Electric vehicles are quickly becoming mainstream on U.S. roadways. Auto manufacturers continue to release new EV models to meet growing consumer demand, transit agencies are ramping up their electric bus fleets, and major companies such as FedEx and Walmart are purchasing electric delivery vehicles. Aiding these efforts are federal, state and city governments that are looking to meet strict decarbonization goals and ensure that the rollout of these vehicles is being done equitably.
Ensuring all communities benefit from vehicle electrification is a vexing problem that cities are trying to address. Cities and states are encouraging those without carports or garages to purchase EVs by piloting new initiatives that place charging stations on streetlights and in apartment complex parking lots. A growing number of cities have also passed laws requiring some new buildings to install charging stations at a percentage of off-road parking spaces. Meanwhile, the federal government is looking to build a vast nationwide network of charging stations along highways and other accessible locations such as parking lots and public buildings.
Furthering vehicle electrification are an influx of federal COVID-19 relief funds as well as billions of dollars that will be distributed through the bipartisan infrastructure act. The Biden administration has also made it a priority, setting lofty goals for the domestic sale of EVs that it has backed with executive orders and by working to electrify the federal government's fleet.
In the trendline below, we explore how cities can aid their own decarbonization efforts through vehicle electrification, ensure that the growing market reaches all of their communities, and navigate how the new federal support can accompany and aid their work.
Charging companies offer different visions for charging stations, wireless charging and urban installations.
By: Dan Zukowski• Published April 28, 2022
If half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2030 are zero-emission vehicles, in accordance with Biden administration targets, car buyers will need a lot more electric vehicle chargers — almost 20 times more chargers than today, according to McKinsey & Company.
Electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles at homeor at a workplace parking lot 70% to 80% of the time, according to a 2021 study conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting for the Fuels Institute, a non-profit research organization.
But those home chargers are slow. With a Level 2or 240-volt AC charger, it can take anywhere from seven to 12 hours to fully charge a 2022 model EV. Direct-current fast chargers cut that time significantly but cost tens of thousands of dollars to install and are thus limited to commercial applications.
For EVs to be accessible to all drivers, including those in dense urban areas and underserved communities where chargers are largely unavailable in multifamily housing, McKinsey estimates a need for 1.2 million public chargers by 2030.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now just over 47,000 public charging stations with Level 2 and direct-current fast chargers across the country.
As transportation leaders seek to fill those gaps, Blink Charging President Brendan Jones suggests charging personal vehicles "where they sit," as they are parked most of the time. He named locations like parking garages, grocery and big-box stores, and work locations.Chargers could also be installed on utility or streetlight poles, he said.
“Municipalities need to start thinking differently [about] how we create an urban environment that allows everybody in apartment buildings to get charging,” said Jones. He stressed the importance for municipalities, power utilities and charge point operators to work together.
The promise of wireless EV charging
“The shift to electric vehicles is the most significant technology platform shift ever,” said Alex Gruzen, CEO at WiTricity, a company that is developing the technology for wireless charging.
The concept for wireless power transfer was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-2000s. WiTricity was formed in 2007 to bring this technology to commercial production.
The company has developed a charging pad that can be installed in public parking lots, garages or at curbside parking spaces, and recharge a vehicle equipped with a compatible receiver. “My goal is to have chargers embedded in parking spots,” Gruzen said, making it easier for drivers to charge their EVs without fumbling with plug-in cables. He added that this technology is almost a necessity for future autonomous vehicles, which may park themselves without a driver.
Electreon is taking the idea one mile further. The company is building a wireless road charging system in Detroit, a pilot project set to open in 2023 on a mile-long stretch of road.
Stefan Tongur, vice president of business development at Electreon, said that by embedding charging coils under the pavement, “what we're doing with the road is transforming it from a road to a charging asset.” For properly equipped vehicles, such an installation could also charge electric buses, trucks and taxis.
The Michigan project will help bring the technology to market and establish use cases, he said. It’s a partnership of the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
But Gruzen is more circumspect about the prospect of wireless road charging. “In the near term we’re not going to rip up highways,” he said.
And Jones pointed out that auto manufacturers would have to agree on a wireless charging standard and equip vehicles with a compatible receiver, adding cost, complexity and another potential point of failure in the automobile, he said.
Article top image credit: Mario Tama via Getty Images
California readies regulations for zero-emission truck fleets
By: Dan Zukowski• Published April 26, 2022
The California Air Resources Board released new draft language in Aprilfor the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation, requiring medium and heavy-duty truck manufacturers to sell only zero-emission vehiclesbeginning in 2040.
The updated proposal follows a series of public workshops held last year and would include purchase requirements beginning in 2024 for state, municipal and drayage fleets as well as federal agencies and private operators with more than 50 trucks, excluding package delivery vehicles.
