Washington — U.S. Reps. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., unveiled legislation Thursday that would require the establishment of a "comprehensive, nationwide network of high-speed" electric-car chargers within five years.

The measure, known as the Electric Vehicle Freedom Act, directs the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy to devise a plan for establishing a network of chargers on the interstate highway system that are capable of fully powering up a plug-in vehicle in the same amount of time it takes to fill up the tank of a gas or diesel car.

Levin said it's time expand on the idea of the interstate highway system "and bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century. "

"If we are to avoid the doomsday scenario of climate change, we have to transform our transportation system and end our reliance on fossil fuels," he said in a statement. "By doing so, we have the tremendous opportunity to supercharge our economy and create the jobs of the future, further unify our country in a sustainable way and lead the world in green energy infrastructure." 

Ocasio-Cortez added: "Cars, above all else, have historically represented America's problem with dirty oil. Establishing a nationwide network of electric vehicles charging stations helps us reduce emissions, creates good paying jobs and will help transition the U.S. economy to a cleaner future.”

Advocates of electric cars have pleaded with Congress to do more to support adoption of EVs, but with gas prices low and consumers opting for SUVs and pickups in large numbers, lawmakers have largely sat on their hands.

Last year, Congress failed to include approve legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, that would have tripled the 200,000 cap on the number of EVs per manufacturer that qualify for $7,500 tax credits. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has introduced a separate bill that would spend $2 billion annually to encourage development and adoption of plug-in cars.

Dingell's legislation, known as the USA Electrify Forward Act, directs U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to update residential and commercial building codes to encourage installation of charging stations and orders states to consider measures to encourage charging stations.

The bills are attempts to jump-start the conversation in Washington about EVs. President Donald Trump is a noted skeptic and has floated the possibility of eliminating all tax credits for electric cars.

Automakers sold 236,067 electric vehicles in the first nine months of 2019, the most recent figures available from the Electric Drive Transportation Association. That outpaces the 234,745 sold during the same period in the previous year. In all, 361,307 were sold in 2018.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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