California becomes first state to roll out submetering technology to spur EV adoption
By: Kavya Balaraman• Published Aug. 8, 2022
California regulators last week approved first-of-their-kind protocols on submetering technology, which would essentially allow EV owners to measure their vehicles’ energy consumption separately from their main utility meter.
Thanks to the decision, owners of EVs, as well as of electric buses and trucks, will be able to avoid installing an additional meter to measure the electricity that is consumed by their vehicle, removing a key barrier to EV adoption across the state.
The CPUC’s decision is the culmination of a decade of efforts to develop submetering capabilities and standardize communication protocols, President Alice Reynolds said at a meeting Thursday. “We really are hoping to build on efforts to accelerate and facilitate greater customer control over how and when they charge their vehicle and enable customers to better manage their demand and to benefit from electric vehicle-specific rates,” she said.
The transportation sector represents nearly 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and electrifying vehicles is a critical component of the state’s decarbonization efforts. In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, passed an executive order aiming to have all new passenger vehicle sales in the state be zero-emission by 2035. Currently, over 16% of passenger cars sold in California are electric, and the state represents nearly half of EV sales across the country.
Submetering basically allows EV customers to avoid having to install a separate meter to measure the electricity use of their car, CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen said at an agency voting meeting Thursday. This is significant because in California, EVs are subject to special rate structures, which make it less costly to charge them during off-peak hours.
“Right now, you can charge your car for one-half to one-third the cost of filling up the gas tank, and that’s actually even before the run up of gas prices over the last several months,” Rechtschaffen said. “But, the EV rates often don’t work for an entire home or business — so most EV drivers today aren’t choosing those EV-specific rates.”
EV-specific rates can drastically reduce the cost of owning an electric car, but many customers are reluctant to purchase an additional utility-grade meter, presenting a barrier to EV adoption across the state, according to the CPUC.
“This technology is a way around that,” Rechtschaffen said.
This is one of the decisions issued by the CPUC that may seem technical and challenging but promises far-reaching implications, Rechtschaffen said, adding that “This makes us the first state in the country to allow EV owners to measure the electricity use of their car independently from their main utility meter.”
In addition, the decision approved by California regulators lays out communication protocols for EV chargers, which Rechtschaffen said will help enable vehicle-grid integration. Vehicle-grid integration refers to “a whole suite of actions that shape when and how people charge their cars — what time, what level, how much power is sent back, and the goal is to both minimize the impacts on the grid and maximize consumer benefits, reduce the cost for them or allow them to get paid for sending power back to the grid,” he said.
Vehicle-grid integration will become especially important as California adds more EVs to its roads, creating the potential to overburden the grid. Earlier this year, Pacific Gas & Electric and General Motors announced a pilot to test bidirectional charging — essentially, allowing customers to export power from their vehicles — which could help EVs become an on-demand home power source.
Article top image credit: Permission granted by Volta Charging
Avangrid works to turn electric vehicles into a grid resource in Connecticut, New York
By: Robert Walton• Published Aug. 3, 2022
Avangrid subsidiary United Illuminating expects to have 3,000 electric vehicles in its Connecticut territory by 2024 and has been working with Bidgely to utilize them as a grid resource and avoid driving higher peak demand when they are charging, Avangrid officials said.
Avangrid says it is developing a similar program in New York and is still in the process of selecting a long-term vendor in both states. Its work with Bidgely is being done under a one-year partnership announced in May.
Connecticut finished 2021 with about 21,000 EVs registered in the state, but its long-term transportation strategy calls for 500,000 by 2030. As the number of plug-in vehicles in its service territories grows, Avangrid sees three key barriers to harnessing them as a grid resource, Spence said.
“The biggest challenge is obviously integrating that load,” Spence said. “We're seeing just an unbelievable number of vehicles, [and] those vehicles all can consume 60 kWh if they are expended fully and get recharged in a day. That's generally what the whole house uses.”
That load must be integrated on a volume basis as well as timing, he said, to avoid spiking demand when residential customers return home in the evening and plug in their vehicles. Avangrid’s demand response managed charging program in Connecticut helps with that, but other challenges include accommodating varied customer technology preferences when it comes to vehicles and chargers, and ensuring investments and incentives are properly sized.
“Making sure that we're not paying people too much, but on the other hand, [they] aren't being paid so little that they're not interested in participating,” Spence said.
Avangrid, like the rest of the utility sector, is still developing best practices when it comes to utilizing EVs as demand response assets, Spence said. Needs can vary from territory to territory, and between more and less constrained circuits, he said.
In the first year of its Connecticut program, Avangrid could call up to 15 demand response events per month where it controls customer EV chargers to reduce grid stress. Customers are able to opt out of events.
“I doubt we'll ever really call that many ... that's pretty heavy-handed,” Spence said. But the flexibility to call more events allows for the utility to test whether customer participation drops off over time. The utility is also able to use its extensive advanced metering infrastructure network in Connecticut to identify customers who have EVs but are not yet participating in a demand response program, or to better engage with enrolled customers who are not participating.
Avangrid is still building out its program and doesn’t yet have a clear indication of how large a demand response resource EVs can be, said Spence.
“We’ll have a better idea of this total resource after the first program year where we’ve collected data on participation and gathered learnings,” Spence said in an email. “At that point, we’ll able to better estimate things like: average battery size of participating EVs, average participation per participant in terms of curtailable load, and the reliability of the resource overall.”
“The resource is absolutely growing and we expect this to be a substantial flexible resource over time,” Spence said.
Avangrid is working to develop a similar program in New York and in June filed a revised managed charging proposal with state regulators for its New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas and Electric subsidiaries.
Though the New York programs will be larger than Avangrid’s Connecticut efforts, “this will end up being a very similar program, both from the perspective of what regulators have assigned to the utilities in the state, but also in the type of program we implement,” Spence said.
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A looming graphite shortage could snarl the EV battery supply chain
Lithium constraints have dominated headlines, but experts say a lack of graphite could soon create supply headaches for automakers.
By: Kate Magill• Published July 28, 2022
Experts warn that supply of a key component in electric vehicles is hurtling towards a tipping point when global demand will outstrip supply — a moment that could come as early as this year.
Graphite is one of the primary components that make up the anodes in a lithium-ion battery, yet the state of its supply has gone largely unnoticed for years, even as demand for battery-grade minerals continues to rise with electric vehicle sales reaching record levels.
"Graphite has kind of been the poor cousin of the battery minerals and doesn't get the attention of the other commodities," said Gregory Bowes, executive chairman of the Northern Graphite Corp. "But we're getting very close to an inflection point where demand overtakes supply, and this is going to be first-page news."
Supply of the key EV-battery mineral is headed for a deficit of just over 20,000 tons this year, a shortfall that will only balloon throughout the next decade, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates.
Graphite mines are located in only a few places around the globe, making global manufacturers reliant on limited procurement sources and vulnerable to supply shocks. Last year, China produced 79% of the world's graphite supply, according to the USGS, compared with just 1.2% in North America — none of which came from the U.S.
