When Andrew Mumford, of Springfield, was shopping for a new vehicle in 2017 he wanted something that was environmentally friendly. He was interested in an electric vehicle, but he wasn’t confident that he would always have access to a charger, especially on longer trips around the region. 
“I don’t remember, at the time, feeling confident in a vehicle that was fully electric,” Mumford said. 
Instead, he bought a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius, which he charges at his home and at Hanover-based Hypertherm, where he works. That allows him to commute entirely on electric power, while having gas as a backup for longer trips. Today, with a charger available at work and longer ranges available on new electric vehicles (EVs), Mumford says he’d likely go fully electric if he were shopping for a new car.
“I would feel more confident today,” he said. 
In 2021, there were only 4,000 EVs registered in New Hampshire, out of approximately 460,000 registered vehicles. That’s less than 1 percent. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly clear that EVs are the way of the future. By 2030, 10% of the vehicles on American roads will likely be EVs, according to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). To support them, the country will need 12.9 million charging stations, according to EEI. Building that infrastructure so rapidly is challenging, especially for rural communities. 
“EV charging infrastructure is so critical, as it will help ensure that we see charging investments in rural and urban communities alike to guide equitable access,” a spokesperson for the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) said. 
More:Portsmouth water main project could lead to eminent domain in Durham for land easement
In order for a state like New Hampshire to have widespread adoption of EVs, people need to feel confident that they’ll never be left without a charge, said Ed Fanjoy, director of communications for the New England Electric Auto Association.
Last February, the federal DOT released a report on planning and funding electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas. The report found that there’s “no one-size-fits-all approach” for rural regions, which have unique challenges like longer distances to cover and sometimes outdated electrical grid infrastructure. 
However, it’s clear that government, utility companies, car manufacturers and private businesses will all play a role in the adoption of EV infrastructure, Fanjoy said. 
Christopher Bellis, who owns the Cranmore Inn in North Conway with his husband, installed a charger in 2017. The installation cost about $5,000, he said, but grants from Tesla and his utility company covered 95% of the cost. 
“We thought it’s the wave of the future, we’ll get ahead of it, and we might get a few guests,” Bellis said. 
EV charging stations allow rural businesses to attract travelers and tourists, said the DOT spokesperson. They can also create a “ripple effect” for the local economy, when people shop or dine out while their vehicles charge. 
More:Rebekah Krieger to offer French-inspired menu at Two Bees Café + Patisserie in Dover
The city of Portsmouth currently has seven plug-in spots available to the public, said Ben Fletcher, parking division director for the city. Over the past three years, the average daily number of transactions has increased at the stations. Since the chargers are in public parking areas, it’s important that the chargers serve not only the needs of drivers, but also the economic needs of the community, Fletcher said. For that reason, it’s likely the city will stick with level 2 chargers, rather than faster-charging level 3 chargers, he added. 
“If I want the four hours of charge, I’ll go into the business that the [parking] lot is designed to serve,” Fletcher said. “You want to encourage the behavior that you’re looking for within a city.”
The motivation for chargers isn’t purely economic. As a business owner in the White Mountain region, with its bustling eco-tourism economy, Bellis said promoting environmental stewardship is a priority. The charger at the Cranmore Inn is open to the public from 9-5, and reserved for guests at night. Eventually, Bellis would like to install a second charger. 
Hypertherm, the Hanover-based company where Mumford charges his vehicle, also installed charging stations for the environmental benefit, said Robin H. Tindall, environmental stewardship team leader.
In 2010, the company reviewed environmental and sustainability goals. It became clear that commuting had a major impact on the carbon footprint of the company. Hypertherm implemented initiatives like carpools, van shares and payments for people who bike or walk to work. The company also installed charging stations. Today, it has seven charging stations at its locations in Hanover and Lebanon, with plans to add more, Tindall said. Unlike many charging stations, those at Hypertherm are free for associates to use. 
“They’re not designed to fully charge a vehicle, but more to address range anxiety,” Tindall said. “We wouldn’t want someone to not get an EV because they don’t have enough charge to get to and from work.”
Employees have told Tindall that they feel more comfortable purchasing an EV knowing they can charge during the day. Hypertherm even has an app where people can book their charging time and see available chargers. 
While small businesses play a role in EV infrastructure, it’s critical that municipalities and utility companies incentivize the installation of chargers, Fanjoy said. New Hampshire Electric Co-op currently offers incentives of up to $5,000 per commercial property that installs chargers. 
The state is also gearing up for major investment in charging stations. New Hampshire received a settlement from Volkswagen’s violation of the Clean Air Act, which includes $4.6 million to be used specifically for supporting EV charging infrastructure. In addition, the state will receive more than $17 million in funds over five years from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI), a program funded by Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed one year ago.
Although the pools of funding are separate, both aim to bolster charging along travel corridors throughout the state. The model is designed to reduce range anxiety for both short and long trips, said Michael Mozer, NEVI program leader for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT).
Last month, Governor Chris Sununu announced the first grant from the Volkswagen-funded program, to The Errol General Store on Route 16 in the North Country town of Errol. The state’s plan for NEVI funding was approved in September. The plan identified 17 locations for chargers throughout the state, but it’s unclear whether the funding will be enough to install chargers at all 17 due to rising costs and inflation, Mozer said. According to the plan, all funded EV charging stations will be available for public use by 2026. 
While the state is kick-starting investment, ultimately Mozer believes charging stations will be run by private businesses. 
“NHDOT isn’t interested in owning and maintaining EV infrastructure,” he said. “We view the NEVI formula program as a starting point for the private sector to take over and determine what is needed and where, similar to how gas stations are located and built currently.”
One challenge with such a fast rollout is that electrical vehicle charging stations are unregulated and often unreliable. The industry is still in its infancy, Fanjoy said. 
“It’s like the computer industry in the 1980s,” he said. “There’s a ton of manufacturers and not a lot of regulation.”
A survey of EV drivers by Plug In America found that 34% said that broken chargers and chargers too far apart were a “moderate concern.” Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen established in response to the violation of the Clean Air Act and tasked with installing charging stations, has been riddled with problems, Fanjoy said. A study published this year out of the University of California found that chargers (many installed by Electrify America) were often broken or had cords that were too short. Overall, only 72.5% the chargers surveyed were functional.
New charging stations funded by the Volkswagen settlement and the NEVI program are required to be operational for at least five years, and meet minimum up-time requirements, Mozer said. The state is also working with utilities to ensure that locations for charging stations will work with existing utility infrastructure.
In addition, building out EV infrastructure in New Hampshire also involves training a workforce equipped to service these vehicles, and upgrading utilities where needed, Mozer said. 
Preparing for a future of electric vehicles is a big job, but throughout the state more companies, municipalities and stage agencies are preparing for that reality, which seems inevitable. 
“You do yourself a disservice if you’re not ready for it,” Fletcher said. 
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *