle and a hybrid that he says is electric up to 70 miles, then uses gas.

“I initially bought the electric vehicle to reduce emissions -- I already had solar at my house and thought this would be a way for me to double my contribution to reducing emissions,” says Beckman.

He had also researched the cost savings potential of not having to purchase gas. But he says he wasn’t prepared for how smooth a ride he experienced. “It’s a great ride and performs so much better,” says Beckman. “That made me decide to go ahead and turn in our Subaru for a second electric vehicle.”

EVs play a key role in the transition to clean energy, says Macnab. The Environmental Protection Agency calls the transportation sector the largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the U.S. Transitioning to electric vehicles can change that, she says.

“We’ve been calling the Readiness Report an encouraging and helpful tool for elected officials to move the ball forward,” says Macnab. “We want to be sure that our local and state officials are aware and preparing us for a future of clean transportation.”

Her final takeaway: “Everyone should take the time to test drive an electric vehicle and experience first-hand the fun of driving a more powerful car that offers a projected savings of $10,000 over a 10 year period,” says Macnab. “It’s a no brainer.”

For more information, download the EV Report and visit the EV Adoption Market Share analysis.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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