And China is home to not only the majority of the world's graphite mines, but also the downstream processing that's necessary to make the material usable in batteries.
"The supply is getting tighter and tighter, and the downstream demand for graphite is accelerating really, really rapidly," said Daisy Jennings-Gray, senior price analyst at Benchmark.
Since September 2021, prices of the high-grade graphite most commonly used in lithium-ion batteries have risen from $530 per ton to $825 per ton in June 2022, according to Benchmark. The group expects that number to top $1,000 per ton in 2025 and to remain at "a high level" through 2030.
Higher costs and tight supply have more companies looking to secure supply by diversifying their sourcing or investing in production themselves.
Last year, Tesla announced a deal with Australian graphite mine operator Syrah Resources to buy the mineral from one of Syrah's sites in Mozambique, part of the automaker's strategy to reduce its supply reliance on China. And Northern Graphite, which currently operates a mine in Quebec, plans to open a second mine in Bissett Creek in southern Canada to up its own graphite production as demand continues to grow.
On the U.S. side, the Biden administration has deemed graphite a "critical mineral," prioritizing it and other battery-grade materials, including lithium and cobalt, for investment. In February, the administration announced nearly $3 billion in funding to bolster supply chains for advanced batteries.
Alabama has emerged as home to what will become the U.S.' first graphite processing plant. Westwater Resources and its subsidiary, Alabama Graphite Products, broke ground on the site in April with plans to be operational by the second quarter of 2023, according to local reports.
Westwater President and CEO Chris Jones noted last year that initially the raw graphite processed in the plant will be imported, but "none of it will be from China.” The company also expects to open a new mining operation in the area by 2028.
While the move toward a more diversified supplier and processing base is positive, Bowes stressed that solving the problem is not a quick fix, and it’s one that will take billions of dollars to tackle.
"The crux [of the problem] is we need a lot more supply, and construction has not started yet," he said. "So there's going to be a very serious point here where the automakers and battery makers look around and there's not enough graphite, and it can take a few years minimum, to build a mine."
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Nearly 20 states push ahead with truck electrification plan
By: Kate Magill• Published July 28, 2022
Nearly 20 states and jurisdictions have signed on to an action plan striving for 100% electric medium and heavy-duty vehicle sales by 2050.
The plan, released Wednesday, includes policy recommendations for local lawmakers to consider when crafting legislation aimed at boosting adoption of electric trucks and buses. A coalition of 17 states plus Washington, D.C., and the Canadian province of Quebec helped develop the plan, facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management.
Recommendations include adding more electric charging infrastructure, requiring fleets to submit data about their use of electric vehicles and that states subsidize a portion of fleets’ cost differential when buying an electric versus traditional truck.
Nearly half of the U.S. population is represented under the plan, as well as 36% of the country's medium and heavy-duty vehicles. Advocates hope it will give states needed tools to encourage, and if needed enforce, electric truck adoption.
Facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, or NESCAUM, the plan is the result of a task force dating back to 2013; the coalition of now 17 states, Washington, D.C. and Quebec has been working since 2020 specifically to develop the action plan, a draft of which was released for public comment this spring.
Participating jurisdictions have committed to strive for at least 30% electric medium and heavy-duty vehicle sales by 2030, and 100% by 2050.
Policy recommendations in the "Multi-State Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle Action Plan" are often based on best practices from participating states. It particularly highlights California's Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, pushing states to establish zero-emission sales requirements for trucks, as well as a one-time fleet reporting requirement.
Climate advocates have applauded the plan and its creation of a "consistent regulatory framework" to make widespread fleet electrification a reality, said Ryan Gallentine, policy director at Advanced Energy Economy, a trade association that advocates for electrified transport in the U.S.
"We’d recommend states take as much of the wisdom from the Action Plan as they can and create a custom list of actions to electrify their MHD fleets and improve air quality," Gallentine said in an email.
Several participating states have pushed ahead with their own electrification plans, many of which are aligned with or even more aggressive than the NESCAUM action plan. Washington and Oregon, for example, have already adopted California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule, and last year New York set a goal for all new medium and heavy-duty truck sales to be electric by 2045.
The plan also presents action items for utilities and utility regulators to coordinate with fleets around establishing charging infrastructure that is tailored to truck charging needs. A lack of charging infrastructure has been a stumbling block for companies looking to electrify their fleets.
A key priority throughout the plan is its focus on creating an equitable electrification transition for underserved communities and workers who have been most affected by greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan calls for states to deliver "early benefits to communities historically exposed to higher levels of air pollution, including reserving a percentage of funding for deployments that will benefit state-defined overburdened communities." It also encourages specific support for small fleets, minority-owned fleets, and independent owner-operators.
States have continued to join the coalition since work on the plan began in 2020, with Nevada signing on in March. Moving forward, Gallentine urged more states to consider joining and taking up the cause, putting tangible work behind the plan.
"Taken together, the action plan represents probably the most comprehensive set of policy recommendations for [medium and heavy-duty] electrification as has ever been assembled, but it’s only as good as the concrete actions that are put in place as a result," Gallentine said.
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Retailers warn demand charges, utility competition could impede national EV charging network
By: Robert Walton• Published July 27, 2022
Convenience stores, truck stops and other retailers are sounding the alarm on certain electric vehicle charging policies they say will stymie investment in a network of charging stations, just as the federal government prepares to provide billions in incentives for a national rollout.
In particular, demand charges and the ability of regulated utilities to own charging facilities in some states will keep private investment sidelined, according to Doug Kantor, general counsel of the National Association of Convenience Stores.
In order to access NEVI funds, states must file EV charging network plans by Aug. 1 with the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Transportation. Those plans will then be approved on a rolling basis, according to a formula.
Texas could receive up to $408 million over five years; California could see more than $380 million; Florida could receive $198 million; and New York could see $175 million, according to the Charge Ahead Partnership, or CAP, which describes itself as a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals supporting the development of a national EV network.
CAP on Tuesday hosted a call with media to highlight concerns businesses have regarding their ability to install charging equipment and turn a profit.
“Congress wants to use this money to leverage additional private capital and investment in EV charging,” CAP Executive Director Jay Smith said. “It's really just meant to jumpstart this market and help it grow.”
Some of that investment will need to be made at retail locations, like gas stations, but those businesses are unsure they can turn a profit with current EV policies, said Kantor. Businesses represented by the National Association of Convenience Stores sell about 80% of all the traditional motor fuels today, he said, and they “see selling electricity to EV drivers as a huge part of the future.”
The only way for the NEVI program to be effective is if those funds incentivize private investment, said Kantor. “There is no way to build out the infrastructure that's needed to charge vehicles without private investment. To just do it with public money, that's not going to happen,” he said.
Kantor and other business representatives on the call say state regulators must address two key issues in order for private businesses to install chargers en masse: Demand charges associated with peak demand should be reduced or eliminated, and utilities operating EV chargers must compete fairly with private businesses.
