Below is another chapter of our free report Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Guidelines for Cities. This chapter covers 6 different roles cities can play to advance e-mobility.
Read on, but also spend a little time to get this report into the hands of policymakers in your city, county, and/or province.
There are numerous different ways municipalities can be involved in the transition to electric vehicles and installing EV infrastructure:
1. Champion: Installing charging infrastructure is a core part of building an EV ecosystem, but it is not the only part. Championing the low carbon economy and electric mobility are ways that city leaders can be especially helpful. This can be in the form of supportive public statements or events, policies to support and encourage entrepreneurs and the market, sending encouraging signals to government employees to help find creative solutions, rewarding and incentivizing EV driving, and generally creating an environment that is pro-EV.
Awareness raising: Educating the citizenry is vital. It is among the most important needs in today’s market. Many people are simply not aware of what electric mobility is, what it involves, the capabilities of the vehicles themselves, and why they are better (both for consumers and for society). City leaders have ideal platforms for raising awareness about e-mobility. Ways to do this include: public statements, media campaigns, public events, festivals, EV rallies, branding electric buses or the poles of charging stations, providing EV “one-stop shops” or information kiosks to answer residents’ and businesses’ EV questions.
Direct Incentives & Privileges: Municipal, as well as national governments, can offer a range of direct support to EV drivers which are very powerful and strongly correlated to EV utilization. They include driving and parking privileges for EVs (such as driving in bus lanes or reducing/eliminating parking fees), reducing or eliminating vehicle registration fees or road taxes, and more.
Purchasing power: Cities can lead by example and buy EVs for their own fleets too. Many cities are now buying electric transit buses, electric school buses, electric police cruisers and detective cars, electric garbage/refuse trucks, electric mail trucks, and other fleet vehicles. Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) often makes EVs more financially competitive for certain uses anyway.
Zoning & Building Codes: Regulating how land is used in a community is one of the most powerful tools that local government has. On the infrastructure side, you can use your zoning laws to allow extension of the electricity grid, installation of charging infrastructure, vehicle parking, and the creation of charging hubs. The building code can be used to permit charging points in existing construction and encourage or require it in new construction. On the driving side, over 200 cities across Europe have created low or zero emission zones to regulate the type of vehicles which can enter them.
Lobbying: Cities can also support each other by expressing a shared support for a national policy. For example, mayors can lobby the national government to push for low emissions zones, smog day regulations, or financial support for EV programs like exist in France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, among others.
Planning: The Norwegian EV Association, Norsk elbilforening, thinks creating an e-mobility strategic plan is one of the most important things a city can do. Having an e-mobility strategic plan is useful for putting the full picture of the city’s goals, objectives, policies, and efforts together, as well as aligning the various actors towards clear and shared objectives. An “ecosystem approach” is now widely seen as the most effective way to stimulate quicker EV adoption, and a plan is a good way to map that ecosystem.
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The remaining roles municipalities can play largely center around charging infrastructure:
2. Owner: The city can pay for new EV infrastructure out of its own budget and thereby own the infrastructure and the land it sits on. It can manage the infrastructure itself or develop an arrangement to entrust a Charging Point Operator (CPO) with all that responsibility. However, the city doesn’t need to go “all in.” It can also contribute some, but not all, of the cost of the infrastructure and be a partial owner.
3. Landowner/Lessor: The city can provide the land for EV charging infrastructure for free or it can lease the land. The city can use its leverage to require a certain standard of infrastructure, to set maximum pricing or use certain pricing models, to share or make public usage data, to include city branding, or to implement specific design requirements (see below). We recommend that the city require high quality station design, smart charging capability, and the sharing of usage data. Under a leasing agreement, we also recommend that that city not require the CPO to pay for the parking spaces, but only the land on which the charger itself sits. The parking spaces should remain public spaces, albeit for EVs which are charging at that time.
4. Operator: The municipality could also operate the charging infrastructure itself, though this is uncommon. When the chargers are networked (connected to an IT system), this is a much more complex task, so municipalities often work with a specialist CPO to manage these functions.
5. Legislator/Regulator: Depending on local laws, municipalities must also oversee and regulate the energy infrastructure in their jurisdiction. They are responsible for the zoning and land-use code which allows certain actions in certain places, and enforcement of those rules. They should consider where EV infrastructure fits into the city code, consider making changes to the building code to permit infrastructure in existing buildings, etc.
6. Infrastructure for use of municipal government fleet: Many municipalities are already converting their fleets to electric, from postal to police vehicles, and will need their own infrastructure to charge them. Here, the infrastructure may be in depots or private parking garages, and not available to the general public. In this case, the chargers could be AC wallbox chargers, not the more highly priced fast chargers. This situation – where tracking energy usage by individual user may not be necessary – is also the only case where we see it being reasonable to have un-networked charging infrastructure.
There are thus many roles that a municipality can play in building the EV ecosystem and charging infrastructure. A lot depends on the level of decentralization and specific powers of the municipal level of government in a country. Laws and other actors (like DSOs) may enable or prohibit certain types of support. These are varied and must be understood on a region by region basis.
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