EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: The Electrification Coalition Promotes Policies and Actions to Accelerate Deployment of EVs on a Mass Scale

September 8, 2020

An ACT Virtual Executive Interview with Natalia Swalnick to hear how the Electrification Coalition is implementing a broad set of strategies to advance electric mobility.

Fleet adoption of EVs has grown tremendously over the past year, spurred by the increasing availability of vehicle models and incentive funds, as well as advancements in battery technology. Natalia discusses the Electrification Coalition’s work to accelerate fleet electrification, including partnering with public agencies to develop impactful public policies and EV programs.

Natalia will be moderating a panel of industry experts discussing how fleet adoption of EVs has grown tremendously over the past year in an online event “Best Practices in Scaling EV Infrastructure for Fleet Operations,” taking place at ACT Virtual on September 22.

ACT News caught up with Natalia to learn about her accomplishments and vision for the Electrification Coalition, and what she is most excited about for the future of the industry.

ACT News: You will be participating in an upcoming ACT Virtual panel on September 22, “Best Practices in Scaling EV Charging Infrastructure for Fleet Operations.” This online event kicks off ACT’s annual EV Charging Workshop. Can you please tell us some of what you plan on sharing with attendees related to how you are seeing the EV charging landscape evolve?

Natalia Swalnick: As the moderator of this panel, I’m really looking forward to setting the context of how much the EV market has transformed within just the last few years. The market has now grown to include electric options across all weight classes and sectors. We will take a look at how the recent rapid adoption of EVs in fleets across the US has allowed fleet managers to make increasingly data-driven decisions from their experiences—resulting in significant savings from a total cost of ownership perspective. The panel will also address the challenges in infrastructure deployments, and the partnerships and planning needed to overcome this barrier.

“We will take a look at how the recent adoption of EVs in fleets across the US has allowed fleet managers to make increasingly data-driven decisions.”

The speakers will address the recent 15-state (and the District of Columbia) Memorandum of Understanding which set an aggressive goal of 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2050, with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030. The panelists will discuss what it will take from the industry side to meet this ambitious action that will diversify the fuel used to move freight across the country.

ACT News: Working with the Climate Mayors and Sourcewell, the Electrification Coalition launched the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative (the Collaborative) in 2018. The common goal is to advance fleet electrification by leveraging the buying power of public entities and providing technical assistance. What are some of the milestones that have been achieved?

Natalia Swalnick: Since the Electrification Coalition, Sourcewell, and Climate Mayors launched the EV Purchasing Collaborative in the fall of 2018, we’ve grown the positive impacts of our program nearly ten-fold. By the end of 2022, 211 cities, counties, ports, universities, and transit agencies are planning to purchase 3,645 light-duty electric vehicles and buses—and more than 1,750 EVs have already been procured. This represents more than $100 million in EV investment with just public fleets—not to mention city investment in charging stations for both private and public use.As cities are facing budget constraints related to the economic downturn from the COVID pandemic, EVs are an opportunity to save money on fueling and maintenance. Through the Collaborative, we have an innovative leasing option that allows public fleets to access the federal tax credit—an important differentiator to help bring down the upfront cost of the vehicles. This program, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who co-founded the program, were recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors with the Climate Protection Award in 2019.

“The Electrification Coalition, Sourcewell, and Climate Mayors launched the EV Purchasing Collaborative in the fall of 2018.”

ACT News: Through your work with the Electrification Coalition you oversee projects that accelerate the adoption of plug in EVs, smart mobility, and Smart Cities principles. What can you tell us about the environmental benefits being achieved?

Natalia Swalnick: At the Electrification Coalition, we work with consumers, businesses, and policymakers, to launch award-winning “real-world” programs and enable the needed polices to accelerate transportation electrification. According to the US EPA, vehicles represent the single largest emissions-producing sector of the economy. Our work with public fleets through the Collaborative and American Cities Climate Challenge allows us to accelerate the adoption of EVs on a mass scale. In addition, the EC is launching a freight electrification pilot project that will focus on reducing the barriers to early-stage freight electrification and is working with cities, states, and commercial fleets in the coming year.

“Our work with public fleets through the Collaborative allows us to accelerate the adoption of EVs on a mass scale.”

