Hero image showing Stacy Noblet Hero image showing Stacy Noblet

State of Charge: Transportation Electrification

A conversation with Stacy Noblet, Climate Center Senior Fellow and Vice President of Transportation Electrification at ICF  

December 13, 2023

Big Picture: In 2021, the number of U.S. registered light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads reached more than 2 million, according to Monthly Energy Review, a publication of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

As an enthusiastic EV owner, Stacy Noblet, who has nearly 20 years of experience in clean transportation, has weighed the question of whether or not to allow friends and guests to charge their EVs at her home. Noblet, who helps U.S. federal agencies, state and local governments, and utilities to plan, design, and implement transportation electrification strategies and programs, has a surprising answer, but we’ll save that for later.

Freedom of Mobility Forum (FOMF): What needs to happen next to make EVs even more viable in the U.S.?

Stacy (Noblet): Right now, the industry is hyper-focused on the reliability of the public infrastructure needed to charge EVs.

I think we’ve tested the theory of ‘we need a ton of charging stations everywhere people go’ and are coming out of that hypothesis saying you don’t necessarily need more chargers; you need them to be reliable. And unfortunately, that’s not the case right now. You can’t pull up to any charging station and know that it’s going to work like you can with a gas station.

We want a pretty seamless experience. It’s not there yet, but there is so much focus on this − both at the federal level, with the reliability and uptime standards, and among state programs resulting from recent funding; and that’s trickling down into utility programs and local efforts.

In the U.S., we have a lot more variability than Europe does in terms of equipment compatibility. And so, there’s a lot of discussion, a lot of standardization, and working group efforts right now to hopefully get to where we need to be.

FOMF: Will there ever be a single charging standard for EVs?

Noblet: For a while, we’ve had three standards here in the U.S. or three fast charging connectors:

  • We’ve had the CHAdeMO connector, which was kind of the OG (“original”). That came with the (Nissan) Leaf and others in the early days.
  • Then you’ve got the CCS, or combined charging standard, which SAE standardized.
  • And you also have what’s called the Tesla connector or NACS (North American Charging Standard).

From my perspective, the problem has been associating connector with experience because we know that the Tesla charging experience is fantastic. It’s superior. It’s seamless for the customer, but it’s not just because of that connector. It’s a lot of other things that have gone into it.

So, the focus now on the connector and the interoperability and potentially moving toward the NACS standard is a good dialogue, but it’s not going to solve all the problems.

image of level 1 charging connectors

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image of level 2 charging connectors

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image of level 3 charging connectors

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FOMF: What roadblocks are there to making the transition to EVs from ICE-powered vehicles?

Noblet: I would say #1 is the lack of education across both the consumer sector and the fleet sector.

Those of us who work in this area every day know the benefits of transportation electrification.

We see the greenhouse gas emissions reductions and the financial savings that can result.

We see the workforce development that can result, but those aren’t concepts that everyone can grasp or understand, nor are they concepts that can resonate with every person or every fleet manager.

Everyone’s coming at this from a different perspective.

FOMF: What can we do to empower the use of clean and electric vehicles?

Noblet: We are seeing funding right now at the federal level to focus on grid reliability because it is such a huge piece of the puzzle for EVs.

It’s close to $3.5 billion that is being put into strengthening and making the grid more resilient. Part of that is to handle transportation electrification, of course, as well as broader electrification in general, and being able to take on additional renewable resources to make that electricity cleaner.

At the local level, utilities across the country are focused on this. They want to not only support their customers in adopting and using EVs, but they’re also really in charge of providing reliable energy.

FOMF: Do you think we’re making an impact on climate change and our infrastructure? When will we see the tipping point?

Noblet: I’m hopeful that we are making an impact now combined with all these net zero commitments. Even 2030 seems far out at this point, but I’m optimistic we’ll start to see some tangible impacts and not just commitments.

I think that even in the 13 years that electric vehicles have been on the roads, the progress has been significant.


FOMF: Stephanie Brinley, Associate Director for AutoIntelligence at S&P Global said, “The infrastructure for charging outside the house must be trustworthy. It must be robust, it must be reliable, it must be in places where you’re not afraid to go, and it has to be transparent, and these things will develop slowly.”

When do you see infrastructure maturing to the point where it’s supporting those types of experiences?

Noblet: I’m certainly encouraged by all the progress in a very short amount of time, but I also recognize that everything we know and everything we’ve learned is based on a pretty small group of people — early adopters of electric vehicles.

We need to keep learning from the next, more mainstream group as well because they may attack these issues or react to these things much differently.

So, we keep the dialogue going and adjust as needed.

We’re not going to say, “We’re good. This is it. We’re out!”

This is going to be a constant evolution.


FOMF: Last Question: “Do you let guests charge their electric vehicles at your house?”

Noblet: There’s a lot of incompatibility that is still being worked on in this industry, but we had the exact conversation at home about how nice it would be if we could offer charging to our guests, to our families, to our neighbors who need it. So, we chose a more universal charger for our home installation. So, it not only will serve our guests and friends but also if we get — when we get, I should say — a second EV at some point, we aren’t necessarily locked into a certain brand. Future-proofing is part of the decision-making process, even at home.