Electric vehicles, or EVs, continue to take off in popularity nationwide and in Pennsylvania, as drivers confront higher gas prices and worry about climate change.
Yet, many motorists are still becoming familiar with the technology and the charging network. Natasha Fackler and Colton Brown from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation gave a breakdown of the different types of vehicles and chargers, incentives available to help purchasers, and efforts to improve the national network of charging stations along major highways during the Center for Energy Policy and Management’s most recent webinar, “Plugging In: EVs and the Charging Network”.
“Electric vehicle sales are rapidly increasing, said Brown, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Coordinator for PennDOT. “This year they will reach about 4 percent of market share” in the state, up from less than 1 percent in 2017. Brown first explained the three main types of vehicles – hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and battery electric, and how they differ in design, range, and charging capability. He also went over the three types of chargers, including the Level 2 charger, which is the most popular home charging method that runs on a 240-volt outlet and enables EV owners to charge overnight. Level 3 DC fast chargers are most often seen along highways and in commercial settings and enable a full charge in under 30 minutes.
Brown explained that some EVs are meant for commuting around town with a limited range, while an increasing number of newer models can travel more than 200 miles on a full charge. However, he noted that range can be affected by weather, the use of the heat or air conditioning, as well as the load being carried.
Range is often a concern of those considering an EV. Fackler, the Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator to advise the Governor’s Office and PennDOT, discussed federal efforts to improve the nation’s charging network along major highways, or “alternative fuel corridors.” The federal bipartisan infrastructure law provides $7.5 for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program for states to build out their networks, and Pennsylvania will be getting $171.5 million of that.
Fackler, who is the state’s chief point of contact for the program, explained that the state has developed an EV Mobility Plan that will add about 5,000 new fast-charging EV ports at 2,000 sites by 2028 and ensure a charger is available every 50 miles or less. The state’s 1,800 miles of interstates are targeted, including I-70 and I-79. Pennsylvania presently has more than 2,400 public plugs and 1,200 locations, which can be found at penndot.pa.gov/ev.
Brown’s presentation also went into details of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s initiative to promote EV purchase and use, including rebates for installing public EV chargers, and federal tax credits available for those who purchase EVs.
While EVs cost more to purchase than gas-fueled vehicles, the credits help offset that, and they have been found to be more cost-effective, saving money in fuel and repair costs. They also have environmental benefits. Brown noted that the majority of the state’s electricity is generated from nuclear and natural gas power, and “just charging off the grid is a two-thirds or more related reduction in emissions intensity.” EVs also cause no noise pollution.
With the increasing efficiency of EVs and the improvements to the charging networks, it is likely that more motorists will consider them for their next vehicle purchase.