Local NewsAs electric vehicles grow in popularity, charging infrastructure needs...

As electric vehicles grow in popularity, charging infrastructure needs to keep pace

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As gas prices continue to spike, National Grid and a global electric vehicle charging software provider are taking a new approach to entice more people to make the switch to battery-powered vehicles in Massachusetts.

The Charge Smart MA app, part of National Grid’s Off-Peak Charging Rebate Program in the Bay State with ev.energy, rolled out to select customers in January and to everyone last month, according to Joseph Vellone, head of North America for ev.energy.

“It’s a mobile app that allows any EV driver that is a National Grid customer in Massachusetts to connect their electric vehicle to the app,” Vellone said. “(They) can get cash back on the off-peak charging that they do and track how much their EV charging is costing them.”

Vellone said drivers will receive a 5 cent per kilowatt-hour discount for charging their vehicles during off-peak hours — 9 p.m. to 1 p.m., Monday-Friday, from June to September.

More than 1,000 Massachusetts customers have enrolled in the app, he said, and the overall interest in EVs is on the rise.

“We have seen a significant uptick in EV drivers joining the platform over the past six to 12 months as gas prices have steadily increased,” he said.

However, while proponents tout the cost savings and benefits to the environment that electric vehicles bring, others remain skeptical about their ability to travel long distances, given the availability of charging stations.

Two senators wrote to Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler on Monday to voice their “disappointment” that EV charging stations at two I-90 rest stops have been broken for more than a year.

State House News Service reported that leaves only four operational charging stations on the pike, leaving EV drivers with no options to recharge for large stretches on the highway.

Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem wrote that lack of availability could deter residents from becoming EV drivers.

According to National Grid, there are more than 51,000 registered EV users in Massachusetts, a growing number the state is hoping will reach 300,000 by 2025.

One of the major deterrents to drivers switching to EVs is “range anxiety,” Vellone said, the worry that motorists will run out of battery while they’re driving because there isn’t a nearby charging station.

Vellone said that anxiety may be “a little unfounded,” since 80% to 90% of electric vehicle charging occurs at home and EVs can travel 250 to 350 miles before needing to be recharged.

“Your home is really your gas station,” Vellone said.

In Boston, Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge said the city is seeing a larger interest in EV adoption from residents, but with more of those vehicles comes the need for more infrastructure.

The city has 13 municipal lots with charging stations, but has also seen an increase in privately-owned charging stations in public locations. Many people charge at home or at work, he said, which is why the city is also encouraging more workplace charging stations.

“The amount of charging plugs available and the amount of electric infrastructure available will definitely need to grow as more people adopt EVs,” said Franklin-Hodge.

(060722 Boston, MA): An electric charging station on Cambridge St on Tuesday,June 7, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)(060722 Boston, MA): An electric charging station on Cambridge St on Tuesday,June 7, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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