29 Jan 2010

Planning Begins for Electric Vehicles in DC

Nissan's EV, the Leaf, on display this past weekend at the Newseum. Photo by Sharee Lawler

DDOT recently announced a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas for installing a network of electric vehicle charging stations.  This is the first move towards envisioning a city-wide infrastructure for electric vehicles and follows the announcement last October that DC-based GreenlightAC would be installing its product, the ChargeBar, at 2101 L St, NW, late in 2010.  The deadline to respond to the RFI is February 25th.

With the RFI, DDOT is seeking feedback in five areas:

  1. How many chargers should be installed in the District within the next 1-5 years on public right of way to support future demand and purchases of electric vehicles in the Washington region?
  2. What methodology should be used to identify and prioritize charging locations?
  3. Please describe how they should best operate and interface with users including where plugs should be located, payment methodology and safety considerations?
  4. Who should maintain, own and operate the chargers?
  5. How should installation be tied in to existing infrastructure and street furniture in order to minimize visual and special footprint?

With cars like the Nissan Leaf coming late this year and the Chevrolet Volt rolling out in 2011, cities are working to figure out how to support the needs of residents switching from gas to electric power. In a neighborhood like Capitol Hill, with convenient access to interstate highways and close proximity to downtown, EVs could become very popular.  (Just imagine every Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid on your block transformed into a Leaf.)  With a range of 100 miles for the Leaf, I, for one, could probably go a couple of weeks on a single charge.

The District has already made plans for procurement and support of city-owned EVs.  According to City Renewed, the District announced a partnership with Nissan and AeroVironment in May to supply electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for the District car fleet.

I suppose it won’t be long before you can’t even hear the engine of that parking enforcement officer writing your expired meter ticket when you are only 10 feet away.

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4 responses to “Planning Begins for Electric Vehicles in DC”

  1. This is great, Sharee. Back when I wore suits to work, this was one of the issues, as part of a larger infrastructure question, that I worked on. Every time I sat down with an automotive company, a power company, or a “SmartGrid infrastructure expert” I’d ask them them questions related to the practicality of EV ownership in a city like DC and it was also one that they stumbled on. No one could say who should pay to install charging stations or how it works when you park on the street rather than in a driveway or garage.

    I’m not Ms. Green by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nice to know that there is finally a move to start thinking about real world barriers to implementation.

    • Sharee Lawler Sharee Lawler says:

      Nissan is working with their pilot cities now (all West Coast spots like Portland and San Diego, plus their HQ in Tennessee) to work on models for issues of location and who pays for the install. They’re expecting to roll out to the first cities in November, so we should see some implementation soon. To me, in the city it is less practical to have individual stations – which can run from $250-750 depending on voltage – and more for ones that are outdoor rated – when there are places with underutilized parking capacity on various days and times of day that could be used. There are some obvious spots, it just depends on convenience and power (voltage). For instance, I could see parking in the lot at NY Ave NW, just north of Chinatown, and plugging in to charge up while catching dinner and a movie. RFK and Nats stadium have tons of unused parking most of the time and are near metros. We’ve been talking about getting the Leaf for a while now, so I’ve clearly geeked out on this a bit.

  2. What’s the price point like Sharee? When should they be available nationally?

    • Sharee Lawler Sharee Lawler says:

      They’re quoting in the range of $25-30k. But the car will be loaded – nav, leather, etc. (no sunroof, though, because of its drag on mpg) – so it should have all the bells and whistles, and you get to choose from around 4 colors. The rep I spoke to was noncommittal about the Leaf’s nationwide roll out. With the 5 pilot cities starting in November, it could be mid-2011 before we see them on the east coast.

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