EWEB's New EV Programs Forward the Charge to Decarbonize Eugene 11/05/2021

Over half (53%) of Eugene's greenhouse gas emissions come from gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles (according to the City of Eugene's 2019 Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory). That means we must decarbonize our transportation sector to meet our climate goals. 

We can take cars off the road by using public transit, carpooling, teleworking, and using alternatives like bicycles. And as more people transition to electric vehicles (EVs), they directly swap out gas guzzlers for low-carbon electricity to power their vehicles.

EWEB is helping our customers make the transition to EVs for their personal and commercial transportation needs. For years, EWEB has promoted EV education through the rEV UP! program to help our customers choose their next car. EWEB also supports EV infrastructure by installing free-to-use EV charging stations at our facilities and offering Smart Charge Rebates to help people install their own charging stations at home.

EWEB is also rolling out a new suite of programs to help make EVs more affordable, more available, and more equitable in Eugene. EWEB Business Line Manager Juan Serpa Muñoz is in charge of developing these programs and has some updates to share about what's coming up.

EVs are more popular in Eugene

Q: What inspires you to work on EWEB's EV programs? How do you think EVs will change Eugene?

A: A shared commitment to our customers, community, and the environment is what drives me to do this work; there is no conflict with who I am and what I believe to be right and needed for our community when working on these efforts.  Additionally, EWEB completely supports this work and allows staff like me to put energy into programs for the benefit and betterment of our community and environment.

Electric vehicle adoption continues to increase in Eugene and in the US. We saw a 42% increase in EV adoption in EWEB service territory in 2020.  This means a total of 1,887 EVs, which translates to over 5,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent reduction per year.

EVs are changing Eugene, but it is not just EVs, it is electric mobility in general. I now commonly see electric bikes and scooters, Lane Transit District brings us electric buses, and I was recently driving my Bolt EV and there were two Nissan LEAFs next to me; I have not experienced that before.

This change and evolution to electric transportation is so comprehensive, however; from charging infrastructure, to policy, to programs, to accessibility and equity, to providing cleaner transportation and reducing emissions, to addressing the load impacts of EVs and maintaining a reliable grid, to education and awareness, etc.; this is a true revolution that is changing Eugene and the world, and I feel privileged to play a role in this change.

Q: What EV programs are you developing for EWEB customers?

A: We have already expanded our programs, including our commercial charging rebates that now include fast charging or direct current fast charging (DCFC), and we look to continue to increase our efforts year after year. The aim is to provide an ongoing comprehensive suite of programs that increases electric mobility, brings equitable access to this technology, provides affordable charging options, creates value for our customers, and helps EWEB prepare to meet the increasing energy demands of this growing sector in a safe and reliable way.

  • Charging Stations: A major area of investment will be EWEB-owned charging infrastructure.  This will include level 1 for micro-mobility such as electric bikes, and level 2 and direct current fast charging (DCFC) for electric vehicles. Level 2 stations can offer speeds of 20+ miles per hour of charging, and DCFC can provides of 150+ miles per hour. This will be comprehensive work that is a key effort in increasing EV adoption in our service territory; access to charging infrastructure can be a barrier to EV adoption, especially for underserved populations, including non-homeowners and residents in multi-family buildings. Additionally, by EWEB having its own charging infrastructure, we will be able to provide affordable costs for public charging that is equitable and accessible.
  • E-bikes: One of our new programs will be an electric bicycle (e-bike) rebate.  E-bikes use very little energy, which in EWEB service territory is already about 90% carbon neutral. This means that e-bikes can be a big part in reducing emissions by displacing internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) and EVs, when doing light commuting, errands, and for getting to places around town. Additionally, because e-bikes have a much lower cost than an EV, they can present an easier and more affordable opportunity for individuals to explore electric mobility. Lastly, these things are fun, and there is even evidence that e-bikes are helping older riders be more active and improve their overall health.
  • Accessibility & Equity: Availability does not equal accessibility and as I work on our EV efforts, I look at that concept and at the equitable access to technologies we support, including EVs. Two ways that our efforts will address social equity in the electric mobility space is through an EV sharing pilot and a community grants program. 

EWEB's New EV programs

Q: That all sounds so exciting! I'm sure our community can appreciate the focus on equity and accessibility, too. The ride-sharing idea sounds like a great program - how would the EV-sharing program work?

A: One of the barriers to EV adoption is their cost, which makes vehicle-ownership something that is not accessible to every member of our community. The EV sharing pilot looks for a solution outside of that model. The pilot will be over two years involving three locations. The effort will be in partnership with Forth Mobility, the City of Eugene, Saint Vincent de Paul, and Lane Transit District.  One location will be at an affordable housing site and available only to tenants, and the other two will be open to the general public.   

The program will provide an EV and dedicated level 2 charging station at each location.  Users will be able to download a phone app and use it to check out the EVs.  All sites will offer a free first two-hour ride-per unique user-plus a nominal fee per hour after that.  The pricing for the affordable housing site will be reduced to offer greater access.

It is our hope to use this pilot to expand the program to other sites in the future, especially to other affordable housing locations. The first public EV should be available in a couple of months and the other two in February 2022.  Lastly, in response to the pandemic, these vehicles will be cleaned regularly, provide safety messaging, and follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including pausing the effort if needed.

Q: Well, I'm sure people will really look forward to the opportunity for an affordable opportunity to try out an EV for their errands. Could you share more about the electric mobility community grants EWEB will offer?  This heat map shows where EV households are currently located

A: Yes, this is an exciting effort to give access and support to community agencies on their own electric mobility work. These agencies are experts at what they do and the populations they serve, and we see an opportunity to increase equitable access to electric mobility by supporting them through our grants program. One fun part for me will be reading the various ideas and proposals and learning from them.  We intend to have a panel of grant reviewers that is comprehensive and neutral, including government entities and local community groups. We are still working on the grant program details, including amounts and launch date.  We are almost ready to release those details though, and we hope to start taking applications at the end of 2021 or in January of 2022.  

Q: Along with helping our residential customers and community organizations transition to EVs, what are ways EWEB is helping businesses electrify their transportation operations? 

A: One way we are doing this is through our various commercial charging station rebates, but also through guidance by our Field Specialists and Distribution Engineering team as businesses look to implement their own charging infrastructure. 

Our commercial rebates cover level 2 ($1,500) and direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations ($10,000 for single port and $15,000 for multi-port) for fleet, public, multi-family, and workplace charging; customers can learn more about qualification requirements by calling us or at our EWEB webpage.

Installing these stations can be very comprehensive work because it is not just the installation of the station, but also the potential panel and service upgrades that may be needed in bringing power to the station. We offer guidance to our customers in this area, including capacity assessments for commercial sites and loans if upgrades are needed. Below is an image that shows the distribution infrastructure for a charging station. 

EVs require some accompanying infrastructure

As a business begins to explore their EV charging needs, there are also other considerations they may not realize, including user pricing, models, connector standards, networking requirements, Clean Fuels credits, etc., and EWEB can be a valuable and neutral resource to help our customers understand these components and help them explore potential solutions.

Q: When can people expect these programs to be available, and how can they sign up?

A: Efforts will have various launch dates and some, such as our charging station rebates are already available.  Some projects, including the public EV sharing location will start being available in late 2021 and the rest in early 2022.  We will definitely make announcements to the public as these new efforts come online and the best way to stay tuned and to apply is to join our EV newsletter. Our website has dedicated pages for EVs, and they are broken down by residential and commercial sectors.