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By Andy Metzger

BOSTON, FEB. 21, 2018....That whirring you hear coming down the road is the next wave of electrification.

Electric vehicles will become more mainstream and as that happens drivers will need the infrastructure – mainly charging stations – to support them, according to a MassPIRG report publicized Wednesday that estimated there will be 24,000 electric vehicles in Boston by 2030.

The state has a goal of reaching 300,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025, and as of last September, there were only about 11,500 electric vehicles, according to the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Cities should make chargers available for people who don't have driveways or garages, government should encourage sharing of electric cars and bikes, and data about charging stations should be shared to enable drivers to find an open plug-in, MassPIRG recommended.

The report had plaudits for London, which installs chargers at city streetlights at residents' request, and relayed a "cautionary tale" about Philadelphia, where "vocal opposition" to a program that created 67 electric vehicle parking spaces over the course of a decade led to a one-year moratorium on the special parking spaces last spring.

Waves of electrification have revolutionized home appliances, manufacturing, and popular music over the years.

The rollout of relatively powerful and affordable models of electric cars such as the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf in the past couple years "signals the movement of electric vehicles in to the mainstream," according to the report. Those three cars cost between $37,495 for the Bolt and $30,000 for the Leaf, according to the report. The vehicles' popularity varies from place to place.

Abigail Krich Starr, a Cambridge resident who works in the renewable energy field and drives a Bolt, said she sees electric cars "all the time now" where she lives.

"They're not that common," said John Fitzmaurice, who commutes from Quincy to a UMass Medical facility in Mattapan and has noticed one Bolt that looks like his own on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain.

Fitzmaurice and Starr drove their Bolts onto a Boston Common walkway on Wednesday for MassPIRG's electric vehicle infrastructure advocacy, and the two drivers touted the fun and ease of driving what they described as cars that pack a lot of "pep." Fitzmaurice said he got a Bolt to save money on gas and try out the new technology, and Starr said she wanted to reduce her greenhouse gas emissions.

Plugging the car into the charger after she arrives home has "been really easy," according to Starr who said she wishes infrastructure was more readily available elsewhere. On a recent trip to Waterville Valley her family took their second car, a Prius, because she wasn't sure there would be charging stations, Starr said.

"I'd love to know that when I go to a place like that I can charge it," Starr said.

Mass Energy Consumers Alliance secures discounts for people who want an electric vehicle and both Starr and Fitzmaurice said shopping for their cars was easy.

There are different types of charging stations. Some can refill a car's batteries relatively quickly and others will charge a car up over several hours.

Commuter rail stations should have the less expensive slower-charging infrastructure, while areas nearby a highway – where people might want to quickly fill up – should have speedier chargers, suggested Fitzmaurice.

Massachusetts is eligible to receive $75 million from Volkswagen, as part of its settlement for hiding its diesel vehicle emissions, and next week the Department of Environmental Protection will wrap up public input sessions about how to spend the money.

"We are eager to receive public input on measures to provide environmental benefits that include a reduction of [nitrogen oxide] and greenhouse gas emissions, support for the electrification of the transportation system, and the reduction of emissions in Environmental Justice communities," DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said in a statement last month.

States can spend up to 15 percent of their Volkswagen settlement money on electric vehicle charging stations, according to the report.

In December the Department of Public Utilities approved an agreement allowing the utility Eversource to install 4,000 "make-ready charging stations in workplaces, apartments and other locations over the next five years," according to the report.

Officials at ISO New England, which controls the region's electric grid, are monitoring the adoption of electric vehicles and electrified heating, and those technologies may need to be considered when forecasting energy demand, according to a spokeswoman.


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