“Retailers have no confidence that EV charging is a money-making business, even with this federal help,” said Raina Shoemaker, the general operations manager at Shoemaker's Travel Center in Nebraska. “I'm terrified of getting hit with the demand charge.”
Demand charges have been a known impediment to EV charging stations for some time. Rocky Mountain Institute released a study in 2017 showing demand charges could be responsible for over 90% of a charging station’s electricity costs. Since then, some states have experimented with demand charge “holidays,” or have dramatically reduced the demand charges for stations.
Another issue is utility ownership of the stations, in particular when it is subsidized by ratepayer funds. Georgia Power has a network of more than 50 chargers, Smith noted.
“There's plenty of money to be made by retailers and the power companies when more people are driving EVs,” Smith said. “It's really going to take a partnership between the two, and not one cannibalizing the other, to make this successful.”
Utilities say their investment is necessary to install chargers in areas where private companies might not be able to turn a profit while EV adoption is nascent.
Georgia Power currently owns and operates 59 public charging stations in the state – but that is only about 3% of the state’s chargers, utility spokesman John Kraft said in an email.
“We believe utilities are uniquely positioned (while the market is in its infancy) to help grow charging infrastructure – especially in underserved areas and charging deserts, which is a position that even convenience store representatives have recognized,” Kraft said.
Retailers are prepared to compete, but they need a level playing field, said Kantor. If regulators allow utilities to build chargers with ratepayer funds, “that’s not a market system,” he said.
Installing a fast charger is a large expense, Kantor said. Retailers “have to recover all that expense but the utility does not because it's been underwritten by all their other customers who are contributing. That distortion of the market is a problem, and a problem for private investment.”
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Customer and conservation groups urge New York regulators to tackle medium- and heavy-duty EVs
Efforts to electrify New York's transportation sector have so far prioritized passenger cars and trucks, but a next phase could focus on large trucks and buses.
By: Robert Walton• Published May 31, 2022
Six customer and conservation groups have asked the New York Public Service Commission to tackle issues surrounding the electrification of medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, a sector broadly referred to as MHDV.
Passenger cars and trucks have been the focus of New York's transportation electrification efforts so far, but the groups say more must be done for the state to achieve its clean transportation goals. Incentives for MHDV infrastructure are needed, they say, and existing programs need to be redesigned.
The sector "cannot be ignored, even in the short term," the groups wrote in their request.
Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups filed the petition May 11 in an ongoing electric vehicle infrastructure proceeding led by state regulators that so far has focused on passenger EVs and the light-duty sector.
To help accelerate light-duty adoption, the PSC in 2020 approved a $701 million make-ready program to incentivize development of thousands of public charging locations. Clean transportation advocates say similar steps may be needed for the MHDV sector, and transitioning larger trucks and buses away from internal combustion engines "is an essential element of any strategy to avert the worst impacts of climate change," the groups said in their petition.
"Since 2020, a lot has happened to really help to accelerate [the EV] market within the state," said Kathy Harris, clean vehicles and fuels advocate in NRDC's climate and clean energy program. "And so it's really the prime time, now, to make sure ... there's charging infrastructure available, and that the utilities are properly preparing for this new wave of electrification in the transportation sector."
Compared with designing policies for passenger vehicles, designing MHDV policies is "vastly more complex," Fuels Institute warned in an April report.
"The MHDV market policies, targets, and expectations cannot be the same as those for light-duty vehicles," the report said, pointing to vehicle diversity and customization and challenging operating environments. Legislators, regulators, and corporations "need to understand this complexity as they set targets for policy and design incentive mechanisms for market suppliers."
Along with NRDC, Sierra Club, CALSTART, Environmental Defense Fund, South Bronx Unite, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice signed the petition.
The groups are asking the PSC to work with the state's utilities and agencies to collect information on the "current level of deployment of electric MHDVs and associated charging infrastructure in New York," as well as the timeline for anticipated vehicle and charging infrastructure deployments. Existing MHDV programs should be reviewed to ensure they are effective, and they want the PSC to initiate a stakeholder process similar to the light-duty proceeding.
The state's largest utility, Consolidated Edison, said it supports the petition at a broad level.
"There is a need to commence a proceeding and really to bring incentive dollars for that market," said Con Edison EV section manager Britt Reichborn-Kjennerud.
There are other stakeholder proceedings underway on the same issue, she noted, and it would be good for the PSC's efforts to align. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management group, for instance, is expected to finalize a regional MHDV action plan later this year.
"We'll start moving towards like a full-scale program once we have that stakeholder guidance finalized," Reichborn-Kjennerud said.
Utilities need to be prepared because demand from the transportation sector can grow rapidly, she said.
"Transportation loads can come on quite quickly," Reichborn-Kjennerud said. "They're not big and complex projects like a whole building." Charging stations can be installed in a matter of months, rapidly adding megawatts of demand.
Existing programs can be improved
The light duty infrastructure program approved by the PSC in 2020 did include some small investments in the MHDV sector, but those programs have not grown the way stakeholders had hoped. The NRDC petition asks regulators to "address program features that are limiting their current use."
"Based on the last two years of trying to implement the pilots, it appears as though the medium and heavy duty pilot has not been as successful as the light duty vehicle program has been," NRDC's Harris said. "That is not, from my perspective, [because of] a lack of need for the infrastructure."
A lack of uptake may have to do with incentive design, said Reichborn-Kjennerud. The MHDV pilots funded work on the utility side of the meter, "recognizing that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will bring in some really concentrated, large loads. ... But that program doesn't cover the customer-side work."
That leaves a "financial gap," Reichborn-Kjennerud said. For a lot of fleets looking to go electric, "their models may not pencil out because more incentives are needed to really spur that development." There are also fleets which have electrified, but because no grid upgrades were required, the MHDV pilot was not utilized, she said.
The current number of MHDVs on the road in Con Edison's service area is "relatively low," utility spokesperson Allan Drury said in an email. "However, we are seeing increasing interest in electrification through our Fleet Assessment Services and conversations with customers ranging from delivery vans and trucks to school and transit buses."
"A key barrier still appears to be the total cost of ownership highlighting the need for incentives to mobilize this market into a virtuous cycle," Drury said.
An MHDV-specific proceeding could address how incentives are structured and how existing programs could be improved, say advocates.
"Some of the ways the program was created need to be reevaluated to ensure that we're addressing the actual needs of fleets," Harris said. An MHDV proceeding would be "an opportunity for the utilities and for the commission to evaluate the program as it is, and take the lessons that we are hearing and learning and help to make sure that is actually a successful program."
Article top image credit: Courtesy of Maersk
Proposed California EV regs could be adopted by other states
The state will require 35% of new car and light-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emission models by 2026 and 100% by 2035.
By: Dan Zukowski• Published April 19, 2022
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is about to enact a major update to its Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) program, setting new standards on vehicle emissions and zero-emission vehicle regulations that 16 other states follow. Section 177 of the Clean Air Act allows these states to adopt California’s standards in lieu of federal requirements.
