Courtesy of Pepco
Courtesy of Pepco

Celebrating Earth Day reminds us all to be good environmental stewards. At Pepco, we never stop looking for ways to lead our community toward a cleaner and brighter energy future. This year, Pepco aims to expand access to electric transportation through its proposal to boost electric mass transit and ride share options and tackle some of challenges surrounding individual electric vehicle (EV) ownership.

Not that long ago, owning an electric vehicle (EV) meant a hefty price tag and a long waiting list. Today, EVs are affordable and boast a growing battery life making them more accessible and practical than ever. Most major U.S. car manufacturers offer or plan to offer an EV model to customers; prices for a new EV start as low as $23,000 before state and federal subsidies that can reduce the purchase price by several thousand dollars, and lease payments start around $69/month. An increasing number of EV’s in the used car marketplace are getting the attention of consumers as well.

Like most new technologies, early adopters help prove a market need and drive down costs. Any market savvy observer would scan the EV marketplace and predict the industry is poised for huge success. So why are we not seeing more widespread adoption? Why does it feel like EVs are for the elite, ultra-dedicated consumer?

Like most cities across the U.S., the majority of District of Columbia residents live in multi-family dwellings; and chances are, if you’re not in an apartment, you live in one of the city’s row houses. For these residents, EV ownership isn’t as simple as buying the car and installing a charger in the driveway.

No, for these residents EV ownership comes with a lot of questions. Where will I charge my car? How long will it take? How much will it cost? Can I trust the company selling me the electricity? Will the charging stations actually work and be reliable?

If you’re one of these District residents, it’s likely that these questions will dissuade you from an EV purchase despite your desire and ability to own a clean electric vehicle. This is the single greatest barrier for widespread EV adoption.
Survey data suggests that most District residents would consider owning an EV and the same number would like to see more EV ride sharing and mass transit options. With multi-family dwelling development on the rise, how can the District accommodate EV ownership and bring EV benefits like reduced pollution and traffic noise to its residents?

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is desperately needed across the District. To date, private companies have installed chargers in places like Georgetown, Friendship Heights, and Cleveland Park. For EV adoption in the District to really take off, dozens of charging stations are needed – in all Wards. Fast chargers allowing EV owners to reach a full charge in under 30 minutes will be critical if we want people to think of a public charging station as a practical alternative to the driveway charger. Electrification of mass transit like buses will be equally important for District residents. 
Managing a network of charging stations is a lot like managing a utility’s energy system. All the same operational factors are involved: safety, reliability, and equitable access and delivery. Most important, utilities are regulated so that consumers are guaranteed safe, reliable electricity at a fair price. Many industry experts think that utilities are best positioned to provide the charging infrastructure needed for broad EV adoption.

“As demand for EVs continues to grow, local electric companies, such as Pepco, will play a critical role in making necessary investments to deploy, own, and operate charging infrastructure for the benefit of customers,” said Edison Electric Institute Executive Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs Brian Wolff. “Investing in EV infrastructure is a win for customers, the economy, and our environment.”

In the District, Pepco agrees and is currently waiting to hear the decision on its EV infrastructure proposal to the District of Columbia’s Public Service Commission. The proposal lays out a detailed plan to deliver up to 35 charging stations across all eight Wards; 20 of the proposed charging stations would be the much needed “fast chargers.” Pepco’s proposal features partnerships with the District Department of Transportation, Uber, and Tesla ensuring that rideshare and mass transit entities won’t be left out of the equation.

Bringing this positive change to District residents won’t be easy, but thanks to Mayor Bowser’s leadership and the Council’s work to enact ambitious clean energy legislation that supports transportation electrification, the District is poised to be a leader in clean energy transportation.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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