(The Center Square) — A South Carolina working group exploring the electrification of the state’s transportation and logistics network is staring down questions about rolling out charging infrastructure — and its potential costs.
Gov. Henry McMaster established the working group via an executive order. The governor tasked the group with developing a comprehensive plan for strategically deploying electric vehicle resources and infrastructure.
The South Carolina Ports Authority has explored buying electric tugs to move barges and unsuccessfully applied for grants to defray the costs. Electric tugs cost about $32 million, much higher than the $18-20 million for a traditional diesel tug, Mark Messersmith, SCPA’s environmental manager, told the group.
“There are definitely challenges with port electrification,” Messersmith said. “I think the biggest one for us is being responsible with our upgrades to equipment and the useful life of it. … If the electrification is pushed for greenhouse gas emissions, which essentially it is, people need to look more at the lifecycle emissions, and I don’t think it’s currently done that well.”
As an example, Messersmith noted that, on average, an EV car buyer would need to drive their vehicle for 90,000 miles to break even.
While the cost factor is a significant issue, Rick Todd, president & CEO of the South Carolina Trucking Association, told the group there are other considerations companies must contemplate, from cybersecurity concerns to the need for fleet redundancy should there be a disruption to alternative vehicles’ fuel sources.
“If these technologies, these fuels, these engines aren’t fully dependable, we don’t know the full cost of ownership, we don’t know what happens if their fuel source — whether it’s the grid or the manufacture, production and distribution of the alternative fuel — stops or gets interrupted, you’re going to have to have a backup, dependable diesel fleet and its fueling,” Todd told the committee. “So, who’s going to pay for those trucks that are going to be parked, stored and then implemented in a contingency situation?
“We’re not talking about that, but that needs to be talked about,” Todd added. “Redundancy is key, and emergencies happen.”