Ten states from Massachusetts to Maryland are joining forces to promote electric vehicles.
The Northeast Electric Vehicle Network announced Wednesday it will work to help plan and install charging stations throughout the region as well as attract private investment in clean vehicle infrastructure.
Among the things network members will work on: the location of charging stations. Placing charging stations at commuter rail stations, for example, would allow commuters to park and plug, said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.
“You can have almost a zero emissions experience if you drive your electric vehicle to a train station and plug in while you go into town from there,” Arroyo said.
The network also will look into making sure car owners can upgrade the plugs in their garage with ease and will tackle other permitting issues, said Colin O’Mara, Delaware’s secretary of Energy and Environment.
O’Mara said the network’s goal is to “create the Northeast as the epicenter” of the electric vehicle industry by sharing what has worked and what hasn’t.
Environmentalists and others are looking to electric vehicles to help cut pollution because about 30 percent of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, which includes highway vehicles as well as airplanes, trains and shipping.
The 10 states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Maine is participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative that is collaborating with the new network, but is not part of the network, said Chris Coil, a spokesman for the Georgetown Climate Center, which is helping coordinate the initiatives.
President Barack Obama has called for 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on the road nationwide by 2015, and the network hopes to account for 200,000 of those vehicles. The network is being supported by a nearly $1 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority.
Marc Geller is co-founder of Plug In America, an electric vehicle advocacy group. He said the network is one of a number of regional initiatives nationwide working to develop simple, clear guidelines for installing public infrastructure.
Once that’s done, Geller said states can “turn to the real question of what can we do to get the public infrastructure in the ground as quickly as the cars arrive.”
Geller said it was important to keep the needs of the car buyer and user in mind, noting that 90 percent of charging by electric vehicle owners occurs at home. Public charging stations could give electric car owners the confidence to venture further from home and educate others about the technology, he said.
“For many people, the public charging infrastructure will be an opportunity to see electric cars out in the wild, so to speak,” Geller said.
Mike Tinskey, associate director of global electric vehicle infrastructure for Ford, said car manufacturers have agreed on a standard plug for all electric vehicles. The only difference now is the speed of the charging stations.
Tinskey said faster stations that can charge a car in 15 minutes are bigger and about 10 times as expensive as slower charging stations that can take about three or four hours. Ford, which has launched an electric van and plans to launch an electric Focus car later this year, believes the majority of electric vehicles that will be sold will be plug-in hybrids and fueling stations of the future will have gas pumps and faster charging stations.
Nationwide there are about 3,000 slower chargers, and the number of those charging stations is expected to rise to about 12,000 next year, Tinskey said.
“If you’re going to spend a couple of hours at a store or your work place, those kind of chargers make more sense,” Tinskey said. “They’ll be deciding what makes the most sense.”