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Energy & Environment

Experts: More NC Charging Stations Needed For Electric Cars

082619 Vehicle Charging stations.jpg
David Boraks
Electric vehicle charging stations at the city-county parking deck in Charlotte.

How do we get more electric vehicles on the road in North Carolina and the U.S.? Increasing the number of public charging stations and overcoming consumer anxiety about mileage are key steps, according to a pair of Duke University experts.

Jennifer Weiss and Timothy Johnson briefed reporters Wednesday on the status of electric vehicles and President Joe Biden's $174 billion electric vehicle infrastructure plan introduced last month. Electric vehicles, which have zero-carbon tailpipe emissions, are part of Biden's plan to address climate change.

Weiss, a senior associate at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, said charging stations are becoming easier to find along major highways, like I-95, I-40 and I-85.

"What we're not seeing as much of, and what I'd love to see more investment into, is the small cities and towns throughout the state and throughout any rural area that (are) not getting the attention," Weiss said. "Because until we can do that, we are not going to get the mass acceptance of EVs that we want to get to."

Weiss said the goal should be to "give the end-user the comfort and the feeling that they are going to be able to charge wherever they need to, just like we can go to a gas station today."

More employers are adding charging stations at workplaces, and retailers also are beginning to see charging stations as a way to lure customers. A fast-charging station can take 15 to 30 minutes for a full charge.

"And so these retailers are excited to install charging equipment, because the longer that someone has to stay there to charge, the longer they're going to wander through their store, and hopefully buy more," Weiss said.

But it's not just a matter of adding infrastructure, said Johnson, who specializes in energy and the environment. It's also about educating drivers to think about their daily commutes, not long trips, which may cause "range anxiety."

Johnson said people may think, "I'm gonna have to limit how I drive, where I drive. Maybe once a year, I take a road trip across country, and therefore I need a vehicle that's going to be able to go several hundred miles on a charge, or on a refueling," he said.

"But that doesn't reflect everyday driving," Johnson said. "The average commute in the U.S. is well, well below that."

Johnson also noted that this week's announcement by Ford that it's introducing an electric F-150 pickup could help popularize the technology. President Biden visited a plant in Michigan on Tuesday where he took one for a spin.

"This is a mainstream, all-American vehicle, a pickup truck, iconic," Johnson said. "Starting there, you know, normalizing it — this wasn't designed as an electric vehicle — I think that that'll help with acceptance."

Weiss also said policymakers need to think about how to expand the use of commercial electric vehicles, such as trucks and heavy equipment.

Biden's electric vehicle plan includes tax credits as well as money for charging stations, electric buses and school buses, among other things. It's facing opposition from Republicans who say it's too expensive.

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