The ACC program regulates emissions from light-duty cars and trucks, including both greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants. It also sets minimum requirements for sales of zero-emission vehicles in the state, which may be plug-in electric or hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles.
The proposed California regulations could influence federal policy as well, said Alice Henderson, director and senior attorney for transportation and clean air policy at the Environmental Defense Fund. "It lays the groundwork for the national program and will further encourage the investments that will enable [the Environmental Protection Agency] to set the national standards that we need to meet our climate goals," Henderson said.
The proposed update to the current program will set increasing targets for each model year beginning in 2026, when 35% of new car and light-duty sales mustbezero-emission models, ramping up to 68% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.
A report from EDF last year found that achieving the 2035 zero-emission sales goal would avoid more than 60 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year by 2040. The report also cited public health benefits that could result in up to 380 fewer premature deaths and more than 20,000 fewer lost workdays every year by 2040.
More than 1 million electric vehicles have been sold in California, where approximately one in eight new cars sold in the state last year were EVs. That's due in part to state regulations beginning in 1990 that required auto manufacturers to make electric vehicles for sale in California. Three decades later, California reportedly sells more plug-in vehicles than the next 10 states combined and electric vehicles have been the state's leading export.
"The strong policy leadership from Sacramento over the past 20 years has not only driven strong job growth but has helped California develop into a global hub of clean vehicle innovation and development," said Andy Wunder, Western states advocate for E2, a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and professionals.
Some observers want to see even stricter requirements. Don Anair, research and deputy director of the clean transportation program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement that the proposed ACC II regulations "should serve as a floor rather than a ceiling."
Bill Magavern, policy director at the Coalition for Clean Air, said that the group is asking CARB to go beyond the proposed regulations "and require that 75% of all new cars sold in our state in 2030 have no tailpipe pollution."
California will need many more EV chargers as more plug-in vehicles hit the road. According to CARB, California had 78,394 installed chargers in 2021 but estimates it will need 714,000 chargers to serve 5 million EVs by the end of this decade.
Gov. Gavin Newsom requested an additional $6.1 billion in the state's 2022-2023 budget to improve access to electric vehicle chargers in low-income neighborhoods, which would include $256 million for consumer purchases and $900 million to expand affordable and convenient charging stations.
Soon, nearly 500 public EV chargers will be available to Los Angeles residents, including designated disadvantaged areas such as South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Pico-Union. Partially funded by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and CARB, the initiative is operated by Blink Charging. Many of these chargers are replacing parking meters, readily located where they can be used every day, said Brendan Jones,president of Blink Charging. "These are in low-income areas and these are going to provide access," he added.
CARB is accepting public comments in advance of a June 9 board meeting. Final adoption of the proposed rules could come this August.
"It's really important that California move forward quickly and finalize the standard this year," said Henderson, explaining that this will give other states enough time to begin implementing the updates to their clean car programs.
Article top image credit: Dan Zukowski/Utility Dive
As Biden plans EV charger rollout, location questions take the fore
Cities are placing charging stations in under-resourced neighborhoods. The efforts could guide state plans that must meet equity goals to qualify for federal funds.
By: Jason Plautz• Published March 2, 2022
On a visit to Denver last week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stood in front of an electric vehicle (EV) charger at the Denver Housing Authority's Mariposa Apartments to tout a plan for moving the country “from the days of electric vehicles being a rare, luxury item and working to make them affordable and accessible for all.”
Using CARES Act funding, Denver installed stations for EV car-sharing vehicles and EV chargers at the apartment complex and five other sites the city described as "under-resourced". Now, backed by $7.5 billion from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Biden administration is laying the groundwork to deploy thousands more chargers in communities just like those, and even more along the country’s highways.
The administration has a goal for a national network of 500,000 EV chargers, more than 10 times the number of chargers that exist today. The funds will go to creating "alternative fuel corridors" — highways dotted with chargers that are as ubiquitous as gas stations — and to reaching historically neglected neighborhoods. But finding the precise spots to maximize those investments is a challenge, one that could make or break the success of the program, some say.
“There’s a world where you throw the golden hammer at this and build out the best fast chargers in only the most perfect places. There’s also a world where you’re throwing a rusty steel hammer, and chargers are placed off the beaten path [thus they] never get any use,” said Quincy Lee, CEO of the charging company Electric Era. “What we’re seeing is more of a middle approach, to create widely available, easily accessible charging options on an expedited schedule.”
Earlier this month, the departments of Transportation and Energy released guidance for how they will manage $5 billion in funds under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program for states to create alternative fuel corridors, with $615 million available in fiscal year 2022. Under the NEVI program, states must submit deployment plans that meet a suite of policy requirements to access the funds. For example, the guidance document says states should place chargers every 50 miles along the interstate highway system, prioritizing placement first at locations within a mile of the highway. Each charging station should have at least four fast chargers (150 kW DC chargers) and sufficient power supplies. After the highway chargers are installed, additional installations can be prioritized along public roads at accessible locations like parking lots, public buildings and rest areas.
Another $2.5 billion will be distributed lateroutside the NEVI programfor discretionary grants supporting chargers in rural areas and disadvantaged communities.But the NEVI program sets out its equity considerations as well. It specifies that state plans must be consistent with the Biden administration's Justice40 initiative by making the charging network accessible to both urban and rural residents and having at least 40% of its benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.
Chris Bast, who worked on a $14 million charger deployment in Virginia and is now the director of EV infrastructure investments at the Electrification Coalition, said a clear policy directive will make sure every dollar is well spent.
“This isn’t just practice anymore. States will know their approach and will deploy infrastructure in a way that meets their objectives,” Bast said. “I don’t think we’ll see any chargers hidden. This is the kind of investment that ensures every consideration is in place to make sure people can see and access these chargers.”
Equity is key
As part of its 2017 Drive Clean Seattle plan, the city of Seattle called on utility Seattle City Light to install 20 public fast chargers and 200 level-2 residential chargers in two years. Due to administrative delays and the COVID-19 pandemic, only 17 public fast chargers have been installed so far — with four more scheduled by the end of June — but Seattle City Light capital projects coordinator Jacob Orenberg said they have filled a necessary spot in the market.
Seattle has 724 public charging ports, counting those from both public and private operators, according to ChargeHub. Orenberg said they tend to be concentrated in the downtown core and wealthier neighborhoods. Utility-installed infrastructure, he said, "can fill in the gaps where we want people to have access, especially in neighborhoods that are lower-income and traditionally overlooked."
“We think we can do the most good by filling those needs," he added.
Orenberg said the utility works with community leaders to identify the best location in a neighborhood for a charger. Often that has meant visible, high-traffic areas like shopping centers and grocery stores that reflect where people are already going. A charger near the city’s Madison Park shows higher use on pleasant summer days and declining traffic in the winter, a reflection that people are using chargers when they’re available and convenient.
Advocates are likewise calling for underserved communities to be prioritized in the Biden administration’s rollout. Even with funding set aside for those communities and specific direction in NEVI to consider equity, advocates warn that outreach is necessary. Speaking in January at the National EV Charging Summit hosted by the EV Charging Initiative, National Urban League Executive Vice President Don Cravins said there's a risk the benefits will not reach the communities that most need them.
