In reading through Richmond, Virginia’s REVi Readiness Plan of March 2013, some interesting inhibitors to wide-spread adoption of electric vehicle (EV) are highlighted. The Richmond Electric Vehicle Initiative (REVi) Readiness Plan is a joint effort between the City of Richmond and its surrounding communities, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, Virginia Clean Cities, and several other stakeholders to evaluate the area’s readiness for and provide guidance to further EV adoption. The project was funded by the Department of Energy through its Clean Cities program. Interestingly, its Executive Summary is nearly verbatim that of the Executive Summary in a Virginia Get Ready Initial Electric Vehicle Plan of October 2010. This seems an indication of the amount of progress made since that time. None-the-less, the study is well presented supported by a fair amount of research. There are many facets to the study that provide useful guidance to locales throughout Virginia and the rest of the country. Among the more interesting issues are some of the current regulations (Federal, State and Local) that are deemed impediments to EV adoption.
At the federal level is a regulation appearing in Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) regarding Federal Highway Rights-of-Way. Under this regulation, entities are prohibited from commercial activities at public rest areas except for telephones and vending machines. Dominion Virginia Power installed a Level 1 charger (basically worthless on an interstate) at the New Kent rest area on westbound I-64 that is free to the public. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) foots the bill for any usage. The study is clear in stating that such locations really need a Level 2 or, better yet, a Level 3 fast charger to be useful. However, such chargers are expensive to install and installation costs need to be recoverable through usage fees in order to attract Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) providers. The study recommended the Federal Highway Administration and the US Department of Transportation adopt the identified exemptions.
On the state level, non-utility entities were not allowed to sell electricity at retail unless very specific requirements were met. Fortunately, Virginia House Bill 2105 was passed in July 2011 that deemed non-utility EV charging services were not engaged in retail sales of electricity if it was sold exclusively for transportation and the electricity was purchased from Dominion Virginia Power. However, two other regulations still exist that are a hindrance. Plug-In Hybrids (PEVs) that get less than 48 MPG in gasoline mode are not exempt from emissions inspections. The study suggests that combined fuel mileage should be considered when providing exemptions as only the Toyota Prius is currently eligible. Also, EVs registered after July 1, 2011 are currently not eligible for single-occupancy use of HOV lanes. Both issues have been recommended for change by the 2014 General Assembly by the study.
Finally, local regulations also provide hurdles. When northern Virginia county officials asked the local sheriff’s department to ticket ICE vehicles parked in EV spaces, it was determined that the sheriff’s department had no such authority, under county ordinances. This may not be true for all localities but the Richmond initiative recommended to all regional communities that they review and update their codes for such cases.
It seems that fostering EV proliferation (as with any momentous change in long-instituted infrastructures) means “peeling the onion” to discover what unforeseen impediments exist that could undermine further adoption. The REVi study should be applauded for astutely identifying these issues and making those recommendations. It is hoped that other localities within the Commonwealth of Virginia will learn from the study and utilize the recommendations in it.