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Smart cities from Miami to Seattle and everywhere in between are installing commercial EV charging stations in a variety of places, such as retail plazas, public parking lots, parks, airports, and more Smart city initiatives also include partnering with multi-family building owners to ensure charging stations are being built in high-density residential areas. The City of Los Angeles, which has led the country in EV charging for cities, recently celebrated the installation of their 10,000th commercial charger.

Smart cities are moving fast to install commercial electric vehicle charging stations for a handful of benefits:

• helping achieve cities’ sustainability goals

• generating municipal revenue

• drawing new visitors (often with high spending power)

• capitalizing on financing incentives from utility, state, and federal programs

Here’s a closer look at each of these benefits and how cities are making the most of them.

What Kind of EV Charging Is Best for Cities?

Before reviewing the benefits it’s helpful to understand what types of chargers are available and the needs they best serve. Commercial chargers come in both Level 2 and Level 3 (Level 1 is exclusive to home charging). Level 2 chargers like the JuiceBox Pro 40 use 240V alternating current outlets and replenish 12-60 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 2 chargers also come both “smart” and standard. For city governments, building a network of exclusively smart chargers for electric vehicles is critical for success.

Only smart chargers combine tariff information with plug demand to keep energy costs down. Smart chargers also give system administrators access to cloud-based platforms like JuiceNet Enterprise, which simplify reporting and budgeting while giving administrators control of their stations in real-time. Only smart chargers let their owners participate in revenue-generating demand response events.

Level 3 chargers like the JuicePump 175kW use direct current instead of alternating current, allowing them to work 8-16 times faster than Level 2 chargers. When EV drivers are looking for a nearly complete charge, quickly, Level 3 chargers are the best fit. They can be placed in more remote locations—such as gas stations—while still offering value.

Achieving Sustainability Goals

Many cities’ sustainability goals include EV adoption targets. For example, the City of Los Angeles aims to increase the percentage of ZEVs to 25% by 2025, 80% by 2035, and 100% by 2050. Austin’s Climate Equity Plan hopes to ensure “40% of total vehicle miles traveled in Austin are electrified” by 2030.

These targets can only be achieved by lowering EV ownership barriers for drivers. State and national rebates and tax credits for EV buyers lower the purchasing price barrier for EVS. But that still leaves access to affordable and convenient charging, which McKinsey found was the third most cited barrier to purchase, after price and range. This is where city governments have a large part to play.

Especially in denser residential areas, residents are far more reliant on public charging. Even in LA, which leads the country in commercial charger installations, some three-mile square dense residential areas still have just six or fewer commercial chargers available.

City-funded projects like Watts Rising in LA and SmartLights in Oakland are working to overcome this by installing commercial chargers in places like retail plazas and parking garages.

EV charging also helps cities meet sustainability goals by reducing carbon emissions and hitting air quality targets. EVs emit up to 67% less CO2 than gas-powered cars. Even Denver, which aims to reduce emissions 40% by 2025, could reduce C02 emissions 15% just by moving all gas-powered cars to electric.

Attracting Visitors

Commercial chargers are an excellent way to attract visitors choosing between two cities offering similar attractions (like hot springs, hikes, and ski resorts), or trying to choose among different attractions. They also help draw EV drivers who live in small towns between two larger cities when considering where to go for routine amenities like dentists, fitness facilities and classes.

And because EV drivers have above average spending power, EV charging for cities can serve as an especially valuable economic development tool. This was Ironwood, Michigan’s approach, a ski town of just under 5,000 between Minneapolis and Marquette. Recognizing their strategic placement—and the lack of nearby commercial chargers—Ironwood’s community development director installed a two-outlet electric car commercial charger in the city square, walking distance to all the local businesses.

A Meaningful Revenue Stream

Only 64% of Americans own their homes, and with states like New York and California pushing hard to completely phase out the sale of new gas cars, many new EV drivers won’t have their own garage to charge in. Some will still have access to home charging through parking lot spaces, but plenty will be without.

Paid public charging will be essential for these drivers, and convenience will be king. To prepare for this rising demand smart cities are outfitting EV charging spaces in centrally located public parking lots, parks, even curbside parking. In return, city governments are opening up new revenue charging revenue streams.

Using Incentives to Build a Network of Commercial Charging Stations

Headlines like the California Energy Commission approving a $1.4B plan to hit its EV charging goals are a sign of changing times. Utility, state and federal incentives and rebates for the purchase and installation of commercial chargers all abound at the moment, sometimes covering the entire cost of charger deployment. Forward-thinking city and municipal governments have been capitalizing on these incentives to build out their own charging station network. Here are just a few examples of incentives available nationwide:

Utility

- Connexus in Minnesota offers up to $2,000 in rebates for Level 2 chargers

- Duquesne Light Company in Pennsylvania provides up to $32,000 in rebates on the installation costs of Level 2 commercial chargers
.

State

- Texas’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Program offers both rebates up to $25,000 for Level 2 commercial charger purchase and installation and grants for Level 3 commercial charger installation

- Washington DC offers a tax credit of 50% of the purchase and installation cost of a commercial charger, up to $10,000
.

Federal

- The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make $7.5B available to fund commercial charger installation across the country

- Localities can now tap the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, which received more than $12B in funding in 2020, for funds to install both Level 2 and Level 3 commercial chargers

Check out our online rebate checker to find an incentive program near you.

To learn more about our smart charging solutions for your city, contact us.