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Volta to Roll Out Ad-Supported EV Chargers in Tuscon, Ariz.

The free charging networks will be supported by advertising via the large screens on each station. The city has seen the number of EVs grow significantly in the last several years, though charging infrastructure has not kept pace.

The installation, maintenance and electricity for Volta electric vehicle charging stations in Oregon, and now Tucson, Ariz., are subsidized by advertising.
Submitted Photo/Volta Charging
Ad-supported electric vehicle charging is expanding into the Tucson, Ariz., market as EV ownership grows in the state.

Volta, a maker of EV charging infrastructure, will partner with Tucson Electric Power (TEP) to install eight chargers in destinations like shopping centers, movie theaters and other popular locations. The Level 2 chargers will provide two hours of free use, after which time they are programmed to shut down.

Volta represents an expanding business model in the EV-charging industry, where capital and operational costs for the chargers are supported by the advertising revenue the chargers generate with their large digital screens.

These types of destination chargers are welcomed by not only the typical EV owner who charges their car at home, but especially the many other drivers who may not have access to home charging.

“It’s a good partnership and we’re excited to help support the roll out of charging infrastructure here,” said Joe Barrios, supervisor of media relations and regulatory communications at Tucson Electric Power. “We recognize the benefits EVs can provide, including lower cost of ownership and greater sustainability for customers, emissions reductions, and improved air quality, to name a few.”

This summer, the Tucson City Council adopted an ordinance to require new residential construction to include an EV-charging receptacle. The rule applies to one- and two-family homes. The city is also moving forward on a building code rule change to require that EV charging infrastructure be part of new commercial and multifamily housing developments as well.

“We’re seeing more EV readiness ordinances pop up across the country,” said Chris Bast, director of EV infrastructure investments for the Electrification Coalition, during a panel hosted by EV advocacy and policy group Forth earlier this year.

These ordinances often require that new construction of a parking lot, garage or residential building has some level of EV readiness.

“You wouldn’t build a bathroom without a sink, and you shouldn’t build a parking lot without a charging station. That’s just where we’re at now,” Bast added.

Tucson, a city of more than 542,000 residents, has a growing EV market, which now includes nearly 4,300 vehicles, according to the Electric Power Research Institute — seven times more than in June 2017. Volta, with the help of its infrastructure planning tool known as PredictEV, anticipates the number of zero-emission cars could multiply 18 times in the next 10 years.

Volta now has charging infrastructure in 28 states and territories and across 39 markets. Tucson was important destination to move into, say company officials, because some 40 percent of residents rent their home, according to 2018 statistics. Often, rental housing does not include vehicle charging, making it significantly less convenient for renters to own and drive an EV.

A number of state and utility incentives are available to residents in the Tucson market, Barrios pointed out. For example, TEP will provide an up to $500 rebate for home chargers. Similar rebates are also structured for commercial and multifamily housing properties. The rebate amounts increase when the charger is installed in a low-income area.

TEP is looking to EVs as part of its larger grid-management strategy, Barrios said.

“In terms of resource adequacy, we feel EVs could play a role in how we plan for and manage our grid in the future. Our plan is to provide 70 percent clean energy and 80 percent less carbon emissions by 2035,” he explained. “EVs could offer flexible new energy grid resources and opportunities to work with our customers to manage our community’s energy needs.”
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.