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.
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
Transportation agencies discover the answer to (rapid) EV infrastructure build-out: Big data
When the drive and the funding are in place, the U.S. has a remarkable history of rapid infrastructure development.
Railroad, telephone, and gas station networks went up at lightning speed. And 21st century EV charging infrastructure is no different. But as exciting as all this pioneering is, state and city transportation agencies are discovering that planning our EV future is downright overwhelming. Issues emerge everywhere: Our charger infrastructure is partially built, so where to go from here? EV adoption patterns are shifting fast, where will the strongest need be? How do we ensure equal access for all communities? Before states and agencies plan travel corridors or place chargers, they need answers.
Enter Big Data.
Here's a look at how advanced analytics helped one city identify gaps in its current public charging network and guide the expansion of its EV infrastructure.
Using data to meet EV infrastructure and equity goals
StreetLight Data and Siemens teamed up to help planners in Santa Clara, California do their part for California's Climate Action Plan (to have five million EVs on the road by 2030). The city wanted 400 publicly accessible chargers placed in the area, but competing priorities and a lack of data made locating them a challenge. A deep dive into StreetLight's Metrics showed city planners far more than just the ebbs and flows of traffic. They could see:
Hourly Origin-Destination data which revealed the time and length of driver's trips
Peak parking times
Ratios of personal vs. commercial vehicles
Traveler demographics including household income, education, and family status
Fusing together traffic, journey travel time, and demographic data armed planners with a clear picture of where to prioritize investment for a useful, equitable, public charging infrastructure.
Cities and states around the country aren't just building infrastructure to maximize charger usage. They are structuring investments to meet specific equity goals such as the Justice40 initiative, which aims to deliver 40 percent of federal clean energy and sustainable transportation investment to disadvantaged communities.
And speaking of federal dollars…
Over seven billion dollars in federal funds is heading to states to coordinate a coast-to-coast network of public EV chargers under the National Electric Vehicle (NEVI) program. Here is another area in which states are heavily relying on Big Data — to help structure their alternative fuel corridors (AFCs). AFC design is the first requirement the Department of Transportation is requiring to receive funds (AFC nomination deadline is May 13th, where NEVI plans are due August 1st). Metrics from Streetlight's EV Solution for Site Evaluation, including traffic volume and dwell time, are key to helping states determine sites along travel corridors with ready-to-use analyses.
State and city transportation agencies have a big job planning their slice of the EV infrastructure. But there's no need to be overwhelmed. Here are four key questions — answerable by Big Data — that reveal a great deal about how to approach EV infrastructure expansion.
4 EV infrastructure questions for transportation professionals
1) What is the existing traffic demand?
Obtaining traffic volumes by time of day — for all vehicles — will help you pinpoint local hotspots that will serve as optimal sites for EV chargers. This also reveals highway exits (frequented by longer-distance travelers) with the greatest demand. This data will help you identify where to put your charging sites — the first criteria for federal funds.
2) What are the aggregate demographic characteristics of existing drivers at these sites?
Traffic volume Metrics tells you a lot. But tying those metrics in with demographics such as education level and household income reveals a whole lot more. You can see the purpose behind drivers' trips. Why is purpose so important? Because when you know if drivers are stopping at the mall on their way home from work as opposed to going there from home, you will know if it's an optimal place for a public charger — even what kind of a charger. What's more, this data will offer a view of the equity picture in your region, to help you build toward a more balanced infrastructure.
3) Where are vehicles coming from and going?
How popular is a specific destination and how far are travelers coming from to get there? Origin-destination travel patterns and top routes of travelers will tell you. High-traffic destinations that attract people from many miles away are likely places to receive chargers. These sites will likely become key nodes in the larger, national EV infrastructure.
4) How long are vehicles staying at certain sites?
It's well known that charger speeds vary from as little as about 30 minutes to as much as 5-6 hours. Knowing how long people dwell at destinations like shopping plazas, office buildings, movie theaters, etc. is very useful. Dwell times will help you predict charger use and the type of chargers that'll make sense for the greatest number of travelers. DC fast chargers, for example, are necessary outside of a grocery store or a movie theater. Slower Level 2 or 3 chargers would work well at longer dwell destinations like a hotel.
The right EV analytics will give you actionable answers
With EV infrastructure ramping up quickly, transportation professionals are faced with some big questions. Answers will come from analytics such as StreetLight's EV Solution for Site Evaluation, which show traffic volumes, demographics, Origin-Destination, and dwell time data. This kind of comprehensive data (for all vehicles, not just EVs) is helping national, state, and local agencies gain the most intelligence and make optimal investments in our collective electric vehicle future.
Article top image credit: shutterstock.com/Scharfsinn
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
120 EV charging stations to be installed at California apartment complexes through state partnership
By: Danielle McLean• Published Aug. 6, 2021
Backed by state funding, a tech company is installing 120 electric vehicle chargers at apartment complexes throughout California in an effort to remove obstacles that prevent lower-income renters and residents from owning EVs.
