Energy Transition

3 ways to accelerate the clean transportation transition across communities

An EV being charged

EV charging infrastructure must be fast-tracked. Image: Michael Fousert on Unsplash

Debs Schrimmer
Senior Advisor, Joint Office, Energy and Transportation
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This article is part of: Centre for Urban Transformation
  • In 2023, more than 1.4 million electric vehicles were sold, up over 50% from 2022.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that in the US in the future, as many as 25% of EV drivers won’t be able to charge at home, necessitating about 1.2 million public chargers by 2030.
  • The first Joint Office between the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Transportation is facilitating the EV transition in the US.

Our electrified future is clear: In 2023, more than 1.4 million electric vehicles (EVs) were sold in the United States, up more than 50% from 2022 sales.

Cumulatively, five million EVs have sold in the US. Other forms of electrified mobility, including lightweight, affordable e-bikes and scooters, are also growing in popularity. To support these vehicles, there are now more than 183,000 public EV chargers nationwide, 35% of the way towards meeting the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a national network of 500,000 public EV charging ports by 2030.

At the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (Joint Office), a first-of-its-kind interagency collaboration between the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Transportation, we work to make the clean transportation transition as easy as possible for communities of all sizes. We’ve identified three key efforts to ensure an equitable, accessible and reliable electrified transportation system. Here’s more about each of these priorities and what the Joint Office is doing to make them possible.

1. Extending EV charging to more residents

Early waves of EV drivers typically had access to charging at home. But the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that as many as 25% of EV drivers won’t be able to charge at home in the future, necessitating about 1.2 million public chargers by 2030. This will include at least 1 million Level 2 charging ports in convenient, publicly accessible locations in neighbourhoods, offices and retail hubs. Access to public charging is particularly important in cities, which have a higher proportion of people living in multi-family housing.

Where you live shouldn’t keep you from owning an EV. And, you shouldn’t have to own a car to experience the benefits of clean transportation. Extending the benefits of clean transportation to more communities involves a mix of multifamily, curbside and multimodal solutions.

The Joint Office provides technical assistance to cities to help them match EV charging with community needs. It has funded innovative projects to extend the benefits of clean transportation to rural, urban and tribal communities. And, on 30 May, the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration launched the single biggest grant investment to date in electric and sustainable fuel infrastructure. This new $1.3 billion in Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) programme funding will provide the flexibility to install chargers up to five miles away from alternative fuel corridors and will allow more focus on multifamily homes, multimodal fleets and curbside charging in towns and cities. The Joint Office supports the CFI programme and provides technical assistance and resources to help communities plan for and implement EV charging.

Along with expanding access to charging, structural barriers can make it difficult or time-consuming to deploy charging infrastructure. Barriers include outdated building codes, parking requirements, permitting policies or understaffed city offices. 'Soft costs' can send projects over budget, complicate approvals and slow down the process of energizing chargers.

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2. Simplifying fleet electrification

Building on the recent launch of the first national strategy to support the transition to zero-emission freight, we’re also electrifying fleets that move people and goods. Electrified light- and medium-duty fleets can support many passenger and commercial services, including taxis, carsharing, ride-hailing, public transportation and food delivery, as well as 'last-mile' urban freight delivery. Shared bikes and scooters are increasingly popular, serving 113 million trips in the US in 2022. At the same time, delivery demand has increased dramatically; e-commerce accounted for 14.6% of total sales in 2022 and continues to rise.

These fleets make many trips and often pass through communities, making them good candidates for electrification. Zero-emission fleets, however, may require vehicle upgrades, charging coordination and public-private collaboration to build related infrastructure. Vehicle and charging infrastructure deployment requires appropriate planning and funding, which the Joint Office helps support with technical assistance for transit and school bus fleets, as well as funding opportunities for fleets of all sizes.

3. Minimizing grid impact

There are considerable existing demands on the electrical grid and electricity use is expected to grow. Adding capacity by building transmission lines and transfer stations can be slow and costly. Expanding EV adoption requires managing grid capacity, in addition to growing it over time. 'Managed-charging' techniques – such as scheduling sessions during low-demand times, prioritizing charging based on grid conditions and user preferences and adjusting rates dynamically in response to grid needs – help support EV growth while optimizing electricity use.

Charge management can improve overall grid stability, reduce peak demand surges and ensure fair access for all EV users, regardless of their residential circumstances. While there are some early examples of managed charging programmes, this relatively new field will benefit from further experimentation and standardization. The Joint Office is leading the way by collaborating with industry stakeholders and utilities to facilitate managed and bidirectional charging programmes.

Helping communities take charge

As we continue to advance the nation’s transition to clean transportation and make it possible for everyone to ride and drive electric, the Joint Office is helping communities plan for and deploy various transportation electrification projects that address some of the biggest needs of cities and communities. See driveelectric.gov for more information.

By bringing together interdisciplinary teams across land use and urban design, transportation, energy, labour, community engagement and equity, the Joint Office seeks to catalyze investment across public and private sectors and serve as a sandbox for creating cities of the future.

Is your community ready to take charge?

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Related topics:
Energy TransitionEmerging TechnologiesSupply Chains and Transportation
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