Florida has $166 million to spend thanks to vw settlement miami herald astrid y gaston lima menu english


Legislation proposed last legislative session by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, would have established a Smart City Challenge Grant program through the Department of Transportation to fund local innovation related to shared, electric or autonomous vehicles, but it didn’t pass. The Legislature put $325,000 into the budget in 2017 to fund the program, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it.

Another bill, SB 852 by Brandes, would have required the Florida Transportation Commission to study the impact that the move to electric vehicles will have on Florida’s gas tax revenue and plan for it as soon as 2 percent of all vehicles are electric. The measure died in the final days of the session.

Dave Schatz, director of Public Policy at ChargePoint, a California-based company that has the world’s largest charging network, said there are 27,000 registered electric vehicles in Florida and about 2,000 charging stations, and the annual growth rate is estimated at 33 percent. The industry predicts a six-fold increase by 2026.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, most EVs have a range of 60 to 120 miles on a single charge, and nearly all household trips are under 60 miles. Charging times can vary from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on the depletion level of the battery, how much energy the battery holds, the type of battery, and the type of supply equipment.

Miami-Dade County, for example, as a member of the Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition developed a plan last year to encourage the widespread use of electric vehicles in the community and is in the process of buying a new fleet of electric buses.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava passed a resolution in March urging DEP to allocate the full 15 percent of the settlement funds for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and steer the rest of the money into projects to help local governments convert their transit fleets to electric vehicles.

Under the settlement, negotiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, VW must spend about $14.7 billion on mitigation efforts, with $10 billion to buy back diesel cars from consumers and another $2 billion to increase infrastructure for electric passenger cars and trucks with zero-emissions, including providing grants to local communities seeking project funding.

"Florida has good air quality,” McLane told participants of the webinar on Thursday, noting that the small number of manufacturing industries and younger vehicle fleets "have cumulatively resulted in lower levels of pollution occurring statewide."

Many other states have already decided how to spend their settlement funds. Voters in New Mexico demanded that state steer $18 million into zero-emission school buses. In South Carolina, educators are also talking about replacing their aging school buses with electric vehicles. Colorado plans to use its $69 million to subsidize new electric and compressed natural gas transit buses.

California is planning to use its $423 million to reduce diesel emissions with vouchers to help businesses buy hybrid and zero-emission trucks, buses and freight vehicles in neighborhoods near warehouses and seaports. Connecticut is using its $56 million to replace old diesel engines in public and private fleets with cleaner diesel engines.

"This is a meaningful push toward electrification and, long term, it will be absolutely beneficial,” he said. "But they should probably invest these dollars toward the end of that period, not the beginning, or they may make the wrong decisions."