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US cities power up the EV charger grid

Illustration by Kate Walker

US cities power up the EV charger grid


The Future. Today, EVs make up only 6% of new car sales, but charging providers warn that the infrastructure the US needs now is the same as the infrastructure it’ll need when every car owner drives electric. This sense of urgency has led cities all over the country to tackle the charging station shortage with focused effort (despite overwhelming hurdles). If the US has to install a national EV charger network ASAP, it may have to hand the wheel over to local governments to roll out the charging stations efficiently.

The roadblocks
From uncooperative landlords to outdated infrastructure to a shortage of driveways, curb space, and parking lots, the path to a national charger network is littered with roadblocks, per Axios.

  • While retrofits for EV wiring can be expensive, most structures don’t have EV-specific zoning regulations.
  • Many existing public charging stations are poorly maintained or don’t work, according to a 2022 study by J.D. Power.

The circumnavigation
From passing new building codes and zoning laws to expediting the permitting process for station applicants, US cities are doing all they can to stay on track.

  • LA is attaching EV charging stations to streetlights, while Seattle is installing curbside chargers for renters.
  • Denver has partnered with Hertz to build out neighborhood charging stations, while Hoboken, NJ, has partnered with Volta to install charging stalls (at no cost to the city).
  • San Diego is experimenting with solar power to charge its EV fleet, and Tucson is requiring some new businesses and multi-family dwellings to provide charging stations in their parking lots.

The greenlightUnder Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states are collecting $5 billion in federal incentives to build a national EV charger network. Cities can apply for $2.5 billion in competitive grants, which prioritize improving access to chargers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot of money on the table right now, and ample opportunity to improve the quality of life for communities across the country,” Alexia Melendez Martineau of Plug In America tells Axios.

But if the cost of electric cars is still a barrier to EV ubiquity, will automakers lower their prices? If not, those brand-new chargers might sit unused…

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