"If we do this right, and we all start on the same page, we can make an impact," Cravins said. "We cannot afford to mess this up, both environmentally and health-wise and economically."
Defraying soft costs
Simply choosing a visible, user-friendly spot may not be enough. Fast chargers need a lot of electricity flowing to them, which can require costly new or upgraded connections to the electric grid.
“Interconnection is usually slow and cumbersome,” said Electric Era’s Lee. “So many times you see chargers by the dumpsters behind a department store because that’s just where the power is. We need to change that.”
Chris Kalima, vice president of product management for Intertrust Technologies Corp., said “soft costs” are often a barrier to getting chargers installed. Even if a site looks good, operators need to know how much power a utility can provide there, how the site will be connected and even what physical resources might need to be built. Intertrust has been working on secure data platforms that allow utilities, property owners, transportation departments and other planners to share resources, identifying the most efficient spots for chargers.
The NEVI guidance lays out direction to ease those challenges. Funds can be spent on renewable generation and energy storage that contribute to charging, so stations could be built with solar panels and batteries to reduce connection costs. States are also directed to expedite interconnection permitting, reduce regulations related to electricity generation and minimize utility fees.
Lew Cox, director of business development at mobile infrastructure consulting firm MD7, said governments can take lessons from the rollout of cellular sites in the 1990s, when permitting and property issues often slowed development. Having led companies through that process, Cox's company is now working to lend its expertise to EV charger rollouts.
“I think the balance should be more towards thoughtful deployment than speed. You don’t want to be coming back later and redoing your site because it’s not right,” Cox said.
Ultimately, planners need to do whatever it takes to make EV chargers as visible and comfortable as possible to give drivers the confidence they can drive an electric car, said Electrification Coalition Executive Director Ben Prochazka. While chargers and vehicle sales were once thought of as a “chicken-and-egg” problem, with no consensus on which needed to come first, Prochazka said both can work in tandem as sales pick up.
“I say it’s more like chicken and waffles, these two things go hand in hand together,” he said. “This is no longer a drill, this is no longer a pilot. This is a national program, and that changes the entire complexion of this system.”
Article top image credit: Sean Gallup via Getty Images
Duke may offer some EV customers ‘all you can charge’ for just $19.99/month (restrictions apply)
Duke Energy wants to offer North Carolina residential customers a flat-fee EV charging subscription, in exchange for some control over when the charger is used.
By: Robert Walton• Published Feb. 23, 2022
Duke Energy has proposed an electric vehicle (EV) charging program that could allow some residential customers in North Carolina to charge a vehicle for a fixed monthly fee as low as $19.99. In exchange, the customer would allow Duke to manage the vehicle's charging, in order to avoid grid stress and higher costs.
The utility is trying to provide a "seamless customer experience and an ecosystem of EV products," while also avoiding costly grid upgrades necessary to meet rising peak demand, Duke Vice President of Rate Design and Strategic Solutions Lon Huber said.
The proposed pilot is "all you can charge," said Huber, though some limitations apply.
Customers who consume more than 800 kWh for charging in a month, or opt out of several managed charging events during which charging may be paused, could receive warnings and be removed from the pilot. According to Duke, that amount of energy will get a typical EV close to 2,000 miles of range. But clean energy advocates say the program limits are an indication that subscription-based managed charging plans may not work for all customers.
Duke is moving rapidly to implement its electrification plans, and has asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to approve the charging pilot within 60 days. Electric transportation is expected to be one of the most significant drivers of Duke's load growth over the next 20 years, the utility told regulators, and managed charging is a key to controlling costs.
Regulators have been amenable to Duke's plans so far, which support North Carolina's broader electrification strategy. In January, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, D, issued an executive order calling for zero-emission vehicles to comprise 50% of in-state automobile sales by 2030.
Last week, the NCUC approved Duke's proposed Make Ready Credit, which will allow the utility to compensate customers who install EV charging at homes or businesses. And regulators have asked for comments on how the utility can access federal infrastructure funds to assist with its transportation electrification plans.
As customers transition from traditional gas-powered cars to EVs, utilities must be thinking about "how to make this a frictionless experience," Huber said, and "accentuating the benefits of electrifying transportation."
The proposed $600,000 subscription EV charging pilot would run 12 months and include an initial 200 participants split evenly between two service territories, according to Duke's application. As part of the pilot, Duke will "actively manage" vehicle charging and can schedule up to three managed charging events per month.
Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) customers would pay a fixed monthly rate of $19.99 for the charging pilot, while Duke Energy Progress (DEP) customers would pay $24.99. "Historical cost structures" of the two utilities account for the difference, said Huber. Participating customers can save on charging, he said, while the pilot's load management aspects are designed to benefit all of Duke's customers.
Managed charging key to limiting cost increases
EV load is expected to grow as Duke is transitioning to a lower-carbon portfolio, which "will cause increases in the proportion of capacity or demand costs," the utility said in its application. That's due, in part, to renewable energy typically having higher capacity costs and lower energy costs.
Demand costs account for roughly 59% of DEC's revenue requirement and 49% for DEP, according to Duke's application.
"Because demand costs correspond to system peaks and charging an EV adds demand to the system, costs will be primarily driven by peaks on the generation, transmission, and distribution systems rather than energy costs," the utility warned regulators.
Unmanaged EV charging that occurs during or near the coincident peak could mean Duke "will need to build or obtain additional capacity resources to avoid power interruptions or damage to the system," the utility said. "This could result in increased costs for all customers."
On the other hand, if EV charging is managed effectively Duke said it will be able to "delay or avoid adding additional capacity resources" and reduce costs in both the short- and long-term. System assets will also be used more efficiently, "and these savings will be shared among both EV drivers and non-EV drivers."
Duke said it is working with BMW, Ford Motor, General Motors and American Honda Motors, testing an Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform developed with the Electric Power Research Institute that provides interoperability with the automakers' vehicle telematics applications. That would allow Duke to use charging data from the vehicle to measure a customer's usage and demand, rather than require installation of an expensive second meter.
"The beauty is that you don't need a second meter — at least, that's our going-in assumption," said Huber. "We're going to be testing out the accuracy of the telematics.
Active charging will allow Duke to "shape the EV charging patterns to ensure charging occurs during low cost, environmentally friendly periods, and that adequate charge levels will be reached by a designated time set by the customer," the utility said.
Some restrictions apply
Duke will be able to pause a customer's charging for up to four hours, three times per month. Participants will receive twelve hours advance notice that a managed charging event will occur, and can opt out of two such demand response events throughout the pilot.
"Any participant who opts out of more than two managed charging events may be removed from the pilot at the companies’ discretion," according to Duke's application.
There are other limitations on the program, and they indicate subscription charging may not work for everyone, said Stan Cross, electric transportation policy director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Duke may also send warnings to a participant using more than 800 kWh/month for EV charging "that they have consumed a potentially excessive amount of energy for one vehicle" and could be removed from the pilot.
