CEE leads planning for electric vehicle readiness to drive a growing market

Read the original post at https://www.mncee.org/blog/july-2018-(1)/cee%E2%80%99s-megan-hoye-e...

Gas-powered cars and trucks account for about a fifth of all harmful emissions in the U.S., with a typical passenger vehicle putting about 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide into our air each year. And to create all that pollution, last year American vehicles consumed about 390 million gallons of gasoline. That 2017 consumption total actually represents a slight decrease for the first time since 2012, thanks in part to higher gas prices and more fuel-efficient vehicles — including nearly 200,000 electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the U.S. last year.

As EVs continue to slowly penetrate the market in Minnesota and elsewhere, more information about product offerings and environmental impacts is important to help shape this emerging market and speed our conversion to cleaner, more sustainable transportation.

That's where CEE's Megan Hoye comes in.

Recently, Megan led a team of electrical vehicle experts from Minnesota and elsewhere in a working session at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) eLab Accelerator in Sundance, Utah.

The "Enhanced Minnesota EV Readiness" team was charged with developing a pilot concept to help increase the purchase and use of EVs in Minnesota, particularly among multifamily residents and mixed-use commercial tenants.  

RMI's annual "Accelerator" is an invitation-only meeting that brings together teams from across the country over a four-day period, to spark innovation around electricity use and to drive projects forward. This year, Megan's team focused on identifying local pilot opportunities for multifamily residents and commercial tenants, and on employing a scientific approach to set up piloting opportunities. As designed, the MN EV team left the gathering with a shared hypothesis and a loose set of strategies to test, as well as metrics to track value and impact over the next few years.

Megan's group believes that increasing the access to EVs and EV charging in a multifamily and mixed-use setting may help to increase the purchase and use of EVs. (The team likes to call this the "getting-butts-in-seats" approach.) Whatever they learn, their study holds potential to make a real impact, because its participants encompass utilities, building owners, developers, regulators, and tenants — all gathering information about the potential value and benefit of electric vehicle services with regard to their own developments, buildings, and services portfolios. 

Beyond identifiying action opportunities for utilities, early planning discussions will focus on learning the impacts of smart charging and increased access to EV cars, bikes, and scooters, as well as the supportive impacts of education, marketing, and consumer engagement — factors not yet tested in Minnesota. 

In addition to Megan, the MN EV team consists of:

  • Matthew Blackler, Owner, ZEF Energy (EV chargers software developer)
  • Aakash Chandarana, Regional VP, Rates & Regulatory Affairs, Xcel Energy (MN EV executive sponsor)
  • Lynn Daniels, Behavior Change Associate, Rocky Mountain Institute (behavior expert)
  • Alex Duval, President, Duval Companies (Rice Creek Commons co-developer) 
  • Paul Hernandez, Director of Policy and Public Relations, Envoy There
  • Tim Sexton, Construction & Operations Section Director, MN Department of Transportation (EV lead)

The group hopes for piloting to take place at a number of sites over several years, allowing for incremental learning and refinement along the way. Utimately, they aim to understand district-level impacts at a site such as Rice Creek Commons, a planned 420-acre, $800 million, mixed-use, advanced energy district in Arden Hills, Minnesota, with its own energy resiliency and integration goals.

In 2017, more electric vehicles than ever before were sold in the U.S. Whether that market growth turns out to be a fluke or a legitimate lower-carbon step forward may depend on just how easy we can make it to keep momentum on our side and keep those charged-up wheels of progress rolling.

Thanks to deep planning and informed conversations hosted this year at RMI, Megan and her team's pilot study will hopefully shed some light on that.

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