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More Urban Chargers Will Prompt EV Adoption, Experts Say

The availability of charging options remains a key factor in the decision to switch to an electric car. And it’s part of the reasoning behind a plan to have 10,000 car-charging sites on New York City curbs by 2030.

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New York City is at work on a project to install curbside charging units to both serve the electric vehicles already on city streets and encourage the adoption of more of the plug-in cars.

The project involves the New York City Department of Transportation, Consolidated Edison (Con Edison) and Energy Flow, and expects to have several dozen curbside plugs installed by the end of the month, said Shawn Yavari, a senior specialist with the Electric Vehicle Demonstration Projects division of Con Edison. The plan is to have 1,000 curbside chargers installed by 2025 and 10,000 by 2030 across all five boroughs.

“The last thing we want to see is a lot of customers letting down extension cords from their third-story walkups to have to charge. So that’s why this public infrastructure is really important,” Yavari remarked on a panel discussion last month organized by CoMotion LIVE.

The project illustrates not only the unique aspect of city life, which means residents often use street parking, but also the need for charging availability if EV adoption is to take off.

“My message is simply: It’s not too soon to deploy the charging infrastructure, even though you’re not seeing half of the vehicles on the road being EVs yet. But you need that infrastructure to be in place first, before that conversion actually can take place,” said Irina Filippova, chief operating officer at Electrada, maker of EV charging infrastructure, in comments on the panel.

In some cases, the charging infrastructure needs to be in place two years before any meaningful EV adoption takes place, said Filippova. In other cases, the lead time could be as much as five years, she added.

“Five years ahead of that hockey stick curve going up,” said Filippova. “Which means that it takes a while for folks to really get comfortable with the fact that the infrastructure is there, that it’s reliable, that it’s ubiquitous.”

This finding mirrors that of a study by Altair, a software company focused on engineering simulation, analytics and artificial intelligence. The company used machine learning and data analytics to examine EV adoption across a handful of states where recent data demonstrating adoption was publicly available. Researchers then used those 15 states to predict the status of other states using machine learning, explained Mamdouh Refaat, a chief data scientist at Altair.

The study allowed Altair to predict EV adoption in each county, and then come up with a profile showing EV adoption, and some data related to the drivers of EVs.

But one of the biggest drivers of adoption turned out to be the availability of charging, said Refaat.

“What we can see from the model is that the availability of charging stations is a very important driver,” Refaat told Government Technology. “You have to have the infrastructure first to encourage people to start buying it.”

There are about 100,000 public plugs available today. In the yet-to-be-passed infrastructure bill under consideration by Congress is the aim to build out 500,000 more public charging sites, as well as provide other incentives to advance the adoption of EVs. And those sites should be wherever the cars are parked, said Filippova.

“Eventually, we will be used to the fact that the car, wherever it’s parked, it can be charged, so we can be on our way, whether we charge it for half an hour, 15 minutes, or four to five hours,” she added.
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 Yreka, Calif.