State grant money would go to local projects that encourage electric or autonomous vehicles or shared transportation solutions, under a measure under consideration by the Florida legislature.
David Royse | LedeTree
The proposal would create the “Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program,” for programs that provide “innovative, smart mobility solutions” to local transportation needs.
The fund would provide local governments or regional organizations grants up to $6 million each for innovative transportation projects that either use autonomous vehicles, accelerated use of plug-in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure or other connected and “smart” mobility ideas.
Creating an infrastructure that would allow for broader use of autonomous and electric vehicles would be a big goal. The program would specifically be looking for proposals for advancing ideas that create connected and grid-integrated road systems.
Among the goals for the program listed in the legislation are “advancing autonomous, connected, grid-integrated, and electric vehicle readiness and deployment throughout the state,” allowing for more efficient freight movement and creating a smart mobility demonstration community to serve as a model.
At least three grants would be awarded under the program. Projects would have to be up and running in two years. The grants would require some matching money from the applicants. The bill sets aside $15 million from Florida’s Transportation Trust Fund on a one-time basis to pay for the grants.
The Florida legislature earmarked $325,000 for similar projects in last year’s budget, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the spending.
The House version of the proposal (HB 633) has cleared its final committee meeting and is waiting for a full vote in the state House. A similar Senate bill (SB 852) is awaiting a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I want Florida to prepare for the future,” Senate bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes told Energy News Network. “The bill will encourage cities to think bigger as relates to transportation.
“The world is going through three radical transportation shifts: getting shared, electric and autonomous,” Brandes said in the ENN story. “We want cities to competitively bid for a basket of funds so they can be laboratories of innovation.”
It’s not known how many electric vehicles are on the roads in Florida, because recording a vehicle’s fuel type on registration records is optional. A state agency has estimated, based on VIN number research, that just under 250,000 of Florida’s 16.2 million vehicles may be electric, or about 1.5 percent.