Under CARB’s proposed ACF regulation, all trucks added to the California fleet must be zero-emission vehicles beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and internal combustion engine vehicles must be removed from the California fleet by Jan. 1 of the year following the end of the vehicle’s minimum useful life. CARB defines that as ranging from 13 to 18 years or 800,000 miles.
California is looking to accelerate the adoption of electric trucks through its sustainable freight action plan, which was drafted in 2016, along with the ACF and advanced clean truck regulations. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together emit more than 100 tons a day of smog- and particulate-forming chemicals, while diesel-powered trucks and trains create cancer risks and contribute to the region's haze.
But the electrification of truck fleets is just getting underway and fleet operators are just “dipping their toe into the water and figuring out how this is going to work,” Aspinwall said.
For recharging, some trucks will operate in local service, returning daily to a warehouse or other facility where they can be charged. Over-the-road trucks will require charging stations en route.
Only a year ago, the first public charging station for box vans and semi-trucks opened in the U.S., a partnership of Daimler Trucks North America and Portland General Electric.
Aspinwall explained: “Right now there's a limitation on the size of batteries and thus the amount of power that the batteries can take.” He said that development is happening to enable larger batteries that can take more power faster and added that “the capabilities of chargers are growing quite dramatically.” But he expects that most of the electric truck market will be focused on inner-city and last-mile delivery in the near term.
Article top image credit: Bryan Mitchell via Getty Images
Michigan awards grants to spur EV equity and economic development
By: Dan Zukowski• Published April 29, 2022
Michigan has awarded $577,000 in grants through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure, increase access to EVs and encourage greater adoption of EVs in the state.
“Our grant dollars are an effort to help spur EV charging installations in communities that haven't really seen support to do so in the past,” said Charlie Tyson, technology activation manager at Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a partner in the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform.
Six projects were awarded grants in this round of funding, announced in April, including a partnership of DTE Energy and Volta Charging to identify prime locations within underserved communities in Southeast Michigan for EV charging stations, Tyson said.
The $98,750 grant to Volta Charging will result in the installation of six AC Level 2 and two direct-current fast-charging stations at four different locations. Those locations would be selected using Volta’s artificial intelligence-based software to determine where EVs would displace more fossil-fueled vehicles within disadvantaged and environmental justice communities, explained Kevin Samy, head of policy and sustainability strategy at Volta.
In January, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed an electric vehicle rebate of $2,000 for the purchase of a new EV and a $500 rebate to install home charging. When combined with the federal $7,500 rebate available for some EV purchases, Whitmer hopesto help more people make the shift to electric vehicles.
But Michigan’s interest goes beyond encouraging wider EV usage. “We see these grant dollars facilitating public-private partnerships as a way to attract emerging tech companies to the state,” said Tyson. Doing so will help create jobs in electric vehicle infrastructure, maintenance, operation and installation, he explained.
A publicly traded company, Volta reported $32 million in revenue last year, most of it derived from media and advertising displayed at their charging stations. These include charging stalls at more than 500 Walgreens locations in the U.S., along with Brookfield Properties, Tanger Outlets and other locations.
These digital ads are also used to educate consumers about the benefits of electric vehicles. Last year, Volta collaborated with Southern California Edison on a similar EV awareness campaign in underserved communities. According to Volta, the program created a 72% increase in interest in driving or owning an EV in these areas.
“We understand in Michigan the value of innovating in our current mobility ecosystems to support the needs of the future,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II in a press release.
Article top image credit: Permission granted by Volta Charging
Uber increases EV incentives to achieve its all-electric by 2030 goal
By: Dan Zukowski• Published May 16, 2022
Uber plans to encourage wider adoption of electric vehicles by Uber drivers, one of the new initiatives it announced in May for travel, autonomous deliveries and events.
Riders will be able to request a premium electric vehicle, such as a Tesla or Polestar, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego throughits new Uber Comfort Electricfeature. Uber also added an "EV Hub" and EV charging map to its driver app. The EV hub provides information on its incentives for drivers who switch to EVs, while the charging map shows drivers where the nearest EV charger is located.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi putsustainability goals front and center at a press conference announcing the plans. "Our cities feel alive, the streets are bustling and our climate is at the center of the conversation with people looking for more ways to go green," he said in a YouTube news announcement.
Uber's goal is for all rides in North America and Europe to be in electric vehicles by 2030, said Sachin Kansal, vice president of product at Uber. "Helping drivers go electric is one of the most critical parts of our sustainability strategy," he said.
That goal could be particularly impactful as, according to a 2020 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, "ride-hailing services produce 70% more emissions than the transportation options they replace."
Within the EV hub,drivers will be able to compare the cost of ownership of an EV with an internal combustion engine vehicle. U.S.Uber drivers who switch to electric vehicles can also take advantage of exclusive“best-in-market discounts” on EVs from General Motors and Nissan or discounted pricing from local certified dealers on new and used EVs through TrueCar. EV rental or leasing dealsfor Uber drivers are also available through Avis, Hertz and other providers.
