Updated Apr 8, 2024 - Business

North Carolina's bold EV goal is "in the realm of possibility"


A Tesla vehicle in a Manhattan dealership in January 2020 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

State leaders announced last month that North Carolina is two years ahead of its goal of having 80,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. That's a milestone for a state that just five years ago had 10,000 EVs in circulation.

Why it matters: It's still a far cry from Gov. Roy Cooper's goal of 1.25 million EVs registered statewide by 2030.

The big picture: Governments and corporations are pushing hard for fast EV adoption to curb emissions amid dire warnings of climate change.

Context: The state and federal government have been focusing on two of the biggest hurdles to EV adoption — cost and infrastructure, says Peter Ledford, North Carolina's clean energy director.

  • The federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program is investing about $110 million throughout the state in EV charging stations along interstates and in urban cores, Ledford tells Axios.
  • The federal government also offers a tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Yes, but: Unlike North Carolina, some states like California are offering additional tax rebates to help incentivize EV buying.

By the numbers: Americans bought a record 1.2 million EVs in 2023, Axios' Joann Muller recently reported. That's equivalent to 7.6% of the total U.S. new-vehicle market, up from 5.9% in 2022.

  • The Energy Department expects 33 million EVs to be on the road by 2030.

What they're saying: "1.25 million EVs [in North Carolina] is bold and certainly an aggressive goal, but it's certainly in the realm of possibility," Ledford says. "[At our] current adoption rate, we are on track to be very close to that by 2030."

Reality check: The national EV slowdown is real — the first-quarter growth rate was 2.7% vs. last year's 47% — while hybrids are becoming more popular, Muller reported.

  • Further, EV adoption throughout North Carolina is uneven, with faster growth in urban counties like Orange, Wake and Mecklenburg than in rural areas.

Zoom in: To support EV adoption, North Carolina needs more chargers.

Several companies statewide have been expanding recently to help support EV infrastructure growth.

  • Last year, the Finnish company Kempower, which develops chargers for zero-carbon fleets, announced plans to open its North American HQ in Durham, where it'll hire hundreds in coming years, per WRAL.
  • Atom Power in Huntersville, which also develops EV charging technology, in 2022 got a $100 million investment from Korean conglomerate SK to advance its technology.

Bharat Vats, Atom's newly named president and CEO, told Axios in an email that he's "optimistic" about North Carolina's EV goals, though it'll take work among public, private and nonprofit sectors to achieve.

  • "Atom Power is and will continue to be engaged across this ecosystem to help scale up EV charging infrastructure and EV adoption," he added.

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