Hello and welcome to Philly Talks Climate — where we talk about the climate crisis, how it affects Philadelphia, and how we solve this for our region. I’m Meenal Raval, and I’ll be your host.
Here with me today is Brent Groce of All Together Now, a new Pennsylvania non-profit focused on sustainability. Hi Brent! Hi Meenal…
On our last episode, episode 23, we talked about the ACEEE’s Halfway There report, and how we get Halfway to 100% emissions reductions. This week, City Council approved the Building Energy Performance Policy, requiring over 2000 big buildings in Philly to tuneup their systems. This should save energy, save money, and create local jobs. Nice, huh?
News You Can Use
The same report, Halfway There, talked about a 46% emissions reduction from transportation. This hefty 46% reduction from transportation are from
- transitioning to electric vehicles,
- driving less,
- flying less and
- moving our stuff around smarter.
As we said in the last episode, we definitely need to meet this goal well before 2050.
In order to have any chance of a 46% emissions reduction from transportation, we’ll need people to adopt electric vehicles on a large scale. The sooner, the better.
So let’s touch on electric vehicles, also known as EVs. Our City has claimed electric cars are only for the affluent, and investing in EV charging infrastructure across our city would be elitist. Yes, there are high-end electric cars, just as there are high-end gasoline cars. But there are also very affordable options.
We hear that the Nissan Leaf (a large sedan) can be leased for under $200 a month; the lease downpayment of about $4000 gets reduced, since the state offers a $1750 rebate, even for leased vehicles. Plus PECO offers $50 for registering an EV with the state. The fuel costs (actually the electric costs) seem to be negligible.
In addition to understanding the evolving affordability of EVs, it’s worth also focusing on where we want to be in 5 or 10 years from now and how we plan to get there. Philly often lacks vision and this is a clear example of that. The successful path for EV adoption is hampered by the proverbial “chicken-or-the-egg” problem. But, basically, potential EV owners are waiting on charging infrastructure and potential EV infrastructure builders are waiting on EV penetration to go up… that is, more EV drivers.
This week, there was an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about electric cars and the climate crisis, with, ummm… me on the front page. Do give it a read!
The City claims each electric car needs one parking space. Yet, the Inquirer article talks about a family in West Philly who share their charging station with 4 neighbors.
So, what’s keeping Philadelphians from switching to an electric car?
They don’t know where to charge! This episode is a quick primer on electric car charging for those of you considering your next car. May it be an electric!
First, did you know that most electric cars can be charged by plugging into any nearby 110 volt outlet? You know what these look like, and that you can find one wherever you go! Yes, they take a while, but you’re not stranded. We know quite a few EV owners who just recharge using a 110 outlet. So it may take overnight. That’s OK, if you’re home for 8-10 hours, which many of us are. Charging this way will give you about 5 mile range per hour.
So if you’re driving less than 40 or so miles per day, you can easily charge at home in a normal outlet. And, keep in mind, while most of us occasionally do longer trips, how often do we really drive hundreds of miles in a day? If it’s rare, as it is for most of us, then spending an extra hour on a few hundred mile trip a couple or a few times a year is not such a big deal. And, there are easy ways to find chargers when you’re on a road trip.
Also, many people think EVs need to be plugged in every night. That’s not true. Just like your gasoline car, an electric car needs refueling when needed. For many Philadelphians, a recharge could be once a week.
Now if you have a garage or driveway, you can get a Level 2 charger installed. This is basically a 220 volt line coming from your house to the garage or driveway. With this, you can charge 2 to 4 times as fast, if necessary. Depending on the car, a Level 2 charger will recharge between 20 and 50 miles per hour. The script of this show will have a link to choosing a home charging station, which could be hard wired, or plugged into a dryer type outlet.
No garage or driveway? No off street parking? Then you’ll need to find a neighbor with a charging station that you can share.
Or you can find a public charging station. Walk around your neighborhood looking for one. Often, car dealers and grocery stores let you charge for free. You could also use the plugshare.com site to find a charging station near your home or place of work. There are many apps you can download onto your phone, to help find a charging station near you.
One thought is for the city to incentive under-utilized parking lots. Think houses of worship and schools. Both walkable to many residential neighborhoods in our City. And often empty. Grocery stores also. Boston has parking garages and lots that require a much higher percentage of spots to have electric vehicle charging stations.
A recent example…
A 2-adult 2-youth family living in a Mt Airy row home recently needed to replace their 10+ year old hybrid car. With curbside parking, local employment and occasional trips into New York, they didn’t think an electric car was an option for them.
Until they were offered access to charging at a private home, about 2 miles away. They quickly began considering plug-in hybrid models. A plug-in hybrid model would offer between 20 and 50 miles of driving on emissions-free electric; ideal for 90% of this family’s local needs. The gasoline engine would relieve them of range anxiety and allow them to use the same car for their occasional trips out of state.
This family realized that they’d only need to charge the car maybe once a week, and they’d be OK walking to a nearby synagogue or a school lot, or a SEPTA lot for this, if these lots had a public charger. Across the street from where they work is a municipal lot. If that had an EV charger, that too could serve their needs.
When the family started talking about their new car options with neighbors, one neighbor offered use of their driveway for a charging station. This clinched it! The family have leased a battery electric car, charging 2 miles away for now, and await a charger installed on their neighbor’s driveway. The family plans to install a rooftop solar project to power their household needs, so the car will truly be zero-emissions! The neighbor is happy too, because they know their future car will definitely be an electric car!
Charging for all
To solve this for more Philadelphians considering an electric car as their next car, here are some ideas for public electric car charging in a City debating over limited curbside parking.
- Install chargers at occasionally used institutional lots. Most faith groups need their lots on one day per week. The rest of the time, the lots are mostly empty. Why not turn this into a revenue source for the institution? By installing public chargers, the community gets to charge, the institution paying the electricity gets a percent of the revenue.
- The same thinking could apply to school lots, not needed during the evenings and weekends. I know you’re thinking how do we ensure that teachers & principals get to park their cars when they arrive early in the day? Well, the charging isn’t free, and a surcharge for people to just park there during “business hours” would quickly teach the community to move their cars before the teachers drive in!
- This could also work for SEPTA Regional Rail lots — mostly empty in the evenings and on weekends. Another agency that could use some additional funding. There are at least 40 SEPTA parking lots open to the public — 37 Regional Rail stations, the Fern Rock Transportation Center, the 69th Street Transportation Center, and the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) stations).
- The Philadelphia Parking Authority maintains about 43 municipal lots through out our City. I know if there were charging stations at the lot in Mt Airy, behind Rothe Florists, by the Fit Life, they’d be in use ALL the time!
How to fund electric vehicle charging stations?
The state offers a grant that currently reimburse 100% of the cost for Level 2 chargers on government property and 80% on private property In general many of these are being held up by lack of understanding and education on clean transportation among our elected officials.
So, just think about it, if you’re an organization or a business, you could apply for a grant for chargers that would cover most or all of the cost and then you could make money from the chargers for years to come… why wouldn’t you do this?
Still need help deciding on your next car?
Please join the online Philly EV Club — you’ll find many neighbors ready to help you. May your next car be an electric!
Engage with your elected
How to engage with your elected reps? Well, let them know you’d like an EV charger near you! Do please copy us at Philly Talks Climate. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connect with Concerned Others
And now, let’s connect with others concerned about the climate crisis. This weekend, there’s the national solar tour, showcasing neighbors that have solar installations. So if you’re curious about solar, this is a great way to learn! You’ll find details on our Connect page at Philly Talks Climate.
Our closing song for this week’s episode of Philly Talks Climate is My Electric Car, by Michael Mish.