Portland, Ore. (AP) — Stephanie Terrell was excited to join the wave of drivers adopting electric vehicles when she bought a used Nissan Leaf this fall.
But Terrell has hit a bump in the road on his clean-driving journey: As a renter, he doesn’t have a place to plug in overnight, and nearby public charging stations are often in use. The 23-year-old recently almost ran out of power on the freeway because a charging station she was visiting was busy.
“It was really scary and I was really worried I wasn’t going to make it.” he said. “I feel better about it than buying gas, but there are problems that I really didn’t anticipate.”
The transition to electric vehicles continues for homeowners who can power up in their garages, but for millions of renters, access to charging remains a significant barrier. Now, cities across the U.S. are scrambling to come up with innovative public charging solutions as drivers line sidewalks, set up private charging stations right across the city and line up at public facilities.
The Biden administration last month approved plans for all 50 states to build a network of fast chargers along interstate highways using $5 billion in federal funding over the next five years. But states must wait to apply for an additional $2.5 billion in local grants to fill charging gaps, including in dense urban areas.
“We have a really big challenge right now to make charging easier for people who live in apartments,” said Jeff Allen, executive director of Forth, a nonprofit that promotes electric vehicle ownership and access to charging. Advocates equity.
Cities need to understand that “promoting electric cars is also part of their sustainable transportation strategy. Once they make that mental shift, there are many tangible things they can do — And doing.”
Fast chargers, also known as DC Fast, can fill a car in 45 minutes or less. But slower Level 2 chargers, which take several hours, still outnumber DC fast chargers about four to one. Charging at a standard residential outlet, or Level 1 charger, isn’t practical unless you drive less or leave the car plugged in overnight.
Nationwide, there are about 120,000 public charging ports with Level 2 charging or higher, and about 1.5 million electric vehicles are registered in the U.S. — a ratio of just one charger for every 12 cars nationally, according to a new report. According to the US Department of Transportation.
A briefing prepared last year for the US Department of Energy by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory predicted a total of fewer than 19 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, with an estimated need for 9.6 million additional charging stations.
In Los Angeles, for example, nearly a quarter of all new vehicles registered in July were plug-ins. The city estimates that over the next two decades, it will need to increase its distribution capacity by anywhere from 25% to 50%, with EVs accounting for about two-thirds of the demand, said Yamin Nane, manager of transportation for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. comes from Electricity program
Amid the boom, the city’s dense neighborhoods are increasingly becoming pressure points.
In Los Angeles, the city has installed more than 500 pole-mounted EV chargers — 450 on street lights and 50 on power poles — and wants to add 200 more each year, Nen said.
Similar initiatives to install pole-mounted chargers are underway or under consideration from New York City to Charlotte, NC to Kansas City, Missouri. The utility Seattle City Light is also in the early stages of a pilot project to install chargers in neighborhoods with limited private parking.
Other cities want to modify building codes to accommodate the transition to electricity. Portland is considering a proposal that would require 50% of parking spaces in most new apartment complexes to have electrical conduit. In complexes with six or fewer spaces, they will all be EV-ready.
Ingrid Fish, in charge of Portland’s transportation decarbonization program, said policies like these are important to widespread EV adoption because with tax incentives and a booming used EV market, zero-emission cars will eventually become available to more Americans. are within reach.
These initiatives mimic those already deployed in other countries that are at the forefront of EV adoption.
In London, for example, there are 4,000 public chargers at street lights. It’s very cheap — just a third of the cost of wiring a charging station into a sidewalk, said Vishant Kothari, manager of the electric mobility team at the World Resources Institute.
But London and Los Angeles have an advantage over many American cities: their street lights run on 240 volts, which is better for EV charging. Most American city streetlights use 120 volts, which takes hours to charge a vehicle, said Kothari, who co-authored a study on the potential for pole charging in American cities.
So cities must use a mix of solutions, from zoning changes to policies that encourage faster charging in the workplace.
The changes may not come fast enough for renters who already own electric vehicles.
Rebecca DeWhitt and her partner run an extension cord from an outlet near the front door of their rental home down a path and into their new Hyundai Kona in the driveway. Outside of a standard outlet, it takes two days and a lot of planning to fully charge your EV for the trip.
“It’s painful,” DeWhitt said. “And if we don’t value having an electric vehicle enough, we won’t put up with the inconvenience.”
Associated Press climate data reporter Camille Faust in Denver and AP video journalists Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Haven Daly in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter: @gflaccus
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