Our mission-driven work takes us beyond just the environmental impacts of the EVs, though. As we turn our eyes to the next chapter in EV market growth, equitable policies and programs must ensure that electrified transportation is available to all citizens. Cleaner vehicles are a real solution to expand climate and environmental justice to communities disproportionally impacted by poor air quality—which exacerbates public health problems faced by low-income and minority communities. Our transportation sector is almost entirely reliant on oil, and we must take critical action to reduce our oil dependency and ensure our transportation network is powered domestically.

ACT News: In this post COVID world, the Electrification Coalition and Securing America’s Future Energy co-authored a report, Get America Moving Again (GAMA), which highlights the importance of the transportation sector in the US recovery from the pandemic. Please tell us some of the report’s recommendations for the transportation sector.

Natalia Swalnick: The report includes proposals to scale up the manufacturing of EVs of all classifications and increase the market appetite for EVs. Creating a 30 percent tax credit for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles would be a strong step in that direction, as would expanding the oversubscribed Low- or No- Emissions Grant Program. The popular federal 30D light-duty EV tax credit should be reformed, to make it more accessible and encourage the expedited manufacturing and adoption of EVs in the passenger vehicle market. An updated version should eliminate the volume limitation of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, and provide consumers with the alternative option of a cash-on-the-hood rebate of $7,000 instead of a $7,500 tax credit in order to reduce barriers for consumers to immediately access the credit. Additionally, appropriating $12.5 billion over five years for a Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) school bus rebate program would replace our nation’s 480,000 school buses with electric or hybrid electric buses.

“Get America Moving Again includes proposals to scale up manufacturing of EVs of all classifications.”

ACT News: What public policy initiatives are working to drive progress related to transportation and energy? What are the challenges?

Natalia Swalnick: The Electrification Coalition works across executive, legislative, and regulatory venues at the state level to encourage policies and actions to achieve widespread transportation electrification. Beginning in 2020, the EC launched a new initiative, the State EV Policy Accelerator, to engage five states (NC, VA, PA, MI, and NV) to develop a replicable model advancing EV adoption through policy action bolstered by fleet-scale deployment efforts. We are supporting consumer incentives, infrastructure development, utility rate design, freight electrification, and public fleet electrification through our policy initiatives. We’re also working at the federal level, as illustrated by the Get American Moving Again report.

ACT News: From the aspect of personal development and teamwork, what are your thoughts and practices related to mentoring?

Natalia Swalnick: Since moving into a Senior Director role last fall, I have assumed management of a team of eight people. All team members have a direct line of communication to me whenever they need it. I try to be proactive about blocking out time to check in with them on a one-on-one basis, and I am very invested in their success. My hope is that they regard me as member of the team—I like to roll up my sleeves and pitch in when things are tough, and I get sincere joy out of trumpeting their successes across the organization and beyond. I have also helped members of my team secure promotions, change positions, or write new job descriptions within the organization to move them into roles that better suit their strengths and allow them to grow professionally.

“All team members have a direct line of communication to me whenever they need it.”

ACT News: Before working for the Electrification Coalition, what was the most unusual or interesting job you have ever had?      

Natalia Swalnick: When I was in high school, I wanted to go into broadcasting, and I landed an internship at a local radio station. Over time, they let me get into on-air work. I would record voiceovers for commercials and I even had my own radio show on Saturday nights! My parents loved it because they knew I was staying out of trouble as they could literally hear my alibi all evening—and my friends loved it because they knew I would play any songs they requested. On Sundays, I was responsible for playing commercials during syndication of NASCAR races—so I guess I was meant for a career in vehicles…even if it wasn’t Formula E Racing!

ACT News: What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?

Natalia Swalnick:  I am very proud to be the local Co-Chair for the Southern California Chapter of Women in Electric Vehicles, or WEVs. My professional involvement with the WEVs group is incredibly valuable and worthwhile, it is a peer group that I am honored to be a part of. The supportive women in this industry lift each other up, create new opportunities, and it also gives us a safe space to share our triumphs and our challenges with one another.

My late mother survived for six years with a glioblastoma diagnosis, which is the same brain cancer that claimed Senator John McCain. My younger sister developed Multiple Sclerosis a few years ago—and with amazing care and the right treatments, she is now a thriving newlywed. As a result, I’m a big supporter of the American Brain Tumor Foundation and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, respectively.