Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Making Your City “EV Ready”

2018 Nissan Leaf charging (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining traction among consumers, governments, and automakers as battery prices fall and the benefits of EVs increase.  Within the last year, virtually every major automobile manufacturer has announced plans to transition to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.  As cities look to capitalize on the opportunity that EVs can bring, from lower maintenance costs for consumers to better air quality for residents, they also must lay the groundwork for their communities to become ‘EV ready’.

With battery prices coming down, EVs are already among the lowest total cost of ownership vehicles in the passenger car market and will continue to become more affordable for the average consumer.  In addition to low maintenance and fuel costs, EVs also offer quiet operation and zero tailpipe emissions, making them a popular choice for both environmentally and economically savvy consumers.  Moreover, EVs can help cities meet air quality goals (particularly in low-income neighborhoods along major highways and freeways), save money in city fleets, put downward pressure on taxes, limit cities’ exposure to volatile oil and gasoline prices, and more.  In an era where an increasing number of cities are setting local goals for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, facilitating EV deployment is becoming a vital tool in cities’ toolbox to achieve energy and sustainability goals.

Summary of Station and Plug Count Estimates to meet the demand of 15M PEVs in 2030. Source: National Plug-In Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Analysis (U.S. Department of Energy). Click to Enlarge.However, more EVs on the road will require more infrastructure and support, and cities can (and should) play a huge role in shaping this future.  According to a recent analysis published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that examined the amount of infrastructure needed for an EV market transformation, cities will need 4,900 Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations while interstate corridors will only need 400 DCFC stations.

Cities have tremendous influence over how and where infrastructure is built and serve as a critical and necessary partner in the market transformation effort to make EVs a significant part of the nation’s passenger car fleet.  Therefore, cities need to be “EV-ready” in policy, regulation, capital improvements, and in planning for public and private infrastructure.  The Great Plains Institute (GPI) has identified five principles for what constitutes an EV-ready city:
  1. Policy:  Acknowledge EV benefits and support development of charging infrastructure
  2. Regulation:  Implement development standards and regulations that enable EV use
  3. Administration:  Create transparent and predictable EV permitting processes
  4. Programs:  Develop public programs to overcome market barriers
  5. Leadership:  Demonstrate EV viability in public fleets and facilities
1) Policy:   Acknowledge EV benefits and support development of charging infrastructure
The comprehensive plan or master plan is the city’s primary policy document, providing the foundation for development regulations, public infrastructure investments, and economic development programs. Prioritizing EV use and development of EV charging infrastructure in the comprehensive plan or master plan enables EV market transformation and city decision-making on EV-supportive programs and regulations. Policies on how your city will support the developing technology can fit under a single chapter of the plan (such as transportation) or be implemented throughout the plan (transportation, housing, economic development, land use, etc.).

In Practice:

  • Stoughton, Massachusetts.  Comprehensive Master Plan:  Phase II:  Assessment, Recommendations and Implementation Plan.  In their 2015 Master Plan, the forward-thinking City of Stoughton, Massachusetts made sure to include language on EVs and supporting infrastructure.  Included in the plan’s energy and sustainability sub-section is language that encourages “Maximizing the efficiency of municipal vehicles, supporting electric vehicles…,” as well as general language on improving the community’s walking and bicycling environment.  The plan also mentions a key factor of institutional support for EVs in Stoughton:  Their Planning Board requires EV charging stations in all new residential developments that include large amounts of parking.
  • Watertown, Massachusetts.  Watertown Clean Energy Roadmap (2014).  The City of Watertown’s recent Clean Energy Roadmap includes “Developing Electric Vehicle Charging Station Infrastructure” as one of its 11 core clean energy strategies.  This robust, six-page section is an excellent example for other cities to follow, for several reasons.  It includes four concrete objectives for the city in relation to developing EV infrastructure, background on the state of EVs in the U.S., as well as the status of electric charging infrastructure (and types of chargers) in the state of Massachusetts.  The section also includes statistics and background on the three main types of chargers, the benefits and risks of developing this infrastructure, a cost-benefit analysis in relation to various stakeholders, and more.
2) Regulation:  Implement development standards and regulations that enable EV use
Adopting ordinances that support the use of EVs and incorporate electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in development and redevelopment is a critical step in becoming an EV-ready community.  In particular, parking standards provide a unique opportunity to create EV-ready buildings and commercial facilities.  Multi-family housing, commercial facilities, and mixed-use development can be designed to accommodate the transition to EVs and capture a variety of societal benefits, including enabling additional solar or other local energy development.  Flexible or alternative development pathways, such as planned unit developments, can incorporate EVSE installation requirements.  For retrofitting existing buildings, clear and consistent regulations allow EV developers to know what steps are required to install EVSE.  Regulations should facilitate market expansion and transformation, while acknowledging uncertainty about how technology will develop.  For instance, while many types of chargers exist, there are currently no universal chargers that all vehicles can plug into without an adapter (e.g., Nissan Leafs cannot use Tesla Superchargers).

Read more at Making Your City “EV Ready”

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