Renters face the dilemma of collecting fees as US cities move toward electric vehicles

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — Stephanie Terrill was excited to join the wave of drivers embracing electric vehicles when she bought a used Nissan Leaf this fall.

But Terrell ran into a bump in the road on her clean-driving trip: As a renter, she has nowhere to drop off overnight, and the nearby public charging stations are often in use. The 23-year-old nearly ran out of power on the highway recently because the charging station she was relying on was busy.

She said, “It was really scary and I was really worried I wasn’t going to do it. I feel better about it than buying gas, but there are issues I wasn’t really anticipating.”

The transition to electric cars is underway for homeowners who can run them in their own garage, but for millions of renters, access to charging remains a huge barrier. Now, cities across the United States are trying to come up with innovative public charging solutions where drivers line power cords through sidewalks, set up private charging stations on city right-hand roads and line up at public facilities.

The Biden administration last month approved plans from all 50 states to launch a network of high-speed chargers along interstate highways using $5 billion in federal funding over the next five years. But states will have to wait to apply for an additional $2.5 billion in local grants to bridge fee gaps, including in densely populated urban areas.

“We have a really big challenge right now in making it easier to charge people who live in apartments,” said Jeff Allen, executive director of Forth, a nonprofit that advocates for equal ownership of electric vehicles and access to charging.

Cities must understand that “Promoting electric cars is also part of a sustainable transportation strategy. Once they make that mindset shift, there is a whole range of very tangible things they can – and should – do.”

Fast chargers, also known as DC Fast, can fill a vehicle in 45 minutes or less. But slower Level 2 chargers, which take several hours, still outnumber DC fast chargers nearly four to one. Charging on a standard residential outlet or level 1 charger is not practical unless you drive a little or can leave the car plugged in overnight.

Nationwide, there are about 120,000 public charging outlets that feature Level 2 charging or higher, and about 1.5 million electric vehicles are registered in the United States — just over 1 charger for every 12 vehicles nationwide, according to the latest US Department of Transportation.

A U.S. Department of Energy briefing last year by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory projects a total of just under 19 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, with an expected need for an additional 9.6 million charging stations.

In Los Angeles, for example, nearly a quarter of all new vehicles registered in July were plug-ins. In the next two decades, the city estimates, it must expand its distribution capacity anywhere from 25% to 50%, with roughly two-thirds of the increased demand coming from electric vehicles, said Yamen Nan, director of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy. Electricity programme.

Amid the boom, dense city neighborhoods are quickly becoming pressure points.

In Los Angeles, the city has installed more than 500 pole-mounted EV chargers — 450 on street lights and 50 on power poles — and wants to add an additional 200 per year, Nanne said.

Similar initiatives to install pole-mounted chargers are underway or being considered from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina to Kansas City, Missouri. The Seattle City Light facility is also in the early stages of a pilot project to install chargers in neighborhoods with limited private parking.

Other cities want to amend building codes for the electric transition. Portland is considering a proposal that would require 50% of parking space in most new apartment complexes to have an electrical conduit; In complexes with six spaces or less, they will all be ready for electric vehicles.

Ingrid Fish, who is responsible for the Portland Transportation Decarbonization Program, said such policies are necessary for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles because with tax incentives and an emerging electric used car market, zero-emissions vehicles are becoming more affordable for more Americans.

The initiatives mimic those already deployed in other countries that have continued to adopt electric vehicles.

London, for example, has 4,000 universal chargers on its street lights. That’s much cheaper — just a third of the cost of getting a charging station to the dock, said Vishant Kothari, director of the electric mobility team at the World Resources Institute.

But London and Los Angeles have an advantage over many American cities: their street lights run on 240 volts, which is better for charging electric vehicles. Most American city street lights use 120 volts, which takes hours to charge a car, said Kothari, who co-authored a study on the possibility of pole-mounted charging in American cities.

So cities must use a mix of solutions, from zoning changes to policies that encourage rapid charging in the workplace.

Changes cannot come fast enough for renters who already own electric cars.

Rebecca DeWhitt and her partner hook an extension cord from an outlet near the front door of their rental home, down the track and into the new Hyundai Kona in the driveway. Outside of the standard outlet, it takes up to two days and lots of planning to fully charge their EV for a trip.

It’s uncomfortable,” DeWitt said. “And if we don’t value having an electric car very much, we can’t take the pain of it.”

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Associated Press climate data correspondent Camille Fassett in Denver, Associated Press video journalists Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Haven Daly in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter: @gflaccus

Follow AP’s coverage of climate and environment at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about the AP’s Climate Initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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