Many American cities were designed around the use of cars; what could the future of cities look like as traditional cars are replaced with new forms of transportation such as electric vehicles? As electric vehicles increase in prominence so will publicly available charging stations, undoubtedly having an impact on land use.
Electric vehicles are commonly seen as a more environmentally beneficial manner of transportation relative to traditional, greenhouse-gas emitting vehicles. While they have yet to grab a majority share of usage within the United States, awareness and use is increasing, with companies such as Tesla contributing towards greater relevance. In 2018, electric vehicles accounted for 2 percent of all vehicle shares, nearly doubled that in 2017.
According to the United States Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, owners of electric vehicles do more than 80 percent of their charging at home, yet the number of electric vehicle charging stations is growing. As of June 2019, Tesla alone has installed over 1,500 electric vehicle charging stations called, ‘Supercharger Stations’ across the globe. Tesla notes that installing stations in urban areas is a priority; these stations are placed near grocery stores, downtown districts, and shopping centers to maximize convenience.
The applicability and flexibility relative to traditional gas stations is important when considering the impacts of electric vehicle charging stations on land use. Charging stations can mimic the layout of traditional gas stations but be installed as single charging ports, making them highly flexible in terms of where they can be located. Early in summer 2019, the Department of Transportation in New York City announced plans to build 100 curbside charging ports across the city, which are designed to occupy two parking spaces, with the ability to charge two vehicles at the same time.
The flexibility to install curbside could lead to more charging stations in more diverse locations. Since they do not require entire plots of land for the large underground tankers that gas station requires, charging stations can be placed in existing parking lots or on existing sidewalks. Tesla has installed large electric charging stations that also mimic current gas stations, however.
Cities that choose to install publicly available charging stations have decisions to make, including about location and service fees. In Farmington, New Mexico, for example, the city has proposed constructing additional stations that range from no cost to $1.50 per hour.
Publicly available stations are dedicating space for parked vehicles for multiple hours throughout the day. A typical electric car can take up to eight hours to fully charge, and while this may not be the norm for public usage, this could lead to increased demand on parking facilities as otherwise available parking spots are absorbed by charging vehicles.
Cities that install stations like those in New York will need to plan streetscapes and account for transportation patterns, as curbside stations will mean parked vehicles in the curb lane for multiple hours a day. Whether new parking spots for charging will be regulated and charged the same as existing city parking is one question to consider.
Another land use concern comes into play on a larger scale, when considering long-distance journeys in electric vehicles. Most electric vehicles can only travel about 100 miles on a single charge, leading to anxiety for drivers who wish to travel but are unsure about where and when the next charging station will be. If electric vehicles are to continue gaining in usage, charging stations in rural areas and in between cities must be supplied.
The state of Michigan is working to pass new legislation that would create one of the first statewide electric-vehicle charging station initiatives. The legislation contains four bills to do so: the first establishes a counsel of experts on energy, technology and transportation under the Michigan Department of Transportation to decide where to build station;, the second and third allows state parks to install and lease space for stations; and the fourth provides tax incentives for those who install them.
For the time being, charging electric vehicles at one’s own residence is the most popular method. But this misses a large segment of the population who may wish to consider owning an electric vehicle–renters. Renters who may or may not have access to a garage or consistent parking spot may lack the available infrastructure or access to charge their vehicle.
In the spring of 2019, legislation was introduced from the United States Energy and Commerce Committee entitled the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, with the goal to improve sustainability and resiliency against climate change across the country. One provision within this act would require the U.S. Department of Energy to submit a building code proposal mandating that every new home have an electric-vehicle charging station. This would undoubtedly drive up construction costs, consequentially driving up housing costs and thus pricing out many potential home buyers, specifically in lower income areas.
This sort of technology should be a market-driven feature and kept voluntary. As such, it could also be an amenity that helps stand out from competition in the housing marketplace and help garner higher rents or lease-ups Installing a charging station also earns points under sustainable housing rating awards like the National Green Building Standard.
Post courtesy of Nick Julian, Program Manager of Land Use at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in Washington, D.C.