On June 18th and 19th in Portland, Oregon, Forth hosted its Roadmap 12 conference. As one of the largest industry events focusing on accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in North America, Roadmap 12 provided an excellent opportunity for utilities, local governments, charging providers, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to collaborate on the future of transportation electrification. Riffing off one of my favorite William Gibson quotes—“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed”—the conference discussed current challenges for accelerating electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Below, I have summarized the key challenges—including charging access, customer engagement, and equity—and elaborate on the implications of current trends and thinking for all sectors charged with creating greater access to EVs.
- Charging Access: Several panels explored various use cases for increasing access to charging beyond in-home charging infrastructure. As vehicle model lines expand and the average range of personal electric vehicles increases, households will increasingly turn to EVs as their primary mode of transportation. With this shift, the need for a robust DC fast charging network will increase to support long distance travel beyond the daily commute. Similarly, this network is critical for households that may not have access to charging at home (e.g., tenants in multifamily properties). Panelists discussed partnerships with retailers and other services to create appealing experiences for customers that are idle during the 30 minutes needed to charge their EV. For example, partnerships with grocery outlets to provide fast charging while customers shop create a convenient method for multifamily households to charge their vehicles outside of their buildings.
- Customer Engagement: While awareness of EVs has increased dramatically over the last five years, the general population is still largely in the dark regarding the EV options available to them. A majority of households interviewed in a recent industry survey couldn’t name any available EV models. While it’s expected that OEM campaigns will increase as model lines expand, various organizations are creating compelling outreach materials. Veloz, a nonprofit focused on educating the public on the state of electric transportation, created a light-hearted set of adsthat focus on how customers from all walks of life can benefit from EV adoption. Similarly, several panelists discussed the value of advanced market segmentation analysis that identifies likely adopters in order to inform service offerings and infrastructure development.
- Equity: A common theme throughout the conference was giving careful consideration to how ensure that disadvantaged communities aren’t left behind as part of the increased adoption of EVs. Jessica Vega Pedersen, a Commissioner in Multnomah County, gave a moving keynote Wednesday morning on how the history of transportation infrastructure in Portland metro area disproportionately negatively impacted communities of color, primarily Portland’s Albina neighborhood, as part of the construction of I-5. Commissioner Pedersen’s hope was that by learning from these past injustices, modern EV infrastructure will be created with equity at the forefront. A significant challenge is that, currently, EVs are still seen as a luxury item and that, when done improperly, public charging infrastructure can be viewed as a sign of gentrification and have the opposite impact among communities.
Despite these challenges, a highlight of the conference was the optimism and energy that many industry players displayed regarding the future of transportation electrification. EVs present an amazing confluence of carbon reduction, a fun customer experience, and energy grid optimization that simply hasn’t existed before. At EMI Consulting, we are excited to support our utility clients developing the necessary strategies and structures to engage with this market transformation. Our team provides solutions for pilot program development so that utilities can learn how to best engage their customers as EV adoption continues to grow over the coming years.