13 Electric Vehicle Players Join Forces to Sway U.S. Policy

Top executives from 13 companies including California utility Pacific Gas & Electric, Japanese automaker Nissan, smart grid startup GridPoint, battery maker A123Systems, battery giant Johnson Controls-Saft, and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, are joining forces this morning as the founding members of a new alliance called the Electrification Coalition with a shared vision for how to transition the vehicle fleet off of gasoline and onto the electric grid.

EV-architectureAre these the faces of the next EV influencers? The group certainly has some heavyweights, with a combined market cap of more than $100 billion, but hardly represents the entirety of the energy, utility, auto or energy storage industries — or even just the EV sector. But most of the 13 have bet big on the nascent electric vehicle market. With the stated mission to “promote government action to facilitate deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale,” the Electrification Coalition has released a 91-page policy paper this morning, advocating government action to boost the industry.

EV-phase-inThe Electrification Coalition calls for some policies that may be familiar to EV advocates — for example, revising building codes to require wiring for 220-volt charge points in newly constructed homes, and providing government loan guarantees for retooling auto assembly lines.

Residual-batteryBut the group also digs deeper into the EV ecosystem, arguing that in order to support a rapid scale-up in production of advanced batteries, the feds should provide tax credits for installation of automotive-grade batteries in stationary applications. To help convince consumers that plug-in vehicles will perform as well or better, at lower cost, than conventional vehicles, the coalition urges regulators to review vehicle warranties and establish a minimum residual value for large-format automotive batteries (potentially smoothing the way for battery leasing and recycling).

When it comes to charging infrastructure, the group isn’t sold on the idea that private companies should install public charging infrastructure “wherever consumers may need it.” The reasoning behind the stance? A “profitable business model for public charging infrastructure has not been reliably demonstrated,” writes the group, which counts among its ranks Coulomb Technologies — a charge point maker with its eye on revenue from residential, workplace and retail installations.

EV-public-chargersAlternative business models for charging infrastructure might work, however, according to the coalition. Better Place’s network operator model, in which the startup “presumably could operate profitably while deploying infrastructure,” represents one option. But as we’ve noted before, while Better Place has packed its project pipeline at a brisk pace, each charging network requires a massive amount of financing.

The Electrification Coalition anticipates a new, government-supported model to emerge similar to the arrangement with cable TV providers — with the government awarding “monopoly rights in specific territories” and entities “obligated to install a complete infrastructure to earn that right.” (See our GigaOM Pro article on “What Electric Car Charging Can Learn From the Broadband Buildout.”)

The Electrification Coalition will be kicking off its policy persuasion effort this morning in a press event with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and other political bigwigs in Washington, D.C. You can watch the full webcast starting at 10 a.m. (EST) over at the group’s web site.

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