This month's EV Corner column is written by Chuck Hayward, EV Infrastructure Designer & Analyst.
Last month, we explored range anxiety, focusing on how most electric vehicle (EV) drivers who have access to home charging won't actually experience issues with range. The problem is that not everybody has easy access to charging at home, and without convenient charging, it’s not practical to drive an EV.
Installing chargers is particularly difficult and expensive if you don’t have a garage, rent your home, or live in a multi-unit building with shared parking. While public and workplace chargers can help in these situations, access to public chargers is also not equitable. They tend to be more common in white, affluent neighborhoods. Fortunately, there are some ways to make vehicle electrification more equitable.
There was a time when apartments with indoor plumbing and electricity were seen as "luxury," but our building standards have evolved to require these things; this is starting to become true for EV chargers. Although still largely an added amenity for developers or building owners, EV chargers are beginning to be required by some towns and city ordinances, just like there are standards for proper lighting or outlets. Over time, this will make charging available for everybody instead of merely an added amenity for the wealthy.
South Portland's ordinance has 3 levels of EV "readiness" requirements. Requiring it during construction saves money over retrofitting it later. [Source: southportland.org]
These ordinances don’t require huge investments for developers or property owners; adding EV charging to a home is comparable to adding an outlet for a dryer. Any future resident will be able to plug their own car charger into that outlet.
ReVision recently helped the city of South Portland, ME create their own EV charging infrastructure ordinance. It sets standards for EV charging installation during construction of new buildings and parking lots. The requirements vary based on building size, parking lot size, and type of use. Other towns around New England are also working to develop their own EV-focused ordinances.
Adding EV charging to a single-family home is usually easy. But multi-family homes like condos and apartment buildings weren’t designed to carry the additional electrical load of multiple EV chargers for all residents, and upgrading electrical systems can be very expensive. Fortunately a technology called load management can be built into EV chargers. It allows chargers to share limited power so that more chargers can be installed without needing a costly service upgrade. Then, more EVs can plug in at the same time and drivers don't have to coordinate taking turns on just a couple of chargers. The system automatically shares the limited power across all of the chargers. This technology also helps lower utility bills!At our location in South Portland, we're starting to test out the load management technology of new EverCharge units
Retrofitting multiple chargers to existing buildings can be expensive and difficult. ReVision is currently replacing and expanding our own EV chargers at our branches with 13 EverCharge units, which allows us to test their load management technology. It will help us provide more cost-effective installations for apartments and condominiums.
Even with available charging, EVs are still expensive to purchase, but recent changes to government incentives are helping make EVs more equitable. We’ve had tax credits for about a decade that have helped reduce the price of new EV purchases, but with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, the credits have been restructured to help lower-income consumers. Starting in 2024, the federal tax credits of up to $7,500 on new EVs will become transferrable to the dealer and applied at the time of sale. This means the credits will become instantly available to buyers with lower incomes who might not have enough tax liability to take advantage of a credit. Federal tax credits have also been expanded to include used EVs and offer up to $4,000 back when purchasing from a dealer.
State and local incentives can often be used as well. Many of these incentives are largest for those in the lowest income brackets and phase out for higher income purchasers and for higher sticker-price vehicles. For example, Maine offers up to $2,500 for a used EV and it is only available to people who already qualify for low-income assistance programs like SNAP.
Even with expanded charging and purchase incentives, it will probably still be years before we see EVs become accessible to everybody. Many drivers scrape together a few thousand dollars to buy the cheapest used vehicle they can. And unfortunately there aren’t a lot of used EVs that are old enough to come anywhere near that price. It will be at least another 5 to 10 years before we see a substantial number of truly affordable used EVs available. So, what else can we do in the meantime?
ReVision installed chargers for electric buses at the Portland Bus Depot. It's easy to spot this bright blue electric bus around town, but you'll have to listen closely to hear it. Electric buses, now available for both schools and public transportation, enable children and adults without personal cars to benefit from vehicle electrification. Electrification is great when you’re driving, but it is just as (or maybe more!) beneficial for passengers and pedestrians who are no longer exposed to the noise and fumes of a diesel bus engine. And it’s not just buses. Companies are also developing electric delivery vans and trash trucks. Even the Unites States Post Office plans to have more than 66,000 electric vehicles in the next 5 years!
A recent study in California showed that as EV registrations increased in a community, the air pollution and asthma-related emergency room visits in that same community decreased. It has also been documented that asthma is more prevalent in lower income communities – the same communities that often rely on public transportation and diesel buses. One of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's strategies for combating asthma disparities involves reducing transportation-related emissions. Electrifying public transportation and other large vehicles is a big step in this direction and can have a huge impact on these communities.