The company's partnership with Hertz to have 50,000 Tesla vehicles on the road by the end of 2023 will support that electrification goal, Kansal said during the Monday press conference.
Uber will also offer a $1-per-trip zero-emission vehicle incentive to U.S. drivers of battery-electric vehicles for every trip they complete, up to $4,000 annually. Discounts on home chargers and on the use of the EVgo charging network are also available.
Uber Travel for events and simplified ride scheduling
Khosrowshahi also introduced three new travel services.
Uber Travel will allow users to organize hotel, flight and restaurant reservations within the Uber app and set up rides for each leg of a trip by connecting their Gmail account to the app. Jen You, head of Uber mobility product, explained that changes can be handled through updates in Gmail or can be manually entered in the Uber app. If a flight is delayed, Uber Travel will recognize that and adjust a pickup accordingly.
Customers will get 10% back in Uber Cash for each reserved ride they book with Uber Travel.
Another new service, Uber Charter, will allow users to book a party bus, passenger van or coach bus directly through the Uber app, with upfront pricing. The program is launching across the U.S. this summer.
For major events like weddings or business meetings, vouchers can be set up in advance with Uber for guests to use.
Cailin Crowe contributed reporting to this brief.
Article top image credit: Courtesy of Motional
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 18, 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/Smart Cities 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 in March, 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 that 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
More electric buses join transit fleets as costs and technology improve
Planning, training and learning from other cities will smooth the transition to zero-emission bus fleets, say transit leaders.
By: Dan Zukowski• Published Jan. 31, 2022
A silent revolution is underway on city streets as transit agencies large and small replace noisy, polluting diesel buses with clean, quiet electric vehicles. But agencies and bus manufacturers alike warn that the transition is not as simple as signing a procurement order for new battery-powered buses.
The number of battery-electric transit buses (BEBs) currently on order or operating in the U.S. grew 112% from 2018 to 2021 according to data compiled yearly by Calstart. California leads the nation with almost 1,400 on the road or on order, followed by Washington, New York and Florida. A much smaller number of fuel-cell electric buses are out there, and their numbers are growing as well.
"It is a robust market with successful deployments happening all across the country," Dan Raudebaugh, executive director of the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), said in an email. CTE is a nonprofit that helps develop and implement advanced transportation technologies. Raudebaugh said they have helped more than 70 transit agencies put electric buses on the street.
"Deploying these buses is challenging, but the buses work," Raudebaugh said. Bus for bus, electric vehicles cost more, mainly due to the high cost of batteries, and that affects procurement budgets. Transit agencies rely on federal funds for 80%-85% of the purchase price of buses, he said.
The transition from fossil-fueled buses to electric buses may require operational changes due to charging cycles and range limits. Transit agencies need to carefully evaluate their current service and the feasibility of applying zero-emission technology, Raudebaugh said.
He said that planning is essential for transit agencies; many have already tested the waters with a small number of buses. Now, with that experience, they're getting ready to commit to transitioning their entire fleets to battery electrics. "We have long been convinced that public transit will be the first transportation sector to transition to zero emission," Raudebaugh said.
How a large transit agency is preparing for an all-electric bus fleet
With 1,150 buses, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates some 180 routes with current average weekday ridership of 276,000. In 2019, the MBTA purchased five 60-foot battery-electric buses for the Silver Line, which serves Logan Airport, Boston South Station, Chinatown and other communities. Working from that experience, the agency expects to operate a fully electric fleet by 2040.
Bill Wolfgang, the MBTA’s director of vehicle engineering, and Scott Hamwey, director of its bus modernization program, are leading that transition. The first lesson they learned was how Boston's frigid winters play havoc with battery range, they told Smart Cities Dive in an interview. Wolfgang explained that with frequent stops and repeated door openings, keeping the bus interiors warm added to battery drain.
There were reliability issues with these first buses, Wolfgang said. He explained that connection issues between the charger and the vehicles reduced initial recharge reliability to less than 50%. That meant that some buses weren't fully charged for the next day's runs.
But technology has advanced, and charger reliability is now close to 90%, according to Wolfgang. "That allows us to transition our fleet into the modern day." One remaining barrier for the MBTA is that its bus depots and maintenance facilities are unable to accommodate electric buses.
For now, the MBTA is not planning on charging along the route, so all buses need to be fully recharged at their depots each night to complete the next day's schedules. That could require nightly monitoring of 100 to 200 buses per depot.
Pending funding, the MBTA plans to renovate and modernize five of its nine bus facilities by the end of the decade, while adding bus capacity to accommodate future ridership growth, said Hamwey. It will install charging systems and overhead pantographs and bring a lot more power to the facilities so they can charge the electric fleets, he added.
It gives our workforce a cleaner environment.
