Thoughts on Regional EV Preparedness

November 4, 2020 11:02 pm

On October 27th, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) published a piece that discussed some of the major obstacles to EV adoption in regions outside major cities and what trailblazing municipal leaders are doing to alleviate them. According to author Jimmy Gilman, “it’s well known which cities contain large numbers of EV charging stations, [so] we analyzed the development of EV charging infrastructure in the areas surrounding major cities to determine their regional preparedness for an increasing number of EVs” (emphasis ours).

RMI wound up evaluating and scoring 60 major metropolitan areas using a variety of criteria, including how many chargers resided within 20 miles of the city center, the number of chargers within five miles of the cities’ top day-trip destinations, and the number of chargers at airports. Not surprisingly, the study found that half of the top 10 cities with the highest availability of EV infrastructure were in California. This is a testament to the work EVCS has done in Los Angeles (ranked #5 nationwide with a score of 38.5 out of 48) and beyond, collaborating with LA Metro, hotel chains and other name brand organizations to install chargers in underserved regional areas with the goal of incentivizing greater EV participation.

Photo of EV charging by Michael Movchin

Unfortunately, studies by McKinsey, Volvo and others have cited “range anxiety” and “lack of infrastructure” as persistent barriers to entry for potential new EV customers. While the article clearly acknowledges this, it also asserts that “greater consumer knowledge of EVs can alleviate these apprehensions to an extent,” as if they were mildly unreasonable, despite the fact that these issues are real in many places, not imagined, and that no amount of consumer knowledge will power an EV when infrastructure is lacking. Moreover, customers citing such concerns are by definition knowledgeable enough to know they exist.

We have always believed that increased infrastructure makes the EV market more accessible to all drivers, and if we build it (like the voice from the cornfield said), they will come. The key is to focus on heavily traveled corridors between major metropolitan areas, which serves dual purposes:

1.) Lower greenhouse gas emissions through accessible EV infrastructure that reduces the need to use traditional gas-powered vehicles or even air travel for longer distance trips, and–

2.) Increased EV adoption for both out-of-towners traveling between cities as well as residents of suburban or rural towns that may lie along these corridors.

According to ScienceDirect.com, “a network of fast chargers… along main driving routes or interstates is essential to enable long distance PEV capability” and should be installed at a diversity of “local destinations such as shopping centers, amusement parks, office complexes [and] schools.”

Evaluating the number of chargers within 20 miles of the city center works fine for most metropolises (notwithstanding the small handful that may have outsized urban sprawl like Los Angeles), but range between metro areas may be of bigger concern since the average EV, according to Shell-owned New Motion, is 181 miles, plenty fine for local metro area commuting, but possibly inadequate for longer-distance travel and wholly impractical for the one-third of Americans living in more remote regions outside cities.

As part of the study, RMI spoke to representatives in top-performing cities like Austin, Denver and San Jose, who “all stressed the importance of sharing resources and ideas to leverage their impact on electrifying transportation.” We couldn’t agree more, but we also feel it’s companies like ours that must act as a facilitator between cities by offering turnkey services, financing options and other resources to underserved regions that might not be on the radar of metro leaders. Together, we can truly move the needle on EV preparedness nationwide.

The original RMI article and further details of their study can be found here: https://rmi.org/taking-a-regional-approach-to-electric-vehicle-readiness/

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