The company, EVmatch, received a more than $700,000 grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to deploy the charging stations in the parking lots and garages of apartment buildings in Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties. The exact neighborhoods have not yet been determined, but the company plans to target properties where residents face major barriers to owning and charging EVs, said founder and CEO Heather Hochrein.
California has programs in place that address upfront purchase costs and financing of EVs, so increasing access to charging infrastructure is “the last piece of the puzzle,” said Katherine Stainken, senior director of EV policy at the Electrification Coalition.
EVmatch is a peer-to-peer platform that allows EV owners to connect with homes and businesses that are selling the use of their chargers through the app. The company received a $728,250 grant from the CEC through its BESTFIT Innovative Charging Solutions initiative and also chipped in over $400,000 from its own coffers, according to Toan Lam, a spokesperson for the commission. The CEC is working on a separate grant program to provide charging stations in rural California communities.
EVmatch is installing Level 2 charging stations, which are considered one of the more affordable charging options, butthey take about 8 to 10 hours to power up a car from zero charge to 100%, Hochrein said. The stations will be available to the public during some hours of the day and at all hours to building residents.
Convenient charging solutions for people who live in apartments can be crucial. More than 80% of EV owners charge their vehicles at home. However, about one-third of the U.S. population does not have a garage or carport where they can charge their vehicle.
EV ownership in California specifically is still dominated by people who live in detached housing or who own homes, Lam said. In Santa Clara, 35% of residents live in apartments, but only 9% of county residents who received EV rebates through a state program live in such a dwelling, he said. Similar ratios are seenin Los Angeles and San Diego counties, Lam added.
California needs the speedy installation of new charging stations to meet the lofty mandate Gov. Gavin Newsom set in an executive order issued in September 2020 banning the sale of new non-zero-emission passenger vehicles by 2035. More chargers are also needed nationwide. President Joe Biden last August restored and bolstered Obama-era tailpipe emissions rules for 2023-model-year vehicles and signed an executive order calling for a goal of half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. being EVs by 2030.
EVmatch plans to finish rolling out the 120 charging stations by the end of 2023. The initiative will provide charging access to over 20,000 renters throughout the state, many of whom have opted out of purchasing an EV due to limited charging access, Hochrein said.
Efforts to target charging stations at apartment complexes also couldhelp ease range anxiety, since it would allow them to conveniently charge their car overnight, Stainken said.
The upfront cost of an EV is expected to match gas vehicles on price by 2024 or 2025, and there are a number of incentives that can bring that price down. Further, due to lower operating and maintenance expenses, the cost of owning an EV throughout its lifespan is often lower than that of a gas vehicle, according to Consumer Reports.
“This collaboration is definitely going to break down barriers to EV adoption,” Stainken said. “We need to get the infrastructure in place as the cost of EVs declines even further.”
Article top image credit: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Kansas City streetlight-mounted EV charger pilot aims for equity, accessibility
Most EV charging happens at home overnight. The city's new charging project meets residents without garages where they are.
By: Katie Pyzyk• Published Aug. 4, 2021
A pilot project to install electric vehicle chargers on light poles in Kansas City, Missouri, could reduce one of the most commonly cited barriers to greater electric vehicle adoption: The lack of accessible charging infrastructure. The barriers are especially acute for the millions of Americans who don't have garages.
Most personal EV charging — about 80% — occurs at home, usually overnight in a garage or in a carport. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Housing Survey, more than one-third of U.S. homeowners — and nearly two-thirds of renters — do not have a garage or carport, which creates a significant barrier to at-home EV charging. The lack of access to garages and public EV charging is especially apparent in low-income communities and communities of color.
Kansas City's pilot project launched this summer and aims to reduce those barriers by bringing an emerging charging solution to residents in an equitable way. The Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC), a nonprofit dedicated to energy efficiency and environmental health in the region,spearheaded the project to install EV chargers on existing streetlights in residential neighborhoods that anyone can pay a fee to use.
"There's a big gap with EV charging for renters and people who don't own their home," said Miriam Bouallegue, project manager for sustainable transportation at MEC. "They don't have the ability to install an outlet and may not have a designated parking spot if they live in a complex. With curbside charging, people can just park their cars like they normally would and plug in."
Public and private partners for the pilot include the city of Kansas City; the Missouri University of Science and Technology; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); utility Evergy; utility and construction consultant Black & McDonald; e-mobility consultant EVNoire; and charging infrastructure company LilyPad EV. The U.S. Department of Energy provided funding, and project partners are providing in-kind contributions. The charging station owners, not the city, will handle ongoing operating and maintenance costs.