Director of Vehicle Engineering, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
For those renovations, time is of the essence. The MBTA looks to replace its buses on a 12-year cycle, which requires buying 80 to 100 new vehicles each year, Wolfgang explained. If the maintenance facilities aren't ready to handle battery-electric vehicles, the agency will have to purchase diesel-electric hybrid buses instead.
According to Wolfgang, it will cost $4.5 billion to upgrade all of MBTA’s bus facilities and $100 million to $130 million annually for new buses, but maintenance costs could be lower over the life of the vehicles than they are for diesel or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, he said.
Electric buses deliver other benefits as well. "It gives our workforce a cleaner environment," Wolfgang said, adding that these buses will be quieter and nonpolluting for the communities they serve.
"This is an opportunity for us as a government agency to lead in this area," Wolfgang declared, seated in front of a large picture of a new hybrid-electric bus soon to come to Boston. "It's on the production line with New Flyer," he explained about the vehicle pictured behind him. "We're really excited about this one."
Manufacturing the future of zero-emission bus transit
New Flyer, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, got its start in 1930 and today is North America's largest transit bus manufacturer. It launched its first hybrid-electric bus in 1999 and its first battery-electric bus in 2012.
Jennifer McNeill, vice president of public sector sales and marketing for the company, said she saw a change in the transit bus market in late 2019, when agencies weren't willing to make traditional five-year purchasing commitments. They couldn't decide what to buy, she said, with choices ranging from diesel and CNG to battery and fuel-cell electrics. Then, with the onset of the pandemic, many transit agencies put purchasing on hold.
We believe that the transition to zero emission is happening.
Vice President of Public Sector Sales and Marketing, New Flyer
As sales ramped back up, McNeill said, "We're seeing a much larger percentage being zero-emission vehicles," with New Flyer receiving larger orders and agencies committing to multiyear agreements. "Now, we're getting into true transition."
Helping that shift along are industrywide charging standards allowing the chargers to work with vehicles from multiple bus manufacturers, and greater battery density delivering longer range. "We believe that the transition to zero emission is happening. It will end up with the majority, if not all, of our production being zero emission," McNeill said.
Austin commits to electrifying its transit fleet by 2035
Capital Metro Transportation Authority (CapMetro), which serves Austin, Texas, ordered 30 battery-electric buses from New Flyer and 26 from Proterra, a manufacturer of both buses and EV batteries, with options to purchase over 250 more.
The agency, with a 426-bus fleet, has 12 electric buses that have been in service for two years. Deputy CEO Dottie Watkins said she expects to fully electrify CapMetro's transit fleet around 2035, replacing its 55 commuter buses somewhat later.
"All of a sudden, going and buying a bus is fun and cool and exciting," Watkins exclaimed. But she also said there is a learning curve around charging and range management.
CapMetro will use both depot charging and on-route charging, placing chargers at transit centers, park-and-ride locations and major transfer points. That, Watkins said, will allow them to match the range of diesel buses. She also said the agency is talking with the local municipally-owned utility, Austin Energy, so the power grid will be ready where and when the growing number of battery buses will be deployed.
Talk to other transit systems that have operated electric buses. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Deputy CEO, Capital Metro Transportation Authority
Watkins stressed the importance of worker training: "We have seen firsthand how important training is across the board for maintenance employees, as well as operations employees, to make your electric bus deployment successful."
She said they talked to cities including Los Angeles and Seattle that were further ahead in bus electrification to learn about these and other issues. She urged other transit agencies to do the same: "Talk to other transit systems that have operated electric buses. Don't be afraid to ask for help."
Small transit agency in Oregon has big goals
The Lane Transit District (LTD) serves Lane County, Oregon, including the cities of Eugene and Springfield. Its 100-bus fleet currently includes diesel-electric hybrid buses and 11 battery-electric buses that were delivered last year, with an additional 19 BEBs arriving this year, according to Matt Imlach, the agency's director of fleet management. By the end of 2022, 30% of its fleet will be clean battery-electric buses, Imlach said.
The agency spent $10.6 million for its first 11 electric vehicles and the depot chargers, a purchase partially funded by the FTA’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Grant Program.
Imlach said the district prepared by installing plug-in depot chargers and training technicians about the vehicles' electric systems. Drivers, who were already familiar with hybrid-electric buses, took to the battery-electrics easily after a training course. "Some drivers love it as a challenge to see how much state-of-charge that they can bring the bus back with," he said.
The agency operates frequent-stop service and some bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, which travel farther with limited stops. That's an issue for the current range of electric buses, and Imlach said they are evaluating hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for those routes.
Dealing with the cold in Canada and Northern U.S. cities
Cold climate cities are not shying away from battery-electric buses. Winnipeg Transit began operating its first BEBs in 2014 and now plans a side-by-side test of eight long-range battery-electric buses and eight fuel-cell electric buses for 12-18 months, supplied by New Flyer. The Toronto Transit Commission and the University of Michigan have also ordered battery-powered buses.
