US: states team up to drive EV adoption

17 January 2012 (re-printed from uk.evupdate.com)

The West Coast of the US has been at the forefront of EV development in the US so far. Now a new collaborative initiative could see the Northeast catching up.

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By Beth Buczynski

In late November 2011, transportation, energy, and environment officials from ten northeast US states and the District of Columbia announced that they would join forces to create the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network (NEVN).

The network’s efforts will be supported by a $994,500 Electric Vehicle Readiness Grant awarded by the Department of Energy to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on behalf of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). TCI works to minimise reliance on high-carbon fuels, improve efficiency of freight movement, expand the use of innovative information technology, promote sustainable growth and reduce vehicle-miles traveled.

Participants in the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, DC. These jurisdictions will work together to attract public and private investment in infrastructure for clean vehicles. By joining NEVN, states send a clear market signal that they are committed to making the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) a success and are already working with key private-sector stakeholders like vehicle manufacturers, charging station manufacturers, and utility companies.

As part of their existing collaboration through the TCI, the participating states will promote all clean vehicles and fuels, and help to facilitate deployment of electric vehicle charging stations and related infrastructure throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Bridging borders
Because of their small size and the close proximity of several large metropolitan areas in the Northeastern corner of the US, it’s especially important for states in this region to collaborate on transportation projects.

“Travelers routinely drive across multiple state boundaries in the northeastern United States due to the compact nature of the region so states have to develop more consistent approaches and work together on strategic planning in order to be effective,” says Chris Coil, Communications Director at the Georgetown Climate Center. “Collectively, these states are striving to ensure that travelers can confidently drive electric vehicles from northern New England to Washington, DC, and everywhere in between.”

The Georgetown Climate Center currently hosts Transportation and Climate Initiative materials, including those relating to the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network, through a dedicated web portal. The TCI is expected to launch its own website later this year.

Benefits of collaboration
According to Coil, the benefit of the collaboration and strategic planning is that states can ensure that public charging infrastructure is locally appropriate: that’s to say, it reflects where the infrastructure begins and ends in adjacent states, and where the infrastructure is really needed within the state.

The substantial grant TCI received from the Department of Energy will provide the initial injection of funds to help the states set the foundation for what they hope will be much faster and widespread adoption of EVs as the 2015 goal approaches.

“The Department of Energy Community Readiness and Planning grants enable awardees to develop planning materials for EV deployment in their communities,” said Coil.

TCI’s grant is funding a range of activities: region-wide stakeholder engagement, a literature review, education and outreach activities, the development of siting and design guidelines, and model building codes, permitting, and zoning documents. All of these can be used by communities throughout the region.

“Creating planning documents now will allow communities to easily adapt to electric vehicles as they are made more widely available”, Coil adds.

Early progress

Several participating states are already moving forward with the construction of charging stations. For example, Maryland is in the process of building about 65 charging stations, and many other states in the region are building charging infrastructure too.

Initially, however, most charging is expected to be done overnight at people’s homes and at work, so making the permitting process for charging installations as smooth as possible will be a very important task of the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network.

“We want to make sure that early adopters have a good experience and that charging stations are easy and quick to install,” says Coil. “We also need to develop solutions for users without garages (those who live in apartment complexes and town houses) so the group will be working on approaches to meet those challenges as well.”

Although the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network hasn’t set a specific goal for the number of EVs it hopes to put on the road in the next few years, if successful, its impact will be hard to miss in the Northeast region.

“Participating states are committed to leading the way when it comes to the deployment of electric vehicles,” said Coil. “Numbers will depend on how quickly the industry begins to ramp up and the state of the economy. Collectively, participating states have committed to ensuring that the northeastern US captures at least 20 per cent of all EV sales and usage when compared to the United States as a whole . . . . about 200,000 vehicles.” An ambitious target.

To comment on this article, please contact the editor at: oliver.balch@evupdate.com