Salt Lake City unveils EV roadmap, gets serious about electrification

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Pop-out doors, instant acceleration, electric bikes, autonomous electric ride-share programs; the future is exciting when it comes to electrified transportation. And, in many cases, the future is here. So, local governments had better get ready!

That’s why SLCGreen and Utah Clean Energy have introduced their new report: the Electrified Transportation Roadmap describes 25 steps that local governments can take to accelerate the electric transportation revolution. The Roadmap outlines how local governments can implement a variety of electric powered modes of transit including electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes, electric transit, and electrified ridesharing.

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Salt Lake City has integrated a number of these best practices into their internal operations, and theyre’re now working toward more community-scale projects as part of their Climate Positive SLC plan.

As the capital city’s sustainability department, they also believe it’s important to share what we’ve learned with other local governments. This is the central idea behind the Roadmap, as well as the organizing principle behind a workshop we organized March 14 with representatives from 16 local governments across the Wasatch Front to talk about best practices and to view EV offerings from a variety of local dealers.

Workshop attendees examining different electric vehicle models.

Why is there so much focus on electrified transportation? in short, because “electrifying everything” is a key component of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is an important part of Salt Lake City’s Climate Positive plan. If their transportation becomes electrified, SLC can control what types of (clean) energy make that electricity. Salt Lake City’s goal is to power our entire community with 100% clean electricity by 2032. Every year, more renewables are coming onto the grid. SLC wants to see as many cars, bikes, trains, and other vehicles running off that power as possible.

From an air quality perspective, electric vehicles also produce virtually no localized air pollution—so promoting EVs is a huge component of local governments’ efforts to clear the air. And the good news is that, according to a recent Bloomberg report, EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. The demand for EVs is increasing as technology improves. Range is going up, prices are going down, and manufacturers are adding more capabilities that are attracting consumers. Significantly, Utah was recently recognized as the #1 state for the growth rate of new EV drivers.

Still, EV adoption is in a critical phase.In Utah, there are currently roughly 4,400 EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in the state, which is about 0.7% of the total passenger vehicles in Utah. That’s where local governments, working with non-profit, utility, and business partners, can play a role. The next wave of EV adopters needs assurance that their vehicles will have the supporting infrastructure to refuel in a timely manner.

Attendees from 16 local governments listened to best practices in promoting electric transportation, March 14, 2018.

Local governments can build and maintain charging stations to alleviate “range anxiety,” as well as offering priority or free parking—like SLC’s Green Sticker program. They can work to integrate EV-ready infrastructure into new construction, particularly multi-family developments. Incentives to help cover the cost of business and multifamily EV chargers as well as public “fast chargers” are available today. Finally, governments can work with non-profits like Utah Clean Energy to offer bulk-purchase discount programs, ride and drives, and other programming.

Public outreach is a big component of what’s needed and the Roadmap provides recommendations for outreach strategies, as well as key messages. For example, electric vehicle ranges now often exceed 100, or even 200, miles per charge. Since the average American drives just under 40 miles/day, electric vehicles provide more than enough range for most personal use.

Another significant way that municipalities can take the lead on electrifying transportation is by integrating EVs into their fleets. Not only does this do the right thing for the environment, it sends a message to residents that electric vehicle technology is reliable.

Finally, moving toward EVs offers significant savings in both fuel and maintenance costs for fleets (crunch the numbers for yourself at FuelEconomy.gov).

Salt Lake City’s fleet has seen successes in recent clean vehicle upgrades and we’ve also installed workplace charging stations for fleet and employee use. These are strategies that other workplaces—whether in the private or public sector—can adopt. Collectively, we can make a significant dent in local air pollution and carbon emissions.

Check out the full Electrified Transportation Roadmap to learn more, and to see SLC’s whole list of “Live Electric” partner organizations helping bring cleaner transportation solutions to Utah.

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