"The technology is ever-evolving," said Christos Kritsidimas, spokesperson for Nova Bus, a Canadian-based subsidiary of Volvo Group. "Every iteration gives a little bit more [battery] density, and with more density comes more range and longer life."
Nova Bus recently received an order from four transit authorities in the province of Quebec for 24 electric buses. Catherine Fournier, mayor of Longueuil, a city across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, said in a statement that she expects half of its bus fleet to be electric by 2030.
Accelerating the transition to zero-emission
Battery-electric buses are not the only zero-emission buses, but they have dominated the market so far. As of September 2021, Calstart counted 3,364 battery-electric buses and 169 fuel-cell electric buses in use or on order in the U.S.
Fuel-cell vehicles use compressed hydrogen as an energy source. By combining hydrogen with oxygen through an electrochemical reaction, a fuel cell produces heat, water and electricity. The electric output continuously charges onboard batteries, allowing these vehicles to match the range of diesel and CNG buses.
The majority of fuel-cell electric buses are found in California, which has invested in and promoted hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel source. Foothill Transit and SunLine Transit Agency, both in Southern California, have committed to hydrogen power. In Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District not only deployed 60-foot hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses, but the agency also constructed its own hydrogen fuel production station, powered by a solar array.
"Hydrogen fuel-cell [technology] is a growing appetite in our industry," said Ben Grunat, vice president of product planning and strategy for GILLIG, a California-based bus manufacturing company. And whether transit agencies choose fuel-cell electric or battery-electric vehicles, bus manufacturers say they are ready to help with the transition.
As Proterra Spokesperson Shane Levy put it, "Today, the question is no longer if communities will transition to 100% zero-emission transportation, but how fast we can get there."
Article top image credit: Permission granted by MBTA
DC joins growing list of cities requiring new buildings to include EV parking
By: Jason Plautz• Published Jan. 27, 2022
New and refurbished commercial and multi-unit buildings in Washington, D.C., that have at least three off-road parking spaces will be required to make at least 20% of those spaces available to accommodate electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, under a new law that took effect this year.
The new requirement came in response to public concern that families in apartment buildings or without garages did not have access to EV chargers, a barrier to purchasing a car, said Eric Campbell, program analyst for the District of Columbia's Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). The make-ready rule, which was approved unanimously by the city council in November 2020, is part of the city’s goal to have at least 25% of new vehicles registered by 2030 be zero-emissions.
Similar make-ready requirements have been adopted or introduced over the past year in cities including Orlando, Florida, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City as part of a broad effort to increase EV access. The California Public Utilities Commission also approved rules requiring utilities to provide certain make-ready infrastructure to customers at no cost, reducing the price to install new chargers at homes and businesses.
The make-ready approach is a recognition of some of the district'sunique characteristics, Campbell said, like the high volume of commuters to downtown areas and a concentration of multi-unit dwelling that are traditionally more difficult to outfit with chargers. Having at least 20% of parking spaces in downtown buildings and apartment buildings be outfitted for chargers, will make it easier for people to drive EVs in the district and ensure that chargers are distributed throughout the city, he said.
"It can be easy to focus narrowly on the chicken or egg problem, whether policies are needed to boost purchases of EVs or to create infrastructure," he said. "What we’re trying to do is make a chicken omelet and grow both sides at the same time."
The billpassed by the city council will require that DOEE incentivize developers to go beyond the 20% space requirement, while also allowing the mayor to promote regulations that would allow financial hardship waivers, accounting for concerns that EV chargers can add to housing and development costs.
The parking requirements also come as the Biden administration is working to use funds from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to ramp up EV infrastructure. Under a plan released in December, the administration is seeking to create a "convenient and equitable network" of 500,000 chargers using $7.5 billion from the bill.
Andrea McCarthy, program manager for the Electrification Coalition, said make-ready ordinances are "a quick way" to increase EV adoption by not just putting more charging at multi-unit dwellings, but also at other major buildings or parking structures in cities. More than 30 municipalities have passed such requirements, according to Electrification Coalition data, with policies tailored to the needs and dynamics of each region, McCarthy said.
"We feel this is an important aspect to increasing access to electric vehicles and a way to equitably add more charging for communities," she said. "As more adoption occurs, the next wave of EV owners are those that need charging outside of single-family homes, maybe in areas where they won’t have a dedicated parking spot."
Tony Jordan, president of the Parking Reform Network, said that while EV infrastructure is a necessary step to ensure that people purchase and drive cleaner vehicles, make-ready requirements ignore a bigger environmental question: whether new parking is necessary at all.
