NCEL Blog

The Road to Electrification: Charging Infrastructure

February 26, 2020

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Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Manager

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In part one of The Road to Electrification, we covered policies directed at aiding consumer purchase of electric vehicles. These purchase incentives go a long way to promoting the widespread adoption of EVs, but there is another factor limiting adoption – charging.

Overview

According to a survey, range anxiety and access to charging sites are the top concerns stopping drivers from investing in a battery-powered electric vehicle. Building out more charging infrastructure accessible to the public reduces that anxiety and can help boost overall EV adoption. In fact, another survey showed that 63% of Americans are interested in buying an EV and 67% want their state to invest in charging infrastructure. 

So, how can state legislatures improve access and build out charging sites? First, start in people’s homes. 

Residential Charging

Purchasing and installing an EV charger is an investment that can deter would-be EV buyers. Just like with buying an EV, financial incentives through taxes, rebates, or other means of special financing can significantly reduce that anxiety.

The District of Columbia offers an alternative fuel infrastructure credit that covers up to 50% (or $1,000 max) of equipment and labor costs for the purchase and installation of EV chargers on private residences. The credit covers up to $10,000 on public property.

Though soon to expire, Maryland offers a 40% rebate for the cost of charging equipment and installation. That is equal to up to $700 for individuals, $4,000 for businesses, and $5,000 for retail service stations.

Connecticut’s Green Bank offers flexible, low-interest Smart-E Loans for homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements. This includes the installation of alternative fueling and charging stations. Yet, even with financial assistance some can face permitting challenges seeking to install chargers in their residences. 

EV Charging and HOAs

In places where home-owner associations (HOAs) have leverage on what can be done on a person’s property, some have restricted charger installation. Last year, in response to these types of cases, New York enacted ‘Right-to-Charge’ legislation (A.6338/S.5157). The legislation prohibits condominium HOAs from restricting installation of EV charging stations and voids any existing restrictive rules.

California passed similar laws in 2018 which did away with HOA charging limitations and other rent-controlled units. If passed, a set of bills introduced in Maryland this year (S.B.0734H.B.0111) would do the same for multifamily units. They would also provide grants to condominium and home-owner associations to upgrade parking for charger installation. 

Ensuring EV-Ready Buildings

States can also make charger installation cheaper without financial incentives by ensuring future construction, of homes or commercial buildings, are “EV-ready”. This type of construction has the necessary power boxes, circuitry, and cabling pre-installed for EV chargers. Doing so eliminates the need for costly retrofits when a property owner decides to install a charger. Codes requiring EV-ready construction are already on the books in some cities and states, such as California, but are not widely adopted.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project put together a handy guide on how more states and localities can adopt these standards now in their building codes. Protocols like this will soon be standard. Earlier this year, the International Code Council (ICC) approved new standards that could make all new homes built in the U.S. EV-ready. The ICC is a building standards trade association that sets voluntary guidelines for new homes. Standards set by the ICC are widely adopted by all US states.

Public Charging

Charging access outside of private residences is just as crucial to reducing range anxiety. States have primarily targeted policies aimed at commercial parking lots and garages to improve public access, either in financing projects or requiring certain entities to install chargers outright.

Last year Hawaii enacted HB1585 which created the state’s Electric Vehicle Charging Station Incentive Program. The program provides rebates for new charger installations and upgrades to existing stations in publicly available spaces. The rebates are based on charging capacity. Level 2 chargers get up to $4,500 for new installations and $3,000 for upgrades on existing stations. DC fast chargers get up to $35,000 for new installs and $28,000 for upgrades.

Established in 2009, Colorado’s EV Grant Fund provides money to boost deployment of publicly accessible chargers. Funds are available to to local governments, public institutions, owners of multi-family unit buildings, and nonprofit or for-profit corporations. To expand efforts, last year the state enacted HB 1198 authorizing more funds to install stations in rural areas and to help cover operating costs. This funding is also used with federal dollars for congestion mitigation and air quality improvements through the Charge Ahead Colorado. Charge Ahead Colorado is a joint program between the Regional Air Quality Council and the Colorado Energy Office.

Providing EV Parking Options

The Oregon House recently passed HB 4068 which updates building codes for commercial, mixed-use, and multi-family units. The new codes would require at least 20% of parking spaces be EV ready. The legislation also gives municipalities the right to set higher requirements for parking lots and garages. To help ensure accessibility of charging stations, multiple states have enacted civil penalties for persons who park a non-EV in a charging space. Last year Colorado passed HB19-1298 which establishes a fine of $150 for non-EVs parked at a charging station and for EVs parked at a station while not charging. Other states like Maryland and Virginia are working on doing the same. View EV Parking Legislation

States are also working on reducing anxiety for long-range travel. In 2018, Virginia passed HB 922 authorizing the Department of Conservation and Recreation to build and operate fee-based charging stations on publicly accessible state property. The state later expanded the law to cover all government owned properties. Last year, Michigan introduced similar legislation as part of a bold agenda to improve the state’s charging infrastructure. This year, New Jersey introduced A2422 which would require the installation of charging stations on at least 5% of parking spaces in service areas on the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway.

Takeaways:

There’s a range of options for states to improve charging infrastructure and reduce range anxiety. Though many of these options require financial investment from state funds, the simplest and perhaps longest-lasting solution is to have buildings be EV ready in the first place. States can also work to have a long-term vision for electrified transportation that uses multiple policies together to make a lasting impact.

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