As Electric Cars Revolutionize the Vehicle Market, New Study Helps Cities Address Infrastructure and Parking Challenges

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First-of-its-kind policy analysis of best practices from across U.S. and globally

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Pennsylvania– With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center 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 local and state data for Harrisburg and Pennsylvania about the projected 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 in Harrisburg” stated David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment 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 an EV-friendly infrastructure as smooth and fast 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

EV sales nationwide increased 38% in 2016, and then another 32% throughout 2017, as charging stations became more convenient. Those electric car purchases reflect Americans’ values, including a desire to protect our communities’ public health, reduce global warming pollution and stop using so much oil.

Even the change-resistant auto industry recognizes that the future is electric. GM plans to launch 20 EV models by 2023, while Ford announced last month it plans to invest $11 billion in EVs, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022. These new cars don’t just check off the “electric” box; they’re earning acclaim from mainstream car enthusiasts. Motor Trend even named Chevrolet’s Bolt the 2017 Car of the Year.

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s “Plugging In” report estimates that Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Erie, and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania combined could see 47,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

But 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.

“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,” Miller said.

“When I pledged that Pittsburgh would stay in the Paris Climate Agreement, I knew that we would need to deploy new technologies to meet our goals,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “Our city has a proud industrial past, but we must improve our air quality and prevent climate change to create a sustainable future for our residents. Electric vehicles are an important component to achieving these goals.”

“The world is getting ready to embrace electric cars and Erie should be right at the front. It’s the right decision for our health and the health of future generations. With a little investment in our infrastructure, we can make it a lot easier for families in Erie to make the switch.” Stated State Representative Pat Harkins.

“The fully realized electric car is changing everything from our homes to highways to our parking lots at work and wherever we drive to,” said state Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery. “We must really pivot now and look for the best practices in public infrastructure and planning to accommodate these cars, which will become ubiquitous in the near future.”

“I thank PennEnvironment for writing this detailed report, which provides a solid road map to help public officials navigate the future of services and considerations for electric cars,” he added. “No longer a concept, these new cars will change much throughout our municipalities, counties, and along state and federal highways.”

“Penn Environment has done an excellent job highlighting the opportunity that transportation electrification provides for both our economy and the environment,” said Tom Bonner, manager of state government affairs for PECO. “At PECO, we believe electric vehicles are an important part of our region and state’s future and look forward to helping move Pennsylvania to the forefront of EV adoption.”

“We need to be proactive now in building the energy infrastructure needed to support the fast approaching future of transportation,” said State Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-Bucks. The next generation of vehicles is already available, and is powered by clean, cost efficient energy. We have to recognize that the future is here, and we must I invest in its correlating infrastructure if we are to continue mobility as we know it in the next twenty years.”

“Promoting the use of electric vehicles means cleaner air, running vehicles on homegrown energy – including clean, renewable energy from solar and wind — and creating jobs in the clean-energy sector, positioning Pennsylvania for future growth. It truly is a win-win. I believe in this so much, my very first new car I bought just this past December is an American-made all-electric vehicle,” said State Rep. Chris Rabb.

“One of the biggest barriers to greater EV adoption is the lack of charging infrastructure. We’re excited for more tools to be available to cities and towns in Pennsylvania that will help to speed adoption of these clean vehicles,” said Katherine Stainken, Policy Director for Plug-In America.

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 administration is expected to propose new steps towards 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 David Masur.  “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.”