Why rental car giant Enterprise is striving for EV charging access for all

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While much of the conversation around building the nation’s electric vehicle charging network has focused on automakers, battery technology, utilities, public charging companies and government funding of chargers, one of the largest purchasers of vehicles also has a stake.

Enterprise Holdings — owner of the Enterprise, National and Alamo car rental agencies — is working to ensure the public charging network is accessible to all, including people who cannot charge at home and those in disadvantaged communities.

“This is one of the areas we wanted to get involved in because we have customers who live in socially vulnerable areas,” Chris Tabourn, vice president of strategic diversity initiatives at Enterprise Holdings, told Automotive News. “We want to make sure that all communities take advantage of the expansion of electric vehicles, and that socially vulnerable communities aren’t left behind.”

To that end, Enterprise and the National League of Cities partnered to develop the “Equitable Electric Mobility Playbook,” which is “a resource for policymakers and their stakeholders to recognize how an inequitable landscape can impact historically marginalized communities and explore ways to accelerate electric mobility adoption,” the company said.

A study by Enterprise Fleet Management, in collaboration with Geotab Fleet Telematics, projects that up to 45 percent of fleet vehicles may be suitable for electrification by 2025.

Enterprise has several thousand EVs in its rental fleet, and it is embracing a transition that is just beginning, said Chris Haffenreffer, vice president of strategy development at Enterprise Holdings.

“Today, we are in a position where we want to make sure that we’re starting the conversation, we’re making sure we’re bringing attention to the issues that we believe are going to be very important to our renters and to the market at large,” he said. “We know that we are going to be providing mobility services. We might be providing infrastructure, and we want to do that in a way that supports the entire market. So I think today we are playing the role we feel like we’re capable of playing. We’re trying to guide the market in the right direction.”

From a customer service standpoint, Haffen- reffer said, EV renters face a different situation than that faced by homeowners.

“Conventional wisdom in the market is that 80 percent of charging is going to happen at home, right? So I drive an electric vehicle, I’ve got a garage, I can pull in my vehicle and I can charge it. And then, 20 percent of charging is going to happen on the road, right?”

But for renters, it’s the opposite.

“We serve everybody and we provide mobility services for anybody. So we expect that 80 percent of charging for our renters is going to happen in the public domain, and maybe 20 percent will happen at home. … That presents different challenges,” he said. “We want to make sure that that public investment happens in the right way and equitably to support all the customers that we serve in the entire market.”

Enterprise and the National League of Cities selected three regions they view as being indicative of EV inequities and charging needs across the country: St. Louis, Houston and Columbia, S.C.

“When you look at those three cities, they’re very different in a lot of ways,” Tabourn said. Over eight months, they worked to identify some best practices that can help cities regardless of size.

To identify future opportunities, the “Equitable Electric Mobility Playbook” says the following should be considered:

1. Apply local definitions of equity and equitable electric mobility to define areas of need.

2. Highlight areas where demand for publicly accessible charging has or will likely be met by the market.

3. Incorporate the needs of various user groups, particularly those who share vehicles.

To map out “socially vulnerable communities,” the playbook analyzed demographic and economic data and environmental factors such as population of color, households without cars, housing and transportation costs, and pollution exposure.

Here are summaries of the challenges and opportunities in each area cited by the playbook.

ST. LOUIS

  • Areas of vulnerability are concentrated in the northern part of St. Louis County, Mo.
  • Of the three regions studied, only the utility company Ameren Missouri has implemented EV and electric vehicle service equipment incentive programs.
  • The region has adequate unused capacity in most electric substations to accommodate additional public chargers at a 10 percent EV penetration without the need for any additional substation investment. However, upgrades and grid investments are likely to be required as EV penetration reaches 20 percent.
  • St. Louis passed two EV adoption bills, including a “Future-Proofing” program — consisting of building codes to include EV charging areas — and prioritization of low-emissions city fleet purchasing.

HOUSTON

  • Vulnerable areas are concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of the city. Those are also areas that have experienced significant low-income displacement in recent years. Such areas would benefit from having increased access to clean transportation options to offset emissions from nearby manufacturing.
  • The city does not have an EV-related collaboration with CenterPoint Energy; incentives are available through the region’s retail energy providers.
  • Houston has a goal of 30 percent EV share of new-vehicle sales by 2030, and it aims to convert the municipal fleet to 100 percent EV by 2030.

COLUMBIA, S.C.

  • Vulnerable areas are clustered in West Columbia and the southern side of Interstate 20.
  • Local utility company Dominion is planning an EV service equipment program.
  • The city had a goal of purchasing more fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles in its 2016 Climate Action Plan, but no EV or charging infrastructure incentives are currently offered at the municipal level.

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