Participants who receive three warnings can be removed at Duke's discretion. And any participant consuming more than 1,200 kWh in any month "may also be removed from the pilot immediately at the company’s discretion," according to Duke's application.
"We are big fans of managed charging and are excited that Duke is looking to innovate," Cross said. "We have concerns about subscription-based tariffs. EV efficiency and customer needs vary greatly. So a flat rate might not be an appropriate way to base a managed charging program."
One issue, said Cross, is that managed charging programs are new in general, and in particular when paired with EV charging. "We want to be really careful ... that we're really controlling the variables and making sure that we're testing for the right things," he said.
Article top image credit: Permission granted by Duke Energy
'A long way to go': How ConEd, Xcel and 4 other utilities are helping cities meet big EV goals
From New York City to Los Angeles, cities and utilities face cost, land and grid challenges in their efforts to electrify transportation systems.
By: Robert Walton, Emma Penrod, Jason Plautz, and Scott Van Voorhis• Published Nov. 30, 2021
Electric vehicles (EVs) could finish 2021 as 5% of new car sales in the U.S., according to market observers, and are expected to make up a growing share in the years to come. Driven by city and state electrification goals, and now supported by federal infrastructure dollars, the years ahead will be a critical time for utilities working to drive beneficial electrification.
To get an idea of the challenges American cities will face with the rising numbers of EVs, Utility Dive is taking an in-depth look at how electric utilities in six cities are helping boost electric transportation adoption, through charging infrastructure and helping to support vehicle uptake.
Experts say EV adoption is poised to surge in the United States, potentially fueled by federal purchase credits now being debated on Capitol Hill. The proposal included in the Build Back Better legislation would knock up to $12,500 off the sticker price of a new electric car or truck, depending on where and how it is produced. Used EV buyers could get up to $4,000 back.
If lawmakers pass those credits, "you'll see an immediate leap forward in demand for EVs," Joel Levin, executive director of Plug in America, said.
President Joe Biden wants half of all new passenger vehicle sales in the United States to be EVs by 2030. That's achievable, transportation experts say, but will require development of new supply chains, along with public charging infrastructure to support an equitable transition.
Are cities ready for the transition? Not yet, say experts. But some are heading that way, while others will face difficulties.
"It is kind of a real estate problem, because basically wherever you put in charging you're taking a parking space," said Levin. "As cities get denser, that becomes more of a challenge — New York City being the extreme example, where real estate is really at a premium."
The Big Apple ranks 4th among U.S. cities in electric vehicle adoption, according to a Sept. 16 report from the New York Times, but lags on public charging infrastructure. The city's utility, Consolidated Edison, launched a program in 2020 that aims to help install thousands of charging ports by 2030.
Los Angeles has the most EVs on its roads and is widely considered a leader on EV infrastructure, though city leaders acknowledge there is much work to be done. EVs make up about 12% of new car sales in California, and "L.A. is probably above that," said Levin.
Other major cities of varying size are also looking to electrify transportation. In Denver, Xcel is helping the city with its goal to reach 30% EV adoption by 2030. Eversource is helping Boston put an EV charger in every neighborhood by 2023.
In Miami, where 40% of the state's EVs are registered, Florida Power & Light is looking beyond the city's urban center and is installing chargers along the turnpike. Seattle City Council has a plan to "electrify everything that moves people, goods, or services in and around our city."
"Utilities, obviously, are really a critical piece of this," said Levin.
"We thought we were kind of ahead of the curve when it comes to EV infrastructure," said Yamen Nanne, who has been the electric transportation program supervisor at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for the past two and a half years.
A state assessment indicated otherwise.
In the past three years, LADWP has helped to increase the number of commercial charging stations in the city by over seven-fold, said Nanne. Los Angeles went from about 2,000 commercial charging stations to over 14,000 commercial charging stations, with about 2,700 of those publicly accessible.
"We've really been happy about what we've been able to accomplish in the last three years," he said.
"We thought we were kind of ahead of the curve when it comes to EV infrastructure."
Electric transportation program supervisor, LADWP
But in May 2021, the California Energy Commission completed an assessment at the direction of state lawmakers to determine how the state is going to meet EV adoption targets. New non-electric vehicles will stop being available for sale starting in 2035, and as a lead up to that, California wants to get to 7.5 million EVs in the state by 2030.
To accommodate those electric vehicles, the state will need about 1.2 million public and shared chargers, the CEC assessment found. Nanne said Los Angeles has about 10% of the state's vehicles, meaning the city needs about 120,000 commercial chargers by 2030.
"We have a long way to go over over the next eight to nine years to get there," he said.
The biggest challenge, said Nanne, is going to be finding the additional funding to help pay for some of the cost of installing the necessary infrastructure. So far, the city has installed about 15% of chargers available in Los Angeles by utilizing state funds through various market based programs like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, he said.
Ultimately, though, LADWP expects the private sector to play a major role. "Because we just simply don't have enough, you know, properties to accommodate 120,000 charging stations," Nanne said.
A second challenge, is scaling up LA's ability to interconnect the charging stations onto its distribution system, which Nanne said will require additional investment. Some of that could come from the federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden in November.
Another key issue is the utility's workforce, which may need to be expanded in order to complete the necessary grid upgrades. So far, said Nanne, 90-95% of EV-related work has not required power system upgrades. But the system was built in the 60s and 70s, and soon the additional load will become a challenge.
"As we start moving into a lot higher volumes and getting that infrastructure more spread out throughout the city, there are certain areas on our grid ... that are going to have to be upgraded in order to accommodate that additional load," he said.
LADWP is also one of a handful of utilities still using a lower-powered distribution system, Nanne said. While many utilities today run 12 kv or 18 kv systems, the Los Angeles municipal utility runs a 4.8 kv system.
"So that kind of limits us, in being able to host large loads, especially like when it comes to high powered charging stations, fast chargers that have a lot more draw onto the grid," he said. Los Angeles is building out a 34.5 kV system, but it is limited.
"We're going to have to find ways to extend those lines to reach where the EV charging stations are going to go," said Nanne. "So that requires design, buying equipment, and then our workforce installing those circuits either, you know, underground or overhead throughout the city of L.A."
If the task sounds daunting, Los Angeles has a key advantage in its municipally-owned utility. "We're dealing with one authority having jurisdiction," said Nanne.
"So when it comes to permitting ... we're essentially dealing with sister agencies, whether it's the Los Angeles Department of Buildings safety, or Public Works," said Nanne. "We have those relationships that help to make this process hopefully a lot shorter than it would be otherwise, when you have a private utility that has to deal with multiple authorities."
"Cities find it a little bit easier when they have their own municipal utility," said Levin. Los Angeles in particular has a strong commitment to EV adoption because it "has some of the worst air quality in the country," he added.
New York City
Permitting is often discussed as a challenge for EV charging infrastructure, but some utilities say the speed at which permits are processed reflects how committed a city is to electrification. New York City has real estate challenges when it comes to installing chargers, along with ambitious electrification goals, but officials at the city's utility, Consolidated Edison, say that — so far — permitting has been relatively simple.
