How local leaders can make their communities more EV-friendly

While much of the EV policy conversation focuses on state legislatures and public utility commissions, local government has an important role to play too. Cities and counties are where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, and local policies can go a long way towards increasing EV adoption.

In last November’s midterm elections, thousands of new mayors, county executives, councilmembers and commissioners were elected to local office. As these newly-minted local leaders begin serving their terms, here are eight actionable, concrete steps they can take to accelerate EV adoption in their jurisdictions.

Lead by example

Fleets: Establish targets to replace government fleet vehicles with EVs, starting with widely available light-duty passenger EVs and electric transit buses. Set future targets for medium- and heavy-duty EVs as they become more widely commercially available.

Existing facilities: Install charging stations at government-owned facilities such as public parking garages, office buildings, libraries, schools, parks and other destinations.

Capital projects: Require new government capital projects to include “EV ready” spaces with pre-installed conduit and the 240-volt, 30-amp wiring needed for charging stations. Why? It’s measurably less expensive to wire parking spaces during construction than to retrofit them afterwards. Then, once funding becomes available to purchase the charging stations, little or no additional expense will be needed.

Grants: Pursue grant opportunities that offer significant subsidies or rebates for EVs and EV charging stations. Local governments are tax-exempt and don’t benefit from tax credits, but free money always helps. For instance, states and tribal nations can allocate much of their $2.9-billion share of the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” settlement towards grants for EV charging stations, electric school and transit buses and freight trucks. These are low-hanging fruits for local governments to pursue.

Legislate

New construction: Enact ordinances and building codes that require EV-ready spaces in new construction. Different jurisdictions take different approaches, but generally they require single-family homes and some portion of parking spaces at multi-family and commercial properties to be EV-ready. Examples are found across the country and include Atlanta, Denver, New York City, San Francisco, and Maryland’s Howard County.

Tax credits: Enact a property tax credit so property owners can receive a one-time credit for the costs of charging station purchase and installation. Tax credits can be capped at different dollar amounts depending on the station type (e.g. Level 2 or DC Fast Charge) and should be broad enough to apply to both purchase and installation costs.

Driver incentives: Offer incentives for EV drivers, for instance by waiving the entry fee at county parks or by allowing EVs to receive an hour of free parking in municipal lots. Driver incentives don’t have to cost the government a lot of money. Small but noticeable incentives can have an outsized impact in making a community more EV-friendly.

Collaborate

Regional planning: Establish a plan for priority charging routes and destinations that is informed by local input and implemented in coordination with neighboring jurisdictions. Local government plans should align where possible with federal and regional routes such as Alternative Fuel Vehicle Corridors and should complement other investments by state agencies, Electrify America and other entities.

By putting these recommendations into action, local leaders will do more than make their communities more EV-friendly; they will also make them more competitive when it comes to attracting jobs and businesses for which EV charging is no longer an amenity but an expectation.

This article appeared in Charged Issue 42 – March/April 2019Subscribe now.