By Bryce Fricklas
Boston University Statehouse Program
This article was originally published in SouthCoast Today.
BOSTON — Electric car ownership is surging in Massachusetts and New Bedford’s city departments are among the leaders, MassPIRG staff attorney Matthew Casale told a gathering recently outside the Statehouse flanked by two of the newest electric car models.
“All signs point toward electricity being the future,” said Casale in presenting a report detailing the steps that leading cities have taken toward accommodating electric vehicles.
“Sales are growing, and new models are being released all the time. That’s good, but we need to set up our infrastructure to be able to handle this influx of electric vehicles,” he said.
Last year ownership of electric cars increased by 37 percent, and now Massachusetts has about 130,000 electric cars in the state. The numbers are expected to continue increasing at a rapid pace.
“In Massachusetts, we have a goal of getting 300,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025. We need to make sure we know where those vehicles are going to charge,” said Casale.
The report presented on Wednesday, Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles, notes that many cities around the world are taking measures to accommodate and promote the use of electric cars.
“First would be extending residential access to on-street charging,” said Casale. “For people who don’t have a garage, getting an electric vehicle seems like a difficult proposition because they don’t have an easy place where they can come home every night and plug in. So, we recommend cities start finding ways to put charging stations on residential streets.”
Additionally, the report details “semi-public” stations that private companies can offer electric vehicle owners at businesses, private driveways, and parking garages.
The report further describes how some car sharing services, like BlueIndy in Indianapolis, are expanding access to shared electric cars.
New Bedford is among the leaders in the adoption of electric vehicles, with 24 charging stations, nearly half of which are available to the public. The city is also credited with having a higher percentage of electric vehicles than any other municipality in Massachusetts, according to the Department of Energy Resources.
“Everybody who’s been using the vehicles absolutely loves them,” said Tyler Reis, manager of the New Bedford Energy Office.
The city first received 2015 electric vehicle models whose range, or distance offered by each charge, was much less than that of the 2018 models.
“We were very diligent in deciding which departments would use them, to minimize range anxiety,” said Reis, saying the priority was given to the departments of health, facilities and fleet management, public infrastructure as well as the Harbor Development Commission, and the New Bedford School District.
“The future is in working with our utility, Eversource, who we’re really starting to have great communications with,” said Scott Durkee, director of the city’s energy office.
Massachusetts is working with Eversource, the largest energy company in the northeast, to modernize the electric grid for electric vehicles. “There could be rapid charging stations for buses, so a bus could charge in three or four minutes,” said Durkee.
New Bedford is also working with the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program which provides incentives for entities to acquire electric vehicles and install charging systems. New Bedford was among the most active in the program.
“There’s a lot of work going on in the state, on building a masterplan for charging corridors,” said Durkee. The development of charging corridors will alleviate anxiety about range and enable electric vehicles to drive between major cities like Boston and Washington, DC, with charging stations throughout the route.
The Georgetown Climate Center is a key organization working on developing infrastructure for electric vehicles, particularly in the northeast. The center, which is associated with Georgetown Law School, is devoted to advancing climate and energy policies in the United States.