"A lot of people in other service areas talk about specific permitting difficulties that they have experienced. We've actually seen New York City is really interested in bringing in as many chargers as possible, as is the Westchester municipality," said RaghuSudhakara, Consolidated Edison's director of demonstration projects.
But he added that the largest city in the United States is only really getting started on electrification. It's "a little early to make vast generalizations yet," he said, regarding the ease of obtaining charging station permits.
New York City's Department of Transportation released a plan in September to install thousands of chargers across the city, and expects 400,000 EVs on its roads by 2030. The plan calls for leveraging government resources to spur private investment, to install 40,000 public Level 2 chargers and 6,000 DC Fast Chargers (DCFC) by 2030.
The city, however, is starting from almost zero.
Through ConEd's PowerReady program, Sudhakara said the utility will give incentives to customers to put in about 20,000 EV chargers by 2025. More than 19,000 will be Level 2 chargers, along with about 500 DCFC chargers. Until the program launched in July 2020, ConEd only had about 2,000 Level 2 chargers and 250 DCFCs on its system in New York City.
And "the vast majority of them are private, they're not publicly accessible," said Sudhakara.
With 8.5 million people living in a dense, urban environment, New York City faces a variety of challenges. "And so it's really complex, to do any sort of major infrastructure work," he said.
ChargePoint has been working with New York City to help electrify its fleet and the city "leads by example," said Anthony Harrison, head of North American utility partnerships at the EV charging company. "They've been on the forefront of electrifying their own fleet, and they've been working very closely with Con Edison."
As for New York's lack of public charging infrastructure, Harrison said the city simply started later than others. While LADWP has had a customer-facing EV program for more than five years, New York launched its own "in the middle of a pandemic," said Harrison.
"Not only was it much later to the game ... you're trying to promote public charging when nobody's leaving their house. There's gonna be challenges with that," he said.
"The broader challenges that some of our customers face is the availability of land where there is already sufficient electric capacity to interconnect these chargers."
Director of demonstration projects, ConEd
More than half of New York City and Westchester customers are tenants, as opposed to owning their own home, said Sudhakara. That means public charging will be key to EV adoption, because fewer residents are charging at home in their garage. The city must also provide charging to a large number of taxis and ride share vehicles.
There are signs of progress. In June, electric transportation company Revel opened a charging depot in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with 25 publicly accessible DCFC chargers. ConEdison's PowerReady program provided incentives to help make it happen.
"The broader challenges that some of our customers face is the availability of land where there is already sufficient electric capacity to interconnect these chargers," said Sudhakara.
Supplying electricity to a DCFC hub is similar to providing service to a 300 unit apartment building, he said.
The utility offers a hosting capacity map for electric vehicle charger customers, "so they could see areas of the system where ... we believe there's enough headroom" to power a charging station, Sudhakara said.
The PowerReady program also has "certain preferences built into it through pricing signals" meant to incentivize publicly accessible chargers, stations where the charger is universal, and for chargers "in the vicinity of a disadvantaged community."
"We think these are good price signals," said Sudhakara. "But then you do have a little more of a challenge in finding the right locations, where you're able to serve the public and the market can make a business case for the chargers."
While initial charging rollouts have been smooth so far, Sudhakara said the utility knows it "will likely run into the situation where we'll have more and more upgrades" as the city electrifies.
"The early projects have actually proceeded pretty smoothly on the permitting side, and also on the utility side," Sudhakara said. But as more projects come in, the utility is prepared to pursue larger grid upgrades that could include transformers.
"That's not a trivial undertaking. And that can be up to like 18 months," he said. "There will be cases like that."
The challenges faced by New York City and Los Angeles — the two most populous cities in the United States — will be similar to those in other metropolitan areas, though the scale may differ. Denver, Boston, Miami and Seattle all have ambitious goals (and unique challenges), with innovative utilities working to achieve them.
The city of Denver, with a population of around 750,000, published an EV Action Plan in 2020 calling for all light duty vehicles in the city to be electric by 2050. En route, the city wants to see 15% of vehicle registrations electric in 2025, and 30% in 2030.
Getting there will require a rapid buildout of chargers, and the plan calls for the city and county to continue growing its partnership with Xcel Energy and charging providers, "to ensure there is a supportive environment for deploying charging infrastructure."
To help customers consider the potential grid upgrades necessary for charging projects, Xcel has begun offering a "concierge" service among its other EV offerings to help meet electrification plans in Denver and the rest of its eight-state territory.
As of October 2019, the city's plan identified about 400 public charging ports, with most of those being Level 2. About 4% are DCFC and 10% are Level 1 chargers.
"Denver will need 10 times the current number of charging ports over the next 10 years," the action plan concluded, including nearly 750 DCFC ports and 3,300 Level 2 charging ports.
"These charging port estimates will require approximately 360 L2 and 75 DCFC charging port installations per year — much higher than the current rate of installation," the report noted.
These plans fit within Xcel's strategy to serve 1.5 million electric vehicles across its eight state territory by 2030. That amounts to an anticipated 30-fold increase in plug-in vehicles across its service regions, said Nadia El Mallakh, area vice president of strategic partnerships and ventures at Xcel.
"This fall, we rolled out a suite of programs in Colorado, a very holistic package that really puts us on the road to reaching this very ambitious goal," El Mallakh said. "We really want to make EVs accessible for all of our customers at all income levels."
The utility is working with our regulators to get programs approved "to develop charging infrastructure solutions for single family homes, multifamily homes, retailers, businesses, ride sharing services ... all of these different segments of our customers," El Mallakh said. "And we have some additional support for income qualified customers."
The utility is allowed to own some chargers in Colorado, and for commercial customers offers a make ready program to help offset infrastructure costs, including improvements to the distribution system up to the point of the charger hub.
"We have rebates, particularly for high emission communities," El Mallakh said. In Colorado, the largest is Denver, according to a data visualization from Xcel.
"We can help install not only that infrastructure, but even provide rebates for the chargers themselves," she said. For a Level 2 charger, that could mean more than $2,000. A DCFC station could receive up to $45,000 per charging port.
So far, Xcel has not had issues in finding space for charging infrastructure. And it works with customers through an EV "concierge program" where it assigns an advisor to commercial customers looking to adopt electric transportation solutions, El Mallakh said.
"They might have a lot of information or they might just be exploring. We assign an EV advisor to meet with them and walk them through the process, tell them what programs of ours they would be eligible for," El Mallakh said. The utility also helps the customer consider specific site logistics, including what grid upgrades might be needed and how much they might cost.
"While there is going to be the need for upgrades over time ... it's nothing that we can't handle in the due course of business," she said.
The utility also offers a rebate for for vehicle purchases, for income qualified customers, that can be combined with federal incentives. That can mean up to $5,500 back from Xcel for the purchase of a new vehicle, and $3,000 for a used vehicle.
