It’s splendidly ironic. Lafayette, a Colorado town that took root in the era of horses now celebrates one of this century’s most prolific transportation innovations: Electric vehicles.
Located minutes north of downtown Denver and just east of Boulder, Lafayette is a quaint town of 28,000 that enjoys picturesque lakes and trails amidst mountain range backdrops.
A long-range view on electric vehicle charging
Lafayette wants to encourage EV (electric vehicle) use and purchases by providing electric vehicle charging opportunities for residents. The objective is to improve air quality and increase the use of electricity from renewable sources for transportation by lowering a significant barrier to electric vehicles: range anxiety, the perceived notion of available mile range between charges.
Adding electric vehicle charging stations also aligns nicely with the town’s sustainability goals. The Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee has a specific objective to track overall carbon mitigation progress toward GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emission reduction targets–and this EV charging program offers a clear path to electrify the transportation sector to reduce emissions.
Determining the demand
Lafayette began developing an electric vehicle charging infrastructure with three Level II recharging station locations:
• City Hall
• Skate Park
The city added a fourth in 2016 with newer technology at their Recreation Center
These public facilities were selected based on the dwell time (amount of time spent at a particular place) and the number of Lafayette residents who used these city services.
Each charging station was listed on PlugShare— a free application for iOS and Android smartphones, and on the web. The app allows users to find and review charging stations, and to connect with other electric vehicle owners. PlugShare includes a database of 42,000+ charging stations in the United States and Canada. The app also features reviews and tips from other users, as well as real-time availability to let drivers know what to expect at each electric vehicle charging station.
Hiccups along the way
The city had not charged individuals for using electric vehicle charging stations and noticed the stations were being misused by cars parking overnight or for extended periods of time. The installed technology did not allow the city to control charger use times and duration.
To resolve this issue, timers were installed on the charging stations, limiting sessions to two hours. The city is also upgrading some stations to new technologies with more driver features to manage charging sessions and capabilities for the city to administer charging policies online.
Results are encouraging
Of the approximately 25,500 light-duty vehicles registered in Lafayette in 2015, about 0.23% were EVs (nearly double the national average1) Although EVs remain a small percentage of the total registered vehicles in Lafayette, they nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014 and nearly doubled again in the following year. The use of the charging stations has grown also.
To meet the increasing demands, the city would like to add more stations to encourage workplace charging and provide charging to residents using city services. Lafayette’s goal is to develop an integrated, comprehensive infrastructure plan and coordinate with state and local organizations on the development of DC (direct current) fast-charge networks.
Another endeavor is in the works to help businesses in the city add electric vehicle charging stations for employees and guests. The city wants to understand the impact of peak demand rates and how to offset those with storage solutions as they become available. New storage solutions use batteries to store energy that is produced during off-peak hours when electricity is less expensive. Then, this energy can be used during peak demand times.
The takeaway: A long-term approach is critical. It’s important to think about how to create and implement an electric vehicle charging cost structure that will be competitive with fuel-efficient cars and will do its best to recover operating expenses.
Learn more about EV advantages and special charging rates available in Colorado in this PDF document