Want more electric cars on your streets? 3 things drivers need from you

Wed, 2016-02-17 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

More than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles. Getting more people to switch to electric cars can help you make progress toward your climate goals — especially if the electricity that powers those cars comes from clean, renewable sources.

But how do you get people to make the switch? Council Lead Partner Schneider Electric recently posted the experience of a driver who has used an electric vehicle for the past two years.

Even though these are the experiences of only one driver, they provide valuable insights. The problems he encountered may help you develop incentives and programs to encourage electric vehicle usage. As I read through, I noticed at least three things drivers need from their cities to help them make the transition. Can you put these three in place for your city? — Kevin Ebi

1. They want places to plug in (besides just at home)
Don’t assume electric vehicle (EV) owners want to recharge at home. In fact, Erik Nelsen only decided to get an EV after it was clear he wouldn’t have to do so. He was encouraged by the number of chargers at his workplace — chargers that refuel his car with free solar power during the day while he work.

Between the chargers at his office and those elsewhere in the city (such as shopping centers) and other places, he rarely needs to charge the car at home. At home charging is so rare he did not bother to install a dedicated vehicle charger in his garage.

2. They want financial incentives
In many ways, electric vehicles are still relatively new technology and drivers see them as risky investments. How long will the batteries last? Do they lose resale value faster than conventional vehicles? Financial incentives can eliminate some of that risk, giving drivers one less reason to say “No.”

For Nelsen, a low-cost lease eliminated much of his risk, but governments can provide financial incentives and tax breaks that can help tip the balance toward electric vehicles. And the incentives don’t have to be limited to the purchase price. The Sierra Club reports that California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are making EVs more cost effective by waiving some fees and tolls.

3. They want other modes of transportation
Electric vehicles have a limited range — most drivers need to stay within about 25 miles of home — and they can’t tow a boat. For both reasons, Nelsen kept his gas-guzzling truck, though he rarely drives it.

Towing a boat is a special case, of course, but aside from that, Nelsen found the electric vehicle’s range was sufficient for about 90% of his trips. To allow your citizens to make a complete switch to electric vehicles, you may want to support on-demand car-sharing services, such as Car2Go from Council Lead Partner Daimler. Giving them easy access to gas-powered vehicles helps eliminate the urge to hold onto their conventional cars just in case.

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