"What if instead of saying a certain number of spaces need to be EV ready, we said we don’t require parking at all, but if you do want it should be EV ready and powered by solar,” Jordan said. “We can’t keep adding cars to cities. Part of what we’re saying is that we should let people live in places where there’s less dependence on automobiles or even electric vehicles altogether."
Article top image credit: Spencer Platt via Getty Images
Electric, autonomous delivery vehicle boom expected on city streets as inventories and orders grow
With Amazon, FedEx and Walmart among those placing major orders for electric delivery vehicles, thousands will appear on the road in coming years, executives announced at CES.
By: Dan Zukowski• Published Jan. 7, 2022
Thousands of new electric delivery vehicles will be humming through city and suburban streets, according to announcements made at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January. FedEx said it reserved priority production for 2,000 BrightDrop vans, adding to the 500 the company ordered from the General Motors subsidiary last year. Walmart wants 5,000.
GM launched BrightDrop one year ago to provide zero-emission commercial vehicles, smart containers and software for fleet and mobile asset management.
FedEx took delivery of its first five BrightDrop EV600 vans last December at its facility in Inglewood, California. To keep them running, FedEx installed 500 charging stations across the state. During a press conference at CES, FedEx Express Regional President of the Americas and Executive Vice President Richard Smith said the company is looking to add 20,000 more BrightDrop vehicles, subject to negotiations. FedEx will ultimately need 200,000 electric delivery vehicles, Smith added.
The shipping giant is also testing the BrightDrop EP1, a motorized rolling cartthat drivers can use to make multiple deliveries from one vehicle stop, such as at an office building or apartment house. Following pilot programs in Toronto and New York City, FedEx will expand EP1 testing to 10 markets this year.
Walmart plans to use BrightDrop electric vans for its InHome delivery service, which allows customers to have their goods, including food orders, delivered inside their house and put away or put in the refrigerator by the Walmart delivery person. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer is expanding the service to reach 30 million U.S. households by the end of 2022.
In additional EV fleet-related news from CES, General Motors CEO Mary Barra debuted the battery-electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, which will be available as both a consumer and work vehicle. Available to fleet operators in 2023, it will have a 400-mile range.
Barra also announced that all GM heavy-duty trucks will be available as zero-emission vehicles by 2035. She added that the company is investing $35 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles.
Indigo Technologies, also exhibiting at CES, showed designs for two urban electric vehicles for the rideshare and delivery markets, one that's similar to a minivan and the other like a small SUV. The vehicles feature robotic wheels, active suspension and a low, flat floor. The company is marketing them to fleet operators and gig drivers.
Silicon Valley startup Udelv released a video debuting its autonomous delivery vehicle, which it said can carry up to 2,000 pounds and make 80 stops per delivery cycle. Intel subsidiary Mobileye provides self-driving technology to the vehicle. Udelv said it has amassed more than 1,000 reservations, including a contract with the U.S. Air Force for a pilot program at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Swedish electric truck manufacturer Volta Trucks is taking pre-orders for its electric 16-ton Volta Zero, which it markets for city-center freight delivery. The company announced that its vehicles will integrate HERE Technologies' navigation services, which include route planning, precise geolocation and battery range prediction.
Stellantis, the company formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the PSA Groupe (Peugeot), announced Amazon as its first commercial customer for the battery-electric Ram ProMaster van, with deliveries beginning in 2023. Stellantis said the vehicle was designed with input from Amazon to include "unique last-mile delivery features." Amazon said it will put thousands of the zero-emission vehicles on the road in the U.S. every year.
Article top image credit: Courtesy of General Motors/BrightDrop
City leaders should expand their purview of electric transportation beyond cars, experts urge
By: Dan Zukowski• Published Sept. 16, 2021
Education, community engagement and adaptation will be key to bring cleaner mobility choices to low income neighborhoods and communities of color as the country makes the transition to electric vehicles (EV), experts said during an online webinar last September hosted by global consulting services company ICF.
Low income neighborhoods and communities of color are more affected by transport-generated air pollution and have fewer resources to pay for new EVs, according to ICF Senior Director of Transportation Electrification and ICF Climate Center Stacy Noblet. Power utility companies, aided by cities, transportation providers, and non-governmental organizations, can assist in providing access to electric transportation in those underserved communities, panelists said.
"It's important to think about how different segments are going to engage with electrification," said Garrett Fitzgerald, principal of electrification at the Smart Electric Power Alliance.
Most car buyers do not purchase factory-new vehicles, Fitzgerald said, and low income buyers are the least likely to do so. That means that although auto manufacturers are producing more EVs, it will be some years before they reach a large majority of car owners.
"We really have to expand the purview of what electrification means, beyond just light-duty, personally owned vehicles, but to include public transportation, school buses, ride-hailing [transportation network companies], electric bicycles, [and] the second-hand market," Fitzgerald said.