Xcel is aiming for carbon-free electricity by the middle of the century, with an 80% renewable energy goal for 2030, and electrification of vehicles is a big part of that plan.
"We do see electric transportation as the next chapter in our clean energy leadership," El Mallakh said. "And being able to do that in a way that we can help all of our customers and communities make that transition easier and help address the barriers, and focus on the access."
In Boston, city officials have teamed up with Eversource, the local utility, in a rollout of hundreds of new EV plugs in neighborhoods across the city.
After a slow start, city transportation officials and Eversource are pushing ahead with plans to install 198 Level 2 charging plugs by 2025 in municipal parking lots and other locations in Boston neighborhoods beyond the downtown, including Dorchester, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Mattapan.
The installation of another, roughly 200 EV plugs will be left to the private sector, a system that has worked so far in downtown Boston.
To date, developers and commercial property owners have installed 658 EV plugs in affluent downtown neighborhoods like Back Bay, the South End and Beacon Hill, heavily concentrated in commercial parking garages as well as condo buildings, hotels and shopping centers, according to the city'sZero-Emission Vehicle Roadmap.
That, however, has left a gap in coverage in several other neighborhoods where the bulk of Bostonians live.
The city of Boston’s overarching goal is to have either an EV car share facility or an EV charging station within a 10-minute walk of all city residents by 2030, according to city plans. By 2023, the city hopes to have at least one EV charger in every neighborhood.
"The goal is to expand that access to public EV charging to areas that didn’t have it," said Matt Warfield, a "new mobility" planner in the Boston Transportation Department.
While the city's EV buildout was kicked off two years ago, progress initially was slow, Warfield said. However, the effort is starting to accelerate after some early learning curves, he added.
One of the issues that came to the forefront was the cumbersome process of lining up the various construction and work permits needed to start construction, Warfield said.
Separate permits are currently needed to first do the excavation work needed to install the necessary infrastructure, followed by a second permit for doing the electrical hookups, he said.
A working group convened by city officials is now looking at ways of streamlining the process, such as lining up the necessary permits at roughly the same time instead of sequentially, according to Warfield. "It is the same type of construction everywhere – we should be able to build out a standard process," he said.
Still, running out of municipal parking lots to install chargers in, city officials are also looking to new locations, such as community centers and local library branches, he said.
In addition, city officials are now requiring all large new real estate development projects in "parking freeze zones" to install EV charging stations in 25% of their parking, while making the remaining spaces ready for EV charger wiring, Warfield said. Parking freeze zones are sections of the city where the creation of new, additional parking spaces beyond a pre-set limitis prohibited under city regulations.
Eversource is working with the city on the effort through the utility’s make ready program, undertaking all the excavation, infrastructure and electrical work needed for the chargers to be deployed, according to James Cater, the program lead for the EV infrastructure buildout in Boston.
"We are looking at a significant escalation of EV charging in the city," Cater said.
According to the Department of Energy, Florida, with more than 65,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the state, trails only California in new registrations. An analysis by Elektrek using federal data determined the state had the third highest amount of charging infrastructure in the U.S., with most of that in Miami and the broader south Florida area.
That has Florida Power and Light, the state’s largest utility, taking a lead role in the vehicle transition. "We know that rapid adoption is inevitable," said Anuj Chokshi, director of development at FPL in charge of EV programs. "The infrastructure to support adoption isn’t quite there, but we at FPL are in a unique position to make it easier for folks to go electric."
The FPL Evolution pilot, announced in 2019, set a goal to increase available chargers by 50%, installing more than 1,000 across the state. FPL says it currently has 518 charging ports in operation across 100 locations and 569 charging ports across 101 locations under construction. The charging ports under construction are expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2022.
A bulk of deployment is in South Florida, with an estimated 40% of EVs in the state registered in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to Miami-Dade County. That will only rise with county Mayor Daniella Levin Cava’s goal to make 10% of the region’s new car purchases electric in 2021, with the benchmark rising 10% each year. The county also wants to fully transition its municipal fleet to electric by 2030.
FPL is looking beyond that urban core. Chokshi said FPL has installed 15 chargers along the Florida turnpike and other highways to make sure drivers can charge up on long trips (they are also along hurricane evacuation routes). The utility relies on statewide data to determine the best charging sites based on demand, transmission and protection from extreme storms.
"We want every driver to have the confidence to know they can drive an EV, especially by providing equitable access in underserved and rural areas," he said.
In 2016, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution aiming to see 30% of residents driving EVs by 2030. But the world has changed since then.
Earlier in 2021, Seattle revealed a new roadmap for transportation electrification with several notable changes, including a new target: for zero-emission transportation to account for 90% of all personal trips within the city by 2030.
Combating climate change remains a central issue for the city’s electrification ambitions, according to Andrea Pratt, climate and transportation program manager for Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. But since the launch of its initial EV goal in 2016, the city has become increasingly focused on equity as well.
Public input since the creation of the 30% goal revealed that while city residents generally want to see more electrification, many felt that EVs were financially inaccessible and contributed to gentrification, according to the city’s final Transportation Electrification Blueprint, released in March. This led to an increased focus on mode shifting — policies and improvements that encourage residents to switch from single occupancy vehicles to other forms of transportation such as walking, biking and public transit.
"Our ‘North Star’ is to electrify everything that moves people, goods, or services in and around our city in order to reduce climate emissions and air pollution, increase electric mobility options, and create a pipeline of green jobs and workforce diversity," Pratt said in an email.
Over the development of the electrification blueprint, the city learned the importance of casting a wide net with stakeholders in order to gain multiple perspectives and also "because transportation electrification is so intersectional," said Pratt.
"You can’t always see all the various connections of this work so having a big tent from various sectors will foster big ideas and valuable collaboration," she said.
In addition to the 90% carbon-free transportation goal, Seattle also aims to ensure shared mobility services like bikes, scooters, taxis, carshare and delivery services are 100% electric, and will restrict cars from some roads to promote walking, biking and other forms of transportation.
The city also wants to expand its electric grid to ensure that power service remains reliable amid increased demand for charging and other electric transportation. This, according to the electrification blueprint, remains one of the city’s unsolved challenges. Success in achieving the original 30% electrification goal would consume 10% of Seattle City Light’s average daily generation, according to a study released earlier in 2021.
This level of infrastructure deployment will require a realistic look at barriers to infrastructure deployment including lease agreements, permitting processes, and other agreements, David Logsdon, director of electrification and strategic technology for Seattle City Light, said in an email.
"It will also require sustained education and outreach to ensure that when people see electrification infrastructure they are thinking about the substantial environmental, public health, and rate benefits that these investments bring," he said.
However, Pratt said she sees a potential solution in the federal infrastructure bill.
"Not only will this historic piece of legislation provide funding for corridor charging, grid upgrades and port electrification, it could also provide opportunities to get chargers in hard to reach places like public housing and apartments," Pratt said. "There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure that must be installed and operational in order to meet the growing EV demand, tackle the climate crisis and ensure an equitable transition."
Article top image credit: Reklamlar/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images
The latest developments in electrification and EVs
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