Atlanta has overtaken the so-called Left Coast in adopting electric cars. What lessons can other sustainable businesses learn from this success?
During the last year, sales grew more than sevenfold in the southeastern state, with electric cars accounting for one of every 60 new cars sold, according to data firm Statista. That’s a higher percentage than the second-largest market, California, where the figure was one in 70.
So how did Georgia, not exactly a bastion of progressive politics and lifestyles, overtake the so-called Left Coast in adopting this green technology? And are there lessons to be learned from this boom for other sustainable businesses?
Atlanta was the fastest-growing US market for electric vehicles in 2014, according to charging network ChargePoint.
Price, of course, is a key factor. Brian Brockman, corporate communications senior manager for Nissan, says Georgia’s $5,000 tax incentive, when coupled with a federal incentive of up to $7,500, has been a key factor to the state’s electric vehicle growth. (The state incentive will likely meet challenges in the 2015 state legislature.)
Georgia also has an extremely low electricity rate during off-peak, low-demand hours like nighttime, when many electric car owners charge their batteries. State utilities charge 1.3 cents/kwh compared to a national average of 12 cents/kwh.
Another important incentive is the fact electric vehicle owners get access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, called carpool lanes. This can make the difference between arriving on time or frustratingly late in the gridlocked capital of the New South, and is an example of the sort of alluring non-economic incentive that other sustainable industries could seek to adopt.
Tesla opened its first store in Georgia a year ago and its first store in the Atlanta in November.
Alexis Georgeson, spokeswoman for Tesla, which has opened its first Atlanta-area store and a second service center in recent months, says the area’s educated population – with such universities as Emory and Georgia Tech – is helping to grow the market.
But Francis notes that other creative efforts have contributed to Georgia’s unexpected boom in electric vehicles, including major employers in the area, such as Coca-Cola, installing charging stations for employee use, and both Coca-Cola and UPS using electric and other alternative fuel vehicles in their own fleets.
“That’s part of building sustainable businesses,” Francis says. “The pressure of leaders in business … makes people think: ‘If they’re doing it and I’m not, should I consider it?’”
Nonprofits have also played an important role in educating consumers about new sustainable technologies or industries, Francis says.
Meanwhile, Brockman says that manufacturers of charging stations have worked with the private and public sectors in Georgia to overcome the “chicken and egg problem” – namely, drivers won’t buy electric cars if there’s nowhere to charge them, and businesses won’t install charging stations if there aren’t enough cars to use them. Examples include Atlanta expediting permits for installing chargers, and Georgia Power offering rebates to businesses and individuals for doing the same.
All of those examples underline another key factor of the electric vehicle’s success in Georgia: collaboration. This is something other sustainable businesses can apply too. Brockman says: “You look for other participants in your value chain, and you ask, ‘How can we collaborate to the benefit of our shared customers?’ You look to collaborate.”