Lower income households rely on school buses, for instance, more than higher income families, and nearly 95% of school buses are diesel powered, according to Matt Stanberry, managing director ofHighland Electric Transportation. Air quality within these vehicles can also be up to 12 times dirtier than ambient air quality, leading to asthma and other childhood health issues, said Stanberry.
Just a few years ago, there was little interest in electric school buses, Stanberry said. But now, he said school districts are looking to electrify their fleets. "That’s a sea change," he said.
While it’s important to replace older and more polluting vehicles, transportation equity legal counsel for the Greenlining Institute, Román Partida-López asked: “Are we actually deploying community-led solutions?”
Partida-López urged setting equity goals as part of any electrification plan, which should include engagement with the community and a willingness on the part of cities and transit agencies to learn, adapt, and adjust their programs as needed.
Exelon joined with Lyft in Baltimore, for example, to provide 100 electric ride-share vehicles in a pilot program to serve low and middle income communities. "We believe that partnering with our customers and our communities is key to understanding what their needs are and how we can help in this transition," said Denise Galambos, vice president of utility oversight at utility company Exelon.
"The benefits of any program cannot be fully realized if people within the communities aren't aware of them," said Noblet.
Article top image credit: Drew Angerer via Getty Images
When there's a will, there's a way: Building the foundation for municipal EV infrastructure
Electric vehicles are no longer a novelty. Local leaders can begin to expand their EV infrastructure by first building the local will and political capital.
By: Celeste Frye• Published Sept. 1, 2021
Celeste Frye is co-founder and CEO of Public Works Partners, a planning and consulting firm that works across the government, nonprofit and private sectors.
Electric vehicles (EVs) may have been a novelty not long ago, but now it’s clear: They are the future of transportation. As EV technology surges ahead and the environmental impact of gas-powered cars becomes more apparent, cities across the U.S. are rolling out plans to accommodate this shift.
Of course, that planning is not as simple as encouraging residents to buy electric. Cities need to build new EV infrastructure and – just as importantly – continue to support and maintain it.
Before a city begins building EV infrastructure, it’s essential to have the right foundation in place. First, municipalities need the will — that is, a critical mass of residents who are eager to adopt the technology. To determine whether this will exists, cities can commission surveys, market analyses, community visioning sessions, charrettes, and other research. Cities also need the political capital. In other words: Will local lawmakers embrace and support this work? Whether the political capital exists can be gauged by reviewing recent and upcoming energy reforms, election platforms, and budgets.
To build will and political capital — or to harness it if it already exists — cities must have a solid understanding of the societal benefit of EV infrastructure. And to be clear: There are vast benefits. New and fast-growing markets around non-fossil fuel energy have the ability to bring opportunities and innovations to like-minded cities. These range from markets for infrastructure building, EV manufacturing and beyond. What city wouldn’t want the next Tesla factory in their downtown?
Other benefits include increased property values. "House prices are higher near electric vehicle charging stations," according to Realtor.com. Meanwhile, EVs and hybrid vehicles make for quieter, cleaner streets and neighborhoods, contributing to environmental justice. Indeed, recent COVID shutdowns showed what a difference fewer gas-powered cars can make. During the pandemic, daily global emissions fell 17% by early April 2020 compared to the mean levels in 2019, with "just under half from changes in surface transport," according to the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
Lastly, EVs mean more money in residents’ pockets: "EV fueling costs are 50 to 75% lower than for ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles,” writes Power Mag. Who can argue with that?
Once the case is made for EV infrastructure, it’s time for cities to address the next big obstacle: developing a workforce that can tackle such an undertaking. In other words: Who’s going to build it, and how?
To begin answering that question, it’s important to note that new skill sets are absolutely necessary. Electric cars require different methods of care and upkeep than gas cars. True, they don’t need as much maintenance as gas-powered cars — but they still require specialized knowledge. Mechanics need to be trained on the complex computerized systems that run electric cars.
Public policy can play a role here. City and state governments can pass legislation that restricts the sale of gas-powered cars. This, in turn, will prompt stakeholders like mechanics and car dealership owners to invest in the required skills and expertise.
As cities introduce workforce development initiatives, they will encounter challenges. For example, some consumers are reluctant to make the switch from gas to electric. Why? People have some fair concerns about the reliability of the technology, the durability of the battery and the potential of a problematic battery stranding them far from home.
As cities confront these challenges, it’s wise to surface past success stories. Plenty of regions around the world have invested in EV infrastructure and benefited greatly. The California Energy Commission, for example, recently awarded a grant to tech company EVMatch to install charging stations in the parking lots and garages of apartments in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara counties. Meanwhile, the city of Houston recently partnered with BP and Uber to explore the deployment of EV charging hubs throughout the city, potentially supporting the city’s plan to achieve 30% EV adoption by 2030.
Those efforts also come as the Biden administration recently signed an executive order that set a goal to have EVs represent half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. within the next decade.
