Blue Ridge

Plug-in NC Visits Virginia on NDEW Road Trip

As one final wrap-up to our National Drive Electric Week road trip, I wanted to offer some thoughts on how Virginia is similar to and different from our home state when it comes to electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure. To start, a few snapshots.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, as of November 16, Virginia has:

  • 786 charging stations
  • 2,259 charging ports

In comparison, North Carolina has:

  • 807 charging stations
  • 2,144 charging ports

As outlined in a new report from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Atlas Public Policy, Virginia ranks 15th in the nation in DC fast charging deployment per person; North Carolina ranks 37th. In terms of total DC fast charging deployment, Virginia ranks eighth, well above North Carolina (18th) despite its smaller population. Side note: I recommend checking out SACE’s report; it really highlights the economic development value of EVs throughout the Southeast.

Volkswagen Settlement funding also differs between the states:

North Carolina has designated $4.6 million to its “ZEV Infrastructure Program,” while Virginia has allotted $14 million to similar efforts. One major distinction between the two is that Virginia has awarded EVgo exclusivity for developing its Volkswagen Settlement-based charging network. Specific goals are to increase the number of DC fast charging ports by more than 370 percent and the number of Level 2 ports by more than 30 percent.

Now, this comparison is not quite fair because none of North Carolina’s DC fast charge awards have gone into the ground yet (they will soon!). But it is neat seeing a different system in play for Virginia.

During the road trip, I don’t think my charging sample was large enough to really get a feel for the offerings across Virginia (especially DC fast charging), as I traveled through much of the state on I-64, where there are major DC fast charging hubs — Richmond, Norfolk, Charlottesville. What I can say is that for both states, the charging was exactly where I needed it to be. For Virginia, that was mostly along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, as elevation started to eat away at my driving range.

While in Virginia, I had an opportunity to catch up with our friends from Dominion Energy to discuss their priorities and happenings for electric transportation. You may be familiar with the utility’s electric school bus program. In late October, Dominion and its collaborators held a bus unveiling celebration, and the first 50 buses will be delivered to schools in November.

According to Dominion, the buses will serve as a grid resource by offering battery storage and vehicle-to-grid capabilities, which will support grid management. Furthermore, they expect bus operation and maintenance costs to be 60 percent lower than for diesel models. You can hear Kate Staples, Dominion’s electrification manager, provide additional program details on a recent Plug-in NC webinar. (Earlier this year, Dominion also committed to achieving net zero emissions through its entire 18-state service territory by 2050.)

In addition to chatting about these developments, Kate and Devin Sclater, Dominion’s energy solutions specialist, shared other initiatives they’re enthusiastic about. Here are a few highlights:

  • Their Newly Announced Smart Charging Infrastructure Pilot — This will provide rebates for qualifying EV charging stations and installation. Multifamily housing, workplaces, DC fast charge site hosts and transit agencies are all eligible.
  • Coffee & Cars — This is an initiative that Dominion is excited to offer as a way to connect those curious about EVs with passionate drivers. It allows prospective owners to talk about their driving needs and learn how EVs are ready for the cause. Devin and Kate spotlighted a few early success stories of these conversations. “We want to connect with our internal EV enthusiasts, whether they’re EV drivers, thinking of purchasing an EV, or are just starting their EV education. Word of mouth has proven to be very important in EV adoption,” said Devin.
  • The Emergence of Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) — This was a fun, exploratory topic. A lot of hype and discussion goes to vehicle-to-grid applications, but Kate mentioned that we should also be paying attention to use cases for V2B, which is a more locally controlled and managed operation.

We’re eager to hear updates on all of these efforts from Dominion Energy and will continue to check back to see how things are moving along throughout the state.