Correction: A previous version of this story erred in attributing a suggestion that more research is needed to map the areas at greatest risk for flooding. That suggestion was within the report itself.
The United States will need many more charging stations as the market for electric vehicles continues to grow.
Under newly proposed federal regulations published in the Federal Register on June 22, the Federal Highway Administration would require that charging networks funded under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program consider the risks of locating chargers in areas subject to 100-year floods. Additionally, consideration should be given to access for EV chargers “during times of emergency such as evacuation from natural disasters,” as stated in the proposed rule. The public may comment until Aug. 22 on the proposed regulations, which also cover the installation, operation, maintenance, interoperability and network connectivity of EV charging infrastructure.
Cities can take lessons from the U.S. military, particularly the Navy, which has factored in predictions of rising coastal tides when it decides where to locate its energy grids, said Jason Masters, U.S. energy planning lead for Buro Happold, a global engineering consulting firm. Protections can include waterproof connectors that protect the grid from moisture. Some stations can use batteries, Masters said, but they need to be elevated. “The battery box has to have the ability to breathe,” he noted.
“The reality is the majority of the population lives along the coast, which is where stations have to be hardened against the marine environment, which is even more difficult. It can be done because we do it in the military all the time,” Masters said. But it comes at a price, raising costs by 50% to 60%, he added.
Argonne National Laboratory, a research center of the U.S. Department of Energy, issued a report this spring on using mapping tools to prioritize EV charger benefits in underserved communities. The report says that analyzing sea level rise data, as well as flood and fire risk data, can help determine “where to deploy EV infrastructure, where to allocate resources, and which populations are most at risk and therefore in need of targeted investment that includes climate mitigation efforts along with transportation electrification deployment.”
Argonne's Energy Zones Mapping Tool can overlay different variables to help determine the safest locations for charging stations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also offers a resilience analysis and planning tool that can map the most likely flood zones and inundation history. One of Argonne's peer reviewers suggested that more research is needed on which areas are at greatest risk of climate change-induced sea level rise, the report stated.
Finding a safe location “is not just putting a charger on top of a hill where nobody is going to use it,” warned Sasha Pejcic, managing partner for North America at Evenergi, an international energy and transportation consultant. “Right now, it is the more affluent people who can buy these vehicles,” he said, and predicted that costs for electric vehicles coming down will lead to a greater mix of owners.