The programs hope to improve electric vehicle charging in La

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Alex Katz has been selling electric vehicles at his luxury used car dealership, NOLA Motorcars, since 2013.

Electric vehicles have always been a curiosity, but these days interest is growing in its Metairie showroom.

“When people come in, anything electric is the first thing everyone gets on,” Katz said.

Despite the fascination, most buyers still can’t bring themselves to take the plunge, even though there are more models, longer-range batteries and an upcoming $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit. assembled in the USA.

“The general consensus is, ‘I’m not ready yet,'” Katz said.

The reasons for sticking with gas-powered vehicles are many, but chief among them is the lack of available charging infrastructure, both standard Level 2 stations that take several hours and ultra-fast chargers. fast and Tesla superchargers, which are rarer. can do the job in 30-45 minutes.

That could start to change in the next few years, though, as New Orleans adds 30 Level 2 chargers to underserved neighborhoods and the state prepares to spend nearly $100 million to install fast chargers along regional interstate corridors.

Experts say the two initiatives should help raise the profile of electric vehicles among consumers and ease the pervasive anxiety of not being able to find a charge, especially in an area where people have to evacuate from hurricanes.

“It’s called range anxiety, and it’s a very real thing,” Katz said, noting that a customer returned a Chevrolet Bolt after spending a day ask where to recharge it”.

“He decided it wasn’t for him,” Katz said. “We definitely need more charging infrastructure, but I tell my customers: treat it like an iPhone, plug it in every night for a full charge the next day.”

An estimated 80% of EV charging takes place at home, and local EV owners say that while range anxiety is real, it often appears more in the imagination than in reality. .

Chargers can be installed in a garage or along a driveway, and in 2017 the New Orleans City Council created a permit for those without off-street parking to put a charger in the public hold.

This was the case of Melanie Sheen, who bought a Nissan Leaf nearly four years ago and has never looked back.

“Now that we have the charging point in front of the house, it’s great,” she said. “It wasn’t a problem at all.”

Sheen, an Ochsner oncologist who lives Uptown with her husband and two children, said her Leaf’s battery life is more than enough for her day-to-day needs.

“I love it, it’s such a fun little car to drive,” she said. “But I also like the fact that I don’t have to fetch gas, and I’m doing my bit for the environment, reducing my carbon footprint.”

Brian Burns, a local chef and restaurateur, said his family got a leaf in 2014 to save money on his wife’s journey to teach in St. Bernard Parish.

At $13,000, it was the most expensive car they had ever bought, but Burns said the money saved by not buying gas and having virtually no maintenance issues was worth it. the penalty.

“It’s been an absolute dream not to have to deal with all of this,” he said.

The two said they charge their electric vehicles overnight and rarely bother about it.

Yet as the number of electric cars in New Orleans grows, chargers available at places like Whole Foods and Louis Armstrong International Airport are harder to come by. And Sheen and Burns agree the city needs more.

In this regard, there are two developments that current and potential owners of electric vehicles may be interested in.

The first is the deployment of 30 free public chargers that the city and Entergy New Orleans are installing in 25 locations by the end of the year. The first was opened late last month in Pontchartrain Park, and the others will be placed in parks, libraries and other public facilities with a focus on installing them in places where Level 2 Chargers are currently not available.

The public charging initiative stems from a 2018 agreement between the city council and Entergy, and council members made up half of the committee that gathered public feedback on the location of the chargers.

Dan Jartres of the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability said that while the location of chargers is left entirely to commercial providers, chargers will only be available where demand already exists. He also said the city’s goal was to help encourage more people to consider buying electric vehicles and have the infrastructure where they would.

“People are going to balance their desire for cost savings or environmental benefits with their practical concerns,” he said, which not only includes the availability of chargers, but also whether they find themselves in places where they can pass the time while they charge.

Unlike fast chargers, Level 2 chargers are not analogous to gas stations and tend to be located where people spend a lot of time, whether at home, work, or shopping and entertainment centers .

The second increase in charging capacity will come from the state, thanks to last year’s Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which provides funds for states to install fast chargers along regional corridors. .

Tyler Herrmann, co-director of Louisiana Clean Fuels, the nonprofit organization working with the state on the project, said Louisiana would receive $73.4 million in federal funds which, combined with local matching dollars , would be $95 million for fast-charging stations along the I-10, I-12, I-49, I-55, I-20 and US 90 corridors.

Herrmann said the program will place charging stations within 50 miles of each other and within a mile of the corridor. Once this coverage is achieved, others could be located in underserved areas or important locations for hurricane evacuation.

The state’s five-year plan awaits Federal Highway Administration approval by the end of the month, but the proposal is for 75 stations with at least four chargers each, with more chargers at stations in near-populated areas.

Quick-charging stations, however, don’t come cheap.

The plan estimates the cost to be between $100,000 and $300,000 per loader, although the actual amount will not be determined until contracts are awarded and will depend heavily on what each applicant wishes to build. In addition to physical infrastructure such as concrete pads, trenches, canopies, bollards and lighting, stations could include their own transformers, battery backup and internet connection for data transfer needed to rapid charging of a vehicle. Chargers may also include more than one type of input so that they can be used by older EVs.

The estimates also include the first five years of maintenance and operation. The stations will be owned and operated by the commercial or public entities that submit eligible proposals, but the program aims to ensure costs are covered for the first five years.

Herrmann said the first charging station could be built by the end of 2023.

He said there’s a chicken-and-egg relationship between vehicles and charging capacity – people don’t want to buy electric vehicles if there aren’t enough chargers, but nobody does. build charging stations if there are not enough vehicles to craft. it’s worth the investment.

“I think this funding will go a long way to alleviate that barrier,” he said.

Louisiana ranks 46th in the nation based on EV market share among all vehicles sold in 2019. Experts and local EV owners say that’s because there are other obstacles beyond range anxiety.

EVs tend to cost a little more than their gas-powered counterparts, despite some affordable entry-level models like the Leaf and Bolt.

Hermann said a new Bolt costs about $26,000, while Katz, the dealer, said a used 2013 Leaf costs about $10,000, assuming a buyer can live with a battery that doesn’t. It’s only good for about 80 miles per charge.

For those who can spend more, waiting lists are common as global demand soars for highly coveted models. Burns is so happy with his Leaf that he’s in line for a Ford Lightning EV pickup, but he’s been on a waiting list for over a year.

The high percentage of renters and older homes without off-street parking also presents unique challenges.

The more a driver pays to charge, the less financial benefit there is to owning an EV, Herrmann pointed out. Level 2 chargers, which can take 4-5 hours to fully charge at a cost of around $14, are twice as expensive as home charging.

Home charging, he said, is a third of the cost of powering a gasoline-powered vehicle.

“This home charging piece is pretty crucial,” he said.

Tesla argued in a recently filed lawsuit that state laws banning direct-to-consumer vehicle sales are preventing Louisiana from fully participating in the electric vehicle revolution. For now, at least, Louisiana residents who want a Tesla have to buy it online.

Tesla owner James Miller said he wishes there were more charging stations in New Orleans, and he still considers his other gas-powered vehicle essential, especially because of the hurricanes. But he’s been enjoying his Tesla since he got it about a month ago.

“It will be a difficult transition, but so was gasoline when we stopped riding,” he recently told the Tesla Supercharger station in Metairie. “Everything is difficult at first. I still like gas – not gonna lie, three or four minutes and I’m out. But here I sit. I might as well read a book.

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