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Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition Assists Anson County in Leveraging Historic Clean Transportation Funding

In 2016 and 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled a civil case against Volkswagen, a German automaker, for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act. As part of this settlement, Volkswagen was required to establish a fund of nearly $3 million for mitigation of the detrimental environmental impacts caused by their violations, as well as a $2 million fund to support zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption and installation of charging infrastructure. This historic funding opportunity for clean transportation infrastructure investment was managed at the state level.  

The state of North Carolina received more than $92 million through the settlement program to fund projects across the state that will expand ZEV charging infrastructure and replace diesel and petroleum-fueled buses and private vehicles with ZEV alternatives. Additionally, the NC program offered additional support and priority for historically under-resourced counties to ensure they could access these historic settlement funds. Within the Centralina region, Anson and Rowan counties qualified as historically under-resourced counties.  

THE CHALLENGE 

Anson County was interested in seeking funding through the VW Settlement program to replace an older electric vehicle (EV) charging station along US-74 in Wadesboro that was no longer functional. Because funding was only available through the VW settlement program for a limited time, the county had to act quickly to capitalize on this unique opportunity to fund EV infrastructure upgrades. In need of technical assistance to meet the funding application deadline and ensure their grant was competitive, Anson County staff reached out to the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition (CCFC) for help 

THE SOLUTION 

CCFC, housed atCentralina Regional Council, helped Anson County put together a competitive grant application for VW Settlement funds that uplifted the importance of supporting ZEV adoption and infrastructure in the county as a way to bolster economic investment in the County. CCFC staff were able to leverage their expertise in state and federal EV charging efforts to underscore the critical need for new EV chargers along US-74 in Anson County. The portion of US-74 in Anson County east of Wadesboro has been federally designated as a Pending EV Corridor, making it part of the national Alternative Fuel Corridor network. These corridors are first in line to receive additional infrastructure investment under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula program and other historic funding sources under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).  

THE RESULT 

Anson County’s application for VW Settlement funds was successful, and on November 30, 2023, the County partnered with CCFC and Chatham Electric to unveil a new DC Fast Charger stationed in Wadesboro. This charger installation will further cultivate the growing adoption of electric vehicles in the Centralina region and across the state. “This EV charging station [also] represents our continuing effort to diversify and enhance the economy in Anson County,” said County Parks & Recreation Director Wendell Small 

Our mission is to reduce petroleum dependence, improve air quality and expand alternative fuel use and technology, so we were excited for the opportunity to assist Anson County in applying for and receiving a VW grant to replace a non-working charger along Highway 74 with a newer and faster EV charger,” said Megan Upchurch, CCFC Director. “It is great to have charging infrastructure up and running again in the county.”   

CONCLUSION 

CCFC staff are knowledgeable about current and upcoming funding opportunities and are eager to assist Centralina communities in understanding their options to pursue clean transportation investment. Reach out to CCFC’s team of subject matter experts by contacting Megan Upchurch at mupchurch@centralina.org, and review the technical assistance offerings available by visiting the CCFC website at https://www.4cleanfuels.com 

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PoleVolt Wins 2023 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations

The first PoleVolt electric vehicle (EV) charging station of its kind in North Carolina has been rewarded with the 2023 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). This award is given to projects in rural or small metropolitan areas that push towards more equitable transportation. NADO is a national association that sponsors this annual award that allows its members to promote their successful projects on a national level.

Along with this award comes an invitation to receive national recognition in the 2023 National Summit on Rural Road Safety held by the National Center for Rural Road Safety in Oklahoma. This event will have customized trainings for rural transportation practitioners, advice on how to form partnerships with local law enforcement and public health professionals, networking opportunities, and more!

We hope you can join us at the biggest national summit yet on September 12th-14th!

You can learn more about how to attend this event here.

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North Carolina Benchmarking Project: EV Ride and Drive Interview

Recently, Jason Wager (Planning Director at Centralina Regional Council) and Megan Upchurch (Director at Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition) were interviewed alongside Chris Davis (Operations Supervisor and Fleet Manager at Charlotte Department of Transportation) by the North Carolina Benchmarking Project of the UNC School of Government about last year’s successful Electric Vehicle Ride and Drive event.