Explaining that DOE is flexible with the funding criteria for this project to allow for trailblazing and changing course as necessary, Erin Nobler, NREL project manager, said, "This is a fairly new area for transportation planners... It takes time and is frustrating — but that's a good thing... We're all so used to funding efforts where we have to hit milestones and deliverables. But it is OK and encouraged to pivot... We're looking for the best solution, not the easiest."
One goal is to increase the number of chargers in areas of Kansas City where EV adoption is high but there is not much charging infrastructure. Another goal is to prioritize infrastructure installations in areas where EV adoption is low to spur greater technology acceptance and adoption.
"With the [installations] being curbside, they're very visible to the public," Bouallegue said. "Often, chargers are in garages and not visible so people think, 'How can I buy an electric vehicle when I've never seen a charger?' We want to... encourage more EV adoption by showing people that public charging is available if they purchase an EV."
The project started with a lot of research, data gathering and analysis. A geospatial analysis determined possible locations for the chargers, and a market demand model determined which factors influence charging need and behaviors.
Partners analyzed which streetlights can technically support curbside charging based on factors like voltage, control mechanisms and proximity to the curb. Plus, some streetlights in Kansas City only carry power at night and would therefore need upgrades to enable daytime charging. An analysis pinpointed priority areas based on demographics including income, home rentership and EV ownership levels.
Community engagement is a key component of this project. After ensuring the effort would be technically feasible, organizers began holding virtual community meetings and compensated the first 100 participants for their time. They presented potential charging infrastructure locations and gathered feedback on why those sites would or would not work well for community members.
"We're starting with the community first. We're not just pushing a solution but trying to understand their needs," Nobler said. "They are experts in their community, just like we're experts in technology."
Partners initially identified 300 potential charging sites but whittled down the list and now anticipate installing 30 to 60 chargers, depending on final costs. Final site selection will happen soon and installations are scheduled to take place later this year.
"We also have to keep in mind equity across the city. Installing equipment in some areas might cost more," Bouallegue said. "That's a balancing act we are taking into account: reduce the cost, make sure these chargers go where they're most needed and make sure there is a balanced distribution across the city."
After the chargers have been in place for a period of time, the partners will conduct a final analysis that looks at factors including infrastructure utilization rates, changes in EV purchase rates or car-sharing programs in the community, who uses the new chargers, how they use them and when.
"That analysis hopefully will inform future efforts to expand streetlight charging in the city and elsewhere," Bouallegue said.
Pole-mounted EV chargers have already seen some traction in Europe, including in London and Essen, Germany. But few U.S. cities have undertaken this task, and the lack of a roadmap makes it more challenging, Bouallegue said. About a dozen U.S. cities have seriously investigated the concept, but only five, including four besides Kansas City, actually have undertaken infrastructure installations, said Vishant Kothari, manager of electric vehicle-grid integration at World Resource Institute (WRI). The other cities include Lancaster, California; Los Angeles; Melrose, Massachusetts; and Portland, Oregon.
WRI connected with Kansas City for inclusion in a pole-mounted charging infrastructure study it launched in January. WRI began the project largely to address the lack of accessible EV charging infrastructure in the U.S. which, among a host of other factors, is caused by high costs and the need for infrastructure space on already crowded streetscapes, Kothari said.
"With this in mind, we found that pole-mounted charging infrastructure can offer a solution, and we began to dive in deeper," Kothari said. "We found out from U.S. cities that there exists no real source of information and guidance to help them plan pole-mounted charging. That began our research into this area."
WRI intends to release its findings in a comprehensive pole-mounted charging infrastructure guide this fall. It examines two main solutions: mounting chargers on existing streetlights and on utility poles. Both types of equipment typically power the charger by tapping into the electricity fed to the pole.
One factor for choosing streetlight mounts is whether the light is high-pressure sodium or LED. In recent years many areas have switched to LED lamps, which are more efficient, yet the streetlight energy capacity often is not reduced accordingly to account for the adjustment and efficiency gains. This creates an energy gap that can be capitalized upon with a charging port.
Another big consideration is how much voltage each pole carries. Streetlights often carry 110 to 120 volts (V), which is only suitable for a Level 1 charger. However, utility poles typically carry thousands of volts, which is more suitable for Level 2 chargers' 208-240V connections, the preferred option for public space installations.
"The best type of pole depends heavily on local context," Kothari said, adding that equity and accessibility must be built into the planning process to maximize the benefits of pole-mounted chargers.
Like WRI, the Kansas City project organizers hope their final report helps other cities tackle pole-mounted EV charging projects.
"This is hard and takes time," Nobler said. "I absolutely hope other communities can and do take it a step further."
Article top image credit: Jamie Squire/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
Proposed California EV regs could be adopted by other states
DC joins growing list of cities requiring new buildings to include EV parking
Electric, autonomous delivery vehicle boom expected on city streets as inventories and orders grow
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide SavenijeEditor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.