Exclusive (Part 2): Florida Policy Project’s Jeff Brandes on Florida’s electric vehicle future

by | Dec 27, 2023

Part 2 of 2. Read Part 1 here.

In an interview with The Capitolist, former state senator Jeff Brandes shed light on the burgeoning landscape of Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption in Florida, contending that the state is well-prepared for the gradual adoption of gas-free vehicles.

Florida stands as the second-highest state in the U.S. for EV adoption, trailing only behind California, largely attributed to the state’s geographically favorable conditions and the suitability of its cities for the current EV range capacities.

Brandes asserted that Florida’s transportation infrastructure is ready for EVs, anticipated to represent about 25 percent of all new car sales by 2030, but expressed more concern about the adaptability of parking garages than road systems, highlighting uncertainty in their design and load-bearing capacity for an all-electric vehicle fleet.

“I’m more concerned about parking garages than I am about about the road system,” Brandes said. “An unknown for me is what weight parking garages are designed for and does that load significantly change?”

While road structures may be well-suited for electric cars and trucks, charging infrastructure is limited, and may hold back mass adoption, the senator said.

“Charging infrastructure is already lacking in Florida,” said Brandes. “In fact, I don’t know that any state has implemented, at scale, any of the charging research dollars that they have gotten from the federal government. But I think the simple truth is that electric vehicles are coming, they are the future, and Florida needs to prepare for them, and there needs to be a real strategy to deal with it.”

Florida lawmakers are presently considering a proposal to introduce annual registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) to compensate for the expected decrease in gas tax revenue due to the increasing adoption of EVs and hybrids. The proposed fees, as outlined in Senate Bill 28, are $200 for EVs, $50 for plug-in hybrids, and $25 for electric motorcycles, with these amounts set to rise in 2029.

While the proposal has received pushback from EV owners, Brandes cites the existing dealer networks in Florida as the likely biggest barrier to transition toward EVs. He speculated that dealers might resist this shift due to the reduced need for vehicle servicing, which currently constitutes a substantial portion of their profits.

“The biggest challenge for EVs is, frankly, going to be the dealer network,” Brandes said. “I don’t think dealers are going to like it. Today, 40 percent of the dealers’ profits are made on sales and 60 percent on service and vehicles.”

Highlighting a paradigm shift, Brandes compared vehicle software updates to those of smartphones, noting that the best condition of an EV will be after updates post-purchase, contrasting with traditional vehicles.

“Over time, we’ll have a lot less service needs,” he continued. “The big thing in transportation that I think is often overlooked is over-the-air software updates. It used to be that the best your car was ever going to be with day drove it off the lot. With over-the-air software updates, like your iPhone getting updated, the worst your car is ever going to be is the day you drive it off the lot.”

The state government’s stance on EVs appears to be a blend of support for the growing adoption, coupled with efforts to address the fiscal impacts of this shift.

On one hand, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has demonstrated support for electric vehicles through its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan (EVIDP). This plan, which aligns with Federal Highway Administration guidance, aims to develop a statewide network of convenient and accessible EV charging infrastructure.

Conversely, there has been some political opposition to certain aspects of EV promotion. For instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill this year that would have made it easier for state officials to choose electric cars for government fleets.

Moreover, Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis has raised concerns about EVs, particularly in the context of natural disasters like Hurricane Ian. In 2022, Patronis called on Elon Musk to take more proactive measures to mitigate risks related to battery fires, especially in the aftermath of flooding or storm surges, and urged partnership with the State of Florida to address potential risks.


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