Eversource is joining a group of utilities aiming to build a national network of high-speed electric vehicle chargers.
The company, which is New Hampshire’s largest electric provider, is the first in the Northeast to join the Electric Highway Coalition, launched last month by utilities in the Southeast, Gulf Coast and Midwest.
Eversource clean energy strategy manager Kevin Boughan said they want to make it easier for EV owners to find fast chargers, especially on inter-state drives.
“We’re at the beginning stages of making this happen, but it is happening,” he said.
The goal is to alleviate what’s often called “range anxiety” – removing the planning and stress that would be needed now to drive an EV from, say, New Hampshire to Florida.
"When would they be able to do it comfortably without thinking about it? I would say… by the end of next year you'll be more comfortable,” Boughan said. “And then within three years I'd say that we'd have this built out."
He said the utilities are prioritizing the kind of chargers that can fill a car’s battery in about 20 minutes, so people can recharge the same way they’d stop for gas and snacks on a road trip. Eversource’s territory only has a handful of these chargers now.
Boughan said the company already has funding and state approval to add more of this infrastructure in Massachusetts. They expect to launch similar initiatives in New Hampshire and Connecticut this year.
The main obstacle to charger installation, he said, is the up-front cost of the infrastructure. He said he expects that to drop as the industry grows and matures.
“Generally, we support the ‘make-ready model,’ where the utility funds the enabling infrastructure and a third party owns and operates the chargers themselves,” Boughan said.
The new coalition will help Eversource coordinate its New England efforts with similar programs in other states – from Texas to Florida, Indiana and Virginia, and most in between.
The coalition still has a gap in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast below New England.
“We’re speaking with other utilities to bridge the geographic coverage…to make it to New England, possibly even extend up into Canada,” Boughan said. “We believe that other utilities will join this coalition to make that happen.”
New Hampshire and other states have millions of dollars already earmarked for EV investments through their cuts of the Volkswagen emissions-tampering settlement. And President Joe Biden's $2 trillion-dollar infrastructure plan includes $174 billion for electric vehicle projects.
Passenger vehicles and transportation generally are New Hampshire's top source of carbon emissions. This sector has also remained relatively stagnant while emissions from other energy uses have fallen.
State leaders have cited potential impacts to rural drivers in backing away from the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative, a proposed emissions cap-and-trade scheme for vehicle fuels.
There were about 1,120 EVs registered in New Hampshire as of December 2018, according to the most recently available federal data, representing just over 1% of the market share in the state.
Advocates say more state incentives for buying EVs could help that grow, as will auto-makers' plans to offer many more EV models in the coming years.