For this event, Centralina partnered with the City of Charlotte and brought together manufacturers, employees, regional partners, and other municipalities to share ideas and learn from one another on the topic of electric vehicles. Through networking at this event, many ongoing relationships were developed, and vendors got a better idea of the increasing interest in electric vehicles. Below is the full interview which details the event setup, benefits, and lessons for other fleet maintenance managers who seek to host a similar event.

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What You Need to Know About the Rise of NACS

Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) appears to be on its way to living up to its name. As more electric vehicle (EV) companies announce their plans to incorporate the NACS into their new models, many people are questioning what impacts this will have on riders and the Combined Charging System (CCS). Here are five big takeaways from current news to know.

 
1. General Motors and Ford Have Adopted NACS

Tesla’s NACS is rising in popularity due to companies like General Motors (GM) and Ford’s ever-growing adoption of EVs. General Motors and Ford are now working with Tesla to allow their EV drivers to access over 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in the coming year. NACS will also be fully incorporated into GM’s EV models in 2025. Tesla has developed a new adapter to enable CCS-fitted EVs to access their own V3 Superchargers, this will at least double the number of fast chargers available for EV drivers.

 
2. The Domino Effect

After GM and Ford’s switch to NACS, many other companies have followed suit. GM, Ford, and Tesla alone occupy almost three-quarters of the EV market, but more companies are quickly following in their footsteps to adopt the NACS. Some of which include Blink, ChargePoint, FLO, EVgo, Tritium, ABB E-mobility, and SK Signet. GM believes that this can lead to the NACS living up to its name by becoming the standard in North America. As more companies announce their plans to use NACS, many EV riders begin to ask one question: Is the NACS good enough to overtake the CCS?

 
3. NACS vs. CCS

Some people are questioning whether the popularity of NACS will overshadow CCS. Here are some comparisons between the two to get an idea of where each stands: CCS has 5,240 public DC fast-charging stations in the United States, while Tesla only has 1,803. Tesla, however, has 19,463 ports, while CCS has only 10,471 ports. Many riders are also celebrating the rising popularity of NACS, as it is more compact and easier to use compared to CCS, which is harder to handle. Many EV riders remark that CCS and other chargers have a reliability problem, as their payment methods can be tricky and leave room for error, while it is believed Tesla chargers have more consistent up time and faster charging. It’s important to note, however, that Tesla’s chargers have been extremely reliable for Tesla cars, and it is still early in the process of testing their chargers with other brands. On June 12th, CharIn released an article pledging their support for NACS, and is even inviting members to join a task force that will “work to convene an open task force to align requirements with the goal of submitting NACS to the standardization process.”

 
4. Tesla’s Approach to Opening NACS and The Future

If the NACS is adopted as North America’s standard, it will have to be reliably open and accessible to all EVs. Tesla had already started this process when they made the “Magic Dock” that allows EVs fitted for CCS to charge at their stations. This new adapter that is attached to superchargers is still in its testing phase, however, as there are already reports of these adaptors not charging non-Tesla EVs properly. The Magic Docks are only located at a small number of Tesla stations right now, so it could be assumed that Tesla did this intentionally to monitor its performance and work out any kinks before their mass installation. It is likely that these docks will be installed into V4 Superchargers, which are also expected to have longer cables when they come out, as well as added on to already existing V3 Superchargers. Tesla has even created a membership to lower the cost of non-Tesla EV charging at their ports.

 
5. Only Time Will Tell

There seem to be big expectations for the growth and establishment of NACS. Tesla has their work cut out for them if they want to make NACS the favored standard of North America, but most believe that it will eventually achieve that status due to their superchargers’ speed, reliability, and operability. As more companies declare their adoption of NACS, this outcome becomes more and more likely. The hope is that, after some growing pains, Tesla’s chargers will become yet another dependable, fast-charging option for all EV riders. Only time will tell, and we will be looking out for any other important updates.

