As electric cars revolutionize the vehicle market, new study helps cities address infrastructure and parking challenges

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Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

First-of-its-kind report identifies best practices from across U.S. and globally

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Springfield, Mass. – With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and Frontier Group highlights best practices to help local officials make their cities as EV-friendly as possible. The new report, Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles, includes data for Springfield, Boston, and other cities about the number of electric cars expected on the road in coming years, and how cities can accommodate these new EVs with enough places to park and recharge.

“Electric cars are leaving gas-guzzlers in the dust,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “We have an opportunity to make a positive change after more than a century of vehicles spewing pollutants into the air. Local and state officials who want to plug into this opportunity need to commit to implementing EV-friendly infrastructure as quickly as possible.”

In particular, the report calls on local officials to implement the following EV-friendly policies:

  • Residential access to on-street EV charging
  • Access to public charging stations
  • Support for private investment in publicly-accessible stations
  • Incentivized EV parking and charging

Sales of EVs nationwide increased by 38% in 2016, and then another 32% throughout 2017, as charging stations became more convenient. General Motors plans to launch 20 EV models by 2023, while Ford announced last month that it will invest $11 billion in EVs, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022.

Increasingly, EVs are earning acclaim from mainstream car enthusiasts. Motor Trend named Chevrolet’s Bolt the 2017 Car of the Year.

“It’s a conversation about environmental justice,” said Danielle Winters, Environmental Justice Organizer for Arise for Social Jusice. “Because Springfield residents are some of the most likely to suffer from elevated rates of asthma in the country, converting to electric vehicles — especially in the public transportation sector — has to be a top priority. Transitioning to electric vehicles means a healthier living environment for our community, including those most affected: low-income, people of color, and children.”

“In the coming years, we expect to see rapid growth in electric vehicles in the Pioneer Valley,” said Catherine Ratte, Manager of the Land Use / Environment Section at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “That’s good news for our health and our climate, but we need to be ready for it. Cities and towns can take several steps to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles.”

The report released today estimates that Springfield could see 7,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, which will require at least 266 Level 2 chargers and fast chargers in public places.

With more electric vehicles on the road, and many more coming soon, cities need to map out where EVs will charge, particularly in city centers and neighborhoods without off-street parking. In all, major cities will need to install hundreds to thousands of new publicly accessible electric vehicle chargers to keep the increased number of EVs running, depending on the size of the city.

“Transportation is the largest source of Massachusetts’ carbon emissions,” said Darcy DuMont, a steering committee member for Climate Action Now. “If we’re serious about protecting our communities from climate change, we need to act at the local and state level to encourage the transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.”

“To create a healthy climate for our children and grandchildren, we need to move rapidly to power our entire society with 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” said Andra Rose, the coordinator of Mothers Out Front in Amherst. “In Amherst, we recently passed a community-wide commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in reducing our local greenhouse gas emissions as well as serving as storage for renewable energy generated locally.”

“American cities risk being unprepared for the impending arrival of thousands of electric vehicles on their streets,” said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of “Plugging In.” “Without forward-thinking policies that give EV owners places to park and charge their vehicles, cities could lose out on the health and air quality benefits that electric vehicles can deliver.”

The report’s authors note that local and state officials increasingly are having to lead on issues related to climate change, clean energy, and clean cars, as the Trump administration dismantles federal policies that offered concrete solutions to these issues. In the coming weeks, the Trump administration is expected to take steps toward revoking federal fuel efficiency standards and weakening clean car policies.

“Adopting smart public policies, which have been implemented already in visionary American and international cities, can help more U.S. cities lead the electric vehicle revolution,” noted Hellerstein. “For the sake of our public health and environment, it’s crucial that we expand access to clean transportation for those who live, work and play in our urban centers. And once we complete the transition away from gasoline and diesel, we can all breathe easier and see more clearly.”

Click here to read Plugging In.


The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.