Renters face the pricing dilemma as US cities shift to electric vehicles

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – Stephanie Terrell was thrilled to join the wave of electric vehicle drivers when she purchased a used Nissan Leaf this fall.

But Terrell ran into a roadblock on her journey to clean driving: As a renter, she has nowhere to connect at night, and public charging stations near her are often in use. The 23-year-old nearly ran out of power on the freeway recently because a charging station she counted on was busy.

“It was really scary and I was really worried about not making it,” she said. “I feel better than buying gas, but there are problems that I didn’t really expect.”

The shift to electric vehicles is underway for homeowners who can charge in their garage, but access to charging remains a significant obstacle for millions of renters. Now, cities in the United States are trying to find innovative public charging solutions as drivers put power cables along sidewalks, erect private charging stations on the city’s rights of way, and queue at public facilities.

Last month, the Biden administration approved plans for all 50 states to deploy a high-speed charger network along interstate highways using $ 5 billion in federal funding over the next five years. But states have to wait to apply for an additional $ 2.5 billion in local subsidies to bridge pricing gaps, even in dense urban areas.

“Right now we have a really big challenge in making it easy for people living in apartments to charge,” said Jeff Allen, executive director of Forth, a nonprofit that advocates equity in electric vehicle ownership and l access to recharge.

Cities need to understand that “promoting electric cars is also part of their sustainable transportation strategy. Once that mental shift is made, there is a lot of very tangible things they can – and should – do.”

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

Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 public charging ports with tier 2 or higher charging and nearly 1.5 million U.S. registered electric vehicles, a ratio of just over a 12-car charger nationwide, according to L last US Department of Transportation.

A briefing prepared for the US Department of Energy last year by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory predicts a total of just under 19 million electric vehicles in circulation by 2030, with an expected need for 9.6 million stations. extra charge.

In Los Angeles, for example, nearly a quarter of all new vehicles registered in July were plug-in. The city estimates that over the next two decades it will have to expand its distribution capacity anywhere from 25% to 50%, with about two-thirds of the increase in demand coming from electric vehicles, said Yamen Nanne, head of transportation for the Department of Transport. Los Angeles water and energy electrification program.

In the midst of the boom, dense urban neighborhoods are rapidly becoming pressure points.

In Los Angeles, the city has installed more than 500 pole-mounted electric vehicle chargers – 450 on street lamps and 50 on power poles – and wants to add another 200 per year, Nanne said.

Similar initiatives to install pole loaders are in progress or are being evaluated from New York City to Charlotte, NC, to Kansas City, Missouri. Seattle City Light utility is also in the early stages of a pilot project to install battery chargers in neighborhoods with limited private parking.

Other cities want to change building codes for the electrical transition. Portland is considering a proposal that would require 50% of the parking spaces in most new apartment complexes to have an electrical conduit; in complexes with six or fewer spaces, everyone would be EV ready.

Such policies are key to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles because with tax incentives and an emerging market for used electric vehicles, zero-emission cars are finally within the reach of more Americans, said Ingrid Fish, head of the decarbonisation program for Portland transportation.

The initiatives mimic those that have already been implemented in other nations that are further ahead in the adoption of electric vehicles.

London, for example, has 4,000 public chargers on street lamps. It’s much cheaper – just a third of the cost of wiring a curb charging station, said Vishant Kothari, manager of the e-mobility team at the World Resources Institute.

But London and Los Angeles have an advantage over many cities in the United States: their street lamps run on 240 volts, better for charging electric vehicles. Most street lamps in American cities use 120 volts, which takes hours to charge a vehicle, said Kothari, co-author of a study on pole-charging potential in US cities.

So cities need to use a mix of solutions, from zoning changes to policies that encourage quick billing in the workplace.

The changes can’t come fast enough for renters who already own electric vehicles.

Rebecca DeWhitt and her partner plug in an extension cord from an outlet near the front door of their rented home, along a path and to their new Hyundai Kona in the driveway. Off the standard socket, it takes up to two days and a lot of planning to fully charge your EV for a trip.

“It’s uncomfortable,” DeWhitt said. “And if we don’t appreciate having an electric vehicle so much, we wouldn’t take the pain of it.”


Associated Press climate data reporter Camille Fassett in Denver and AP video reporters Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Haven Daley in San Francisco contributed to this report.


Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter: @gflaccus

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

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