Drivers of electric vehicles in Virginia can expect to see more public charging stations installed along major highways and popular destinations.
The state intends to spend about $14 million over the next three years to install DC (direct current) fast chargers along major interstates and U.S. highways, as well as Level 2 chargers — a slightly slower charging unit — at popular destinations, said Gregory Bilyeu, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the agency administering the program.
EVgo Services, based in Los Angeles, has been contracted to develop the charging network. The project will be paid for by funds allotted to Virginia as part of the Volkswagen settlement, which included a gigantic package of fees and fines attached to the German automaker following the 2016 revelation that Volkswagen diesel engines were fraudulently bypassing pollution controls.
Virginia received $93 million from the settlement. It’s not yet clear how the bulk of the money will be spent, say state officials.
By providing added charging infrastructure, the hope is that more consumers will opt to switch to electric vehicles, which are credited with contributing to improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
“Virginia has more than 10,000 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” said Bilyeu. “The goal is to reach 15 percent penetration of EVs by 2027. Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles is a critical step to Virginia’s efforts to fight climate change.”
EVgo fast chargers can provide about 50 miles of driving range in 15 minutes. Drivers will be able to pay for the service via a credit card or a mobile phone app, noted company officials. The cost for charging ranges from about $0.20 to $0.35 per mile, according to the EVgo website. However, a $9.99 monthly membership can reduce this “pay-as-you-go” rate. EVgo operates more than 1,000 charging stations in 34 states.
Other states like Oregon have explored opportunities to incentivize the installation of charging infrastructure in locations like multifamily housing to encourage more residents to choose electric vehicles. For now, the Virginia DEQ charging infrastructure plan is not focused on apartment buildings, said Bilyeu.
“However, the siting of EV infrastructure under the state's efforts may provide potential for overlap in use cases,” said Bilyeu in an email, adding some chargers could be located in close proximity to multifamily housing developments.
“Virginia is taking a leading role to develop and deliver a statewide electric vehicle charging network that is driver-focused, user-friendly, and promotes electric vehicle usage,” said Gov. Ralph Northam, in a statement. “Through this partnership with EVgo, Virginia will accelerate electric vehicle adoption, generate more private investment in electric vehicle technology, and help provide citizens in the Commonwealth with cleaner air.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.