Los Angeles makes it easier to find an EV charger. Here’s their plan to close the ‘charging gap’.

In a quest to make finding a charger easier electric vehicle For motorists, the city of Los Angeles is taking a new approach: installing EV chargers on light poles on city streets, because the electrical infrastructure is already there.

“At most, we’ll have to replace fuses or do structural renovations so we can fix these,” said Miguel Sangalang, director of the Bureau of Street Lighting in Los Angeles. “But there’s nothing like changing the entire line or improving the electrical system itself.”

Los Angeles has installed 725 light pole chargers so far, and Sangalang says the street lighting system can support another 3,000 or 4,000.

And that is in contrast to commercial companies installing chargers in affluent parts of the city, the city’s mission is to select locations that are more inclusive.

“We want to go to places where commercial actors might not necessarily want to go first,” Sangalang said. “We will be that public option where people can access it for everyone.”

The driving need

Last year, Americans bought about 1.4 million electric vehicles – a new record, according to the Argonne National Laboratory. Although widespread adoption of EVs is a crucial tool in the fight against climate changeRenewable energy experts worry that a lack of public charging options will drive drivers away from electric vehicles and toward gas-powered vehicles.

To keep pace with growing electric car sales, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the United States will need 1.2 million publicly accessible chargers by 2030, in addition to all the private chargers at homes and offices. Currently, the US has over 160,000 public chargers everywhere. the country.

What’s happening in LA is an example of the kind of solutions, big and small, that will be needed to achieve those goals.

‘The slower we go, the bigger the consequences of climate change that we’re going to see,” said Melissa Lott, a clean energy researcher at Columbia University. ‘And that means direct consequences for our economy, but also for our health.’

Building a national network

Two years ago, federal lawmakers approved $5 billion to build a national network of 500,000 electric charging ports by 2030. The goal is to install a public charging facility approximately every 80 kilometers along highways.

Since the law was passed, 33 states have submitted proposals or awarded construction contracts to build the network, but so far only four new new charging stations have been put in the ground, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Lott said many different factors play a role in this.

“It’s going to be people installing home chargers and it’s going to be people in their businesses giving their employees places to charge that other people might have access to,” Lott said. “They will be gas stations that will become fuel stations for more than just gas, diesel and other types of fuels.”

Chargers can’t just go anywhere either. Lott said it’s like when cell phones first came out and service wasn’t as widespread. EV chargers too need a network to connect to.

“You have to pick certain places and make sure that the infrastructure behind them, all the things that are invisible to us every day, are actually there and ready to go,” she said. “That takes time, it takes permits, it takes all kinds of processes to get it approved, and there’s a lot of work, a lot of labor.”

Better maintenance

Another way to address the charging gap is through better maintenance of existing public chargers. Like most technology, chargers require regular maintenance and repairs.

“[If] the charger you thought you were going to use to refuel your vehicle isn’t actually working… that’s a huge problem,” says Walter Thorn, senior vice president of product for a repair company called ChargerHelp.

ChargerHelp trains technicians to service a variety of charging equipment operated by many different charger companies in 17 states.

As part of its service, ChargerHelp checks chargers on site and often reports to a charging company about an issue the owner was unaware of. The company says it serviced 18,000 chargers last year.

The details of each service call are recorded in a central database, allowing technicians to learn from previous calls and reduce the number of trips required to keep a charger operational.

A recent JD Power survey found that 35% of EV drivers in the Miami-Port St. Lucie-Fort Lauderdale area reported visiting a charger where they couldn’t charge. In Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth, that number was 29%.

Another 2022 University of California Berkeley study found that 28% of public chargers in the San Francisco Bay Area were malfunctioning.

Last year, ChargerHelp worked with the federal government to develop a new standard that says chargers must work 97% of the time.

“Reliable charging infrastructure is a crucial part of a successful transition,” says Thorn.

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