The United States has reached the important threshold of 5% of all new vehicle sales being electric, and from what we can tell from when other countries reach that same threshold, EVs (electric vehicles) really begin taking off. The challenge is we need the charging infrastructure to be able to enable EV growth—especially in rural areas.
“We are nowhere near the amount of charging needed to support the various lifestyles we all live, whether that is charging at work, at home, along highway corridors, and in rural areas,” says Hannah Steinweg, public policy manager, Rivian. “Right now, only about one-fourth of public chargers available to us are enough to meet the needs of the 3.6 million EVs we anticipate to be on the road here in a few years. Most of these chargers are in densely urban areas. However, people’s vocation, their hobbies, and the majority of vehicle miles traveled are in rural areas.”
There are a lot of advantages to rural charging including reducing air pollution, reducing range anxiety, and an economic impact, just to name a few, she suggests. Further, she says there are barriers and things to consider for rural charging that are different from urban charging.
“The way to articulate the silver bullet in getting charging in these rural areas is that we need all hands on deck,” she says. “This is not just going to be taken care of by private industry. Public funding is not going to take care of it. We need community engagement to inform where chargers need to be and the scope of projects.”
This is where Rivian’s community charging organization enters the equation to fill in some of these gaps, as Rivian works at the local level with cities and counties, explains Keith Wilson, head of Southeast Partnerships, Rivian.
“Our community charging organization is really focused on going in and making progress shifts at the local level and leading at the state level to identify where some of the gaps are in both urban locations and rural locations,” he says.
Here in South Carolina, Rivian is working with the South Carolina Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff to donate charging infrastructure in nearly 30 state parks in South Carolina. Everything is donated—from the infrastructure, to the cost of installation, to the maintenance.
“They have been amazing partners throughout this entire process,” says Wilson. “They led the way and we have just been there to support. They know the park system better than we do. They know their visitors better than we do. They know the gaps better than we do. We just bring our expertise from the charging standpoint and the infrastructure standpoint to help support and install the charging stations in those locations.”
Park installations will be finished next year, with five by the end of this year and the rest coming next year. It is encouraging to see how when we work together amazing things happen for our communities.
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