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Meeting the Secretary of the Department of Energy: Thoughts on the Future of North Carolina and Clean Energy

 

On the 26th of June, Secretary Granholm traveled to North Carolina as her first stop in her  “People Powered EV Summer Road Trip” across the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee.  

 

I, Melissa Jamison, a Clean Cities intern at Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition, am a Charlotte native with a passion for sustainability and environmental justice. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend an energy townhall at Johnson C. Smith University where Secretary Granholm and Mayor Lyles of Charlotte spoke about our state’s future in clean energy and the efforts by the Biden administration to address climate change.

In this town hall, Secretary Granholm shared the projects that the Department of Energy (DOE) had been working on, as well as their goals for the country in terms of clean energy. The Biden administration has set the U.S. power sector on the course for 100% clean energy by 2035, and net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Secretary Granholm pointed out the similarity between this plan and North Carolina’s law aimed to reduce 70% of carbon emissions by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. This law made North Carolina the first southeastern state to write carbon emission reduction goals into law. She also celebrated North Carolina’s $30 million award for clean school bus replacements. 

Secretary Granholm explained how important it was for the U.S. to start relying on domestic, clean sources of energy. Not only would we be reducing harmful carbon emissions through these efforts, but also eliminate our energy insecurity due to no longer having to rely on other countries for resources to keep our country powered. The DOE is also working on an energy storage technology that can assist with handling the expanding unpredictability of intermittent energy sources and rapidly changing fuel infrastructures.

 

My Question to The Secretary 

Questions from the audience were also taken with their registration to attend the event, and I was one of the lucky attendees who had their query read aloud for the Secretary and Mayor to answer. My question addressed the growing importance of Clean Cities, and the rise in funding for clean transportation. I asked how we can put a stop to the intentional exclusion from policymaking that communities most impacted by pollution face, and how we can ensure that environmental justice meets the needs of clean transportation in our community.  

The Secretary first expressed the gratitude that the DOE has for Clean Cities, as we are one of their partners. She then went on to say that this was an important question to ask, as disparities have been built into our system that creates structural inequality. Due to this, the DOE has a team focused on environmental justice that builds structural equity into how their grants are made. During the review of grant applications, 20% of the evaluation is weighted on whether the application has a community benefits agreement, if the community is at the table, and if there is a workforce development plan. These factors are what developers are graded on to decide whether or not they get the grant, effectively forcing them to work with the community, rather than simply in the community. Secretary Granholm also gave an example of how if you are a solar developer, you automatically get a 30% tax credit. If you choose to develop solar panels on multifamily rooftops, you get an additional 20% tax credit if it’s in a disadvantaged community. If your solar panels are domestically produced, you get an extra 10% tax credit. This totals to a 60% tax credit urging developers to invest in disadvantaged communities. She added a final point that President Biden’s first executive order he signed was Justice40, which requires that 40% of benefits of certain federal investments must go to disadvantaged communities, showing their clear interest in helping these communities from the very beginning. 

Mayor Lyles shared her thoughts on how this is not just an issue with energy, but with transportation, highways, housing, storm drainage, and even how we treat runoff and erosion in our communities. She says that the city council acknowledges the past and recognizes where change can be made, and believes that every part of what they do needs to have an equity lens.

I think that this is a great start to reshaping the DOE’s funding system and some of our federal investments through an equity lens. I also believe that the DOE is doing well in encouraging developers to work with disadvantaged communities. I am happy to say that the DOE has also been showing more support to Clean Cities by writing us into grants and supporting the edition of a Community Engagement Coordinator to our team. I hope we continue seeing support from the DOE, as I think the 75+ coalitions across the nation would be a fantastic instrument for building better relationships with disadvantaged communities and ensuring that their needs are communicated and met as we transform our country to one that is more sustainable and domestically stable.

Learn more about Senator Granholm’s visit to North Carolina and how President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda can strengthen our economy and provide for rural and underserved communities here.

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