EV are also on the rise globally. Amsterdam, London, Oslo, Norway, and Shenzhen, China, have made big strides, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.
As more cities invest in EV infrastructure, it’s crucial that others follow their lead. It’s also important for cities to invest in the necessary workforce development initiatives. With the will and the right initiatives, your city could be cleaner, healthier and more economically successful.
Article top image credit: Drew Angerer via Getty Images
Electrifying 97% of the federal fleet by 2030 could save billions: report
By: Jason Plautz• Published Aug. 18, 2021
The federal government could save more than $1 billion by replacing nearly all of its light-duty vehicles and buses with electric vehicles (EVs) by the end of the decade, according to a report from Atlas Public Policy released in August by the Electrification Coalition.
The report finds that by 2025, up to 40% of the 315,000 gas-powered light-duty vehicles and buses the U.S. government owns (excluding those the U.S. Postal Service owns) could be replaced by EVs at a lower total cost of ownership. By 2030, that number rises to 97%.
The Postal Service (USPS), which operates the largest fleet of any agency, could see even greater savings. By 2025, it would be cheaper to use an EV for more than 99% of the service's fleet, for a savings of $2.9 billion over the life of the vehicles.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January 2021 that, in part, directed federal agencies to “procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles,” a goal experts said could provide a boost to the EV market because of the government’s purchasing power and influence. In August, Biden set a separate goal to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles.
“The federal fleet provides a unique and important opportunity, as one of the largest fleets in the country, to help prioritize the market and encourage transportation electrification to happen much more quickly,” said Electrification Coalition Executive Director Ben Prochazka in a briefing Wednesday. Fleets are appealing for electrification because they provide a steady market, centralized management, predictable use patterns and visibility among the public, Prochazka added.
The Atlas Public Policy report found that the transition makes financial sense, especially when considering the full lifetime cost of the vehicle. Using the total cost of ownership (TCO) metric — which includes factors like fuel costs, maintenance and the sustainability savings — the report found that the government could see significant savings by electrifying despite the higher upfront cost. With up to 40% of the fleet (mostly mid-size and large passenger vehicles) able to transition at a lower cost by 2025, the savings could be $316 million. That rises to $1.18 billion by 2030 as the analysis expects the cost of EVs will drop and more charging infrastructure will become available.
Considering the installation of new charging equipment and the lifetime savings in fuel and maintenance, study co-author Nick Nigro said those savings would grow morethe faster the fleet started its transition. That, however, could require a shift in thinking for federal operators, who are typically more concerned with the upfront capital.
“The time to electrify the federal fleet is now, for sure,” said Nigro, the founder of Atlas. “That is clear from the numbers.”
By 2030, electrifying vehicles in the non-USPS fleet where the TCO is competitive with gas vehicles would reduce 7.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the life of the vehicles, along with reductions in particular matter and nitrogen oxide pollution.
The report considers USPS separately because of the size of its fleet. It found that affordable alternatives to the gas-powered mail trucks already exist, which would make it easy for USPS to start turning over its long-life fleet for cost and pollution reductions. USPS announced a plan this year to make 10% of its new fleet of up to 165,000 trucks electric, which many advocates said was far below the level needed. House Democrats have proposed $8 billion in the Postal Service’s next funding bill for the purchase of more EVs, with a requirement that at least 75% of the fleet be electric.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill the Senate passed includes $7.5 billion for EV charging stations. Twenty-eight House Democrats sent a letter to their leadership calling for an additional $85 billion for chargers in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package under consideration.
Meanwhile, cities have taken their own steps to electrify their fleets. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an ordinance in 2020 to electrify the city’s municipal fleet — comprising 30,000 owned and leased vehicles — by 2040. Seattle has a goal of electrifying its city fleet by 2030, and Boston set a goal of electrifying municipal light-duty vehicles by 2035 and heavy-duty vehicles by 2060. In collaboration with the Climate Mayors group, the Electrification Coalition formed an EV purchasing collaborative with 409 cities to competitively bid on vehicles and chargers.
Nigro said the federal government, especially the USPS, can “demonstrate to the public what is possible with the electrification of vehicles” by modeling the use of EVs and chargers across the country.
“Everybody sees a mail truck that either delivers mail directly to their house, or they see them parked,” Nigro said. “Having them move more rapidly toward electrification will be a great benefit from an awareness perspective and, as our analysis showed, an economic perspective.”
Article top image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images via Getty Images
The latest developments in vehicle electrification
Electric vehicles are quickly becoming mainstream on U.S. roadways. Auto manufacturers continue to release new EV models to meet growing consumer demand, transit agencies are ramping up their electric bus fleets, and major companies such as FedEx and Walmart are purchasing electric delivery vehicles.
included in this trendline
The race to add more public EV chargers
California readies regulations for zero-emission truck fleets
Uber increases EV incentives to achieve its all-electric by 2030 goal
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