Electrifying the transportation sector is a critical part of the strategy to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Increasing numbers of new electric vehicle models and historically high gasoline prices are driving a surge in EV sales in the U.S. Sales are expected to total about 700,000 in 2022, according to a forecast by market consultant AutoPacific. (1)

Progress is slower here in Minnesota. As of June 12, 2021, just 20,000 of the 1,830,000 vehicles in Minnesota were electric, either BEVS (12,191 battery electric vehicles, the majority of which are Teslas), or PHEVs (7809 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles). That’s a scant  1%. And three quarters of these vehicles are registered in but five metro area counties – Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Anoka, and Dakota.(2) The remainder of the state is a virtual electric vehicle desert.

Why fewer EVs in Minnesota? It’s complicated.

The scarcity of charging stations. That charming brownstone walk-up with hardwood floors and a French balcony? It looks not nearly as sweet with a yellow extension cord dangling out the window, snaked across the sidewalk and trickle-charging your EV, that is if you can find an on-street parking spot in extension cord range. And charging stations at existing multi-family residential buildings, destinations and workplaces remain few and far between, even more so in greater Minnesota. Further, significant gaps remain in the network of commercial charging stations (Level 3) needed for long distance EV travel. According to the Department of Energy, as of May 2019, there were only 10,860 such charging units nation-wide.(3) The European Union, with less than half the land area of the United States, has five times as many.

The durability of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and the high cost of new cars. The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads has been rising for decades as cars grow ever more durable – in 2021 it was 12.1 years. That’s not surprising, given that the average cost of a new car is $47,000 and rising, and demand exceeds supply. (4)

Range anxiety. Range is the all-important stat. Whether or not you make it to the next public charging spot or are stranded with a dead battery depends on it. The average range of an EV is just 225 miles. But electric vehicles rarely meet their projected range rating. And the cold winter weather we experience in Minnesota reduces that range, as does highway driving, when there is little regenerative braking to recharge the battery. To compensate for range reduction, look for a vehicle with twice your daily driving range, one with a heat pump that uses excess battery heat to warm the cabin. And keep your car in a garage and plugged in and preheated until you’re ready to leave.

Lack of incentives in Minnesota. The federal government offers a $7500 tax credit for the purchase of a new EV. (This incentive is no longer available for Tesla and GM models.) In California, add to that an additional $4500, and as much as $7000 for low income residents, plus a free pass for the HOV lanes, regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle. Alas, in Minnesota there are no such additional incentives available at this time.

Yet despite all these challenges, the popularity of EVs is increasing, and will continue to do so, as more choices become available and prices drop. Now is the time to provide charging stations for your residents!

A Level 1 charging, essentially a standard wall outlet, simply  doesn’t cut it. Think Level 2, the preferred method of EV charging at multi-family residential properties. The voltage connection is either 240 or 208, with a maximum load of 32A. Each charging station typically has two charging points so that it can serve two vehicles. Pay per use can be accomplished using a phone app.

The number of interior and exterior EV charging points will affect the size of the building’s electrical distribution system. This table indicates the maximum number of EV charging stations that can be connected to a dedicated panelboard:

Example: A place to start for a typical 60 unit multi-family project would be to include 6 EV stations/each with 2 charging points, requiring a dedicated 200A panel. Consider upsizing to a 400A panel to accommodate 12 future charging points. At minimum, provide the electrical service and rough-ins for a future charging station installation.

(1) https://www.autopacific.com/autopacific-insights/2022/2/24/autopacific-forecasts-around-700000-us-ev-sales-amidst-increasing-consumer-demand
(2) https://www.dot.state.mn.us/sustainability/electric-vehicle-dashboard.html
(3) https://afdc.energy.gov/files/u/publication/electric_vehicle_charging_infrastructure_trends_third_quarter_2021.pdf
(4) https://www.consumerreports.org/car-pricing-negotiation/average-new-car-price-all-time-high-a4060089312/

Author: Kent Simon 04/25/22

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