Armini, Singer testify on safety of EV charging stations

Marblehead Select Board member Alexa Singer got an up-close look at the network of electric vehicle charging stations in Massachusetts last fall, and the professional pilot and aviation educator came away horrified. 

Marblehead Select Board member Alexa Singer, left, and State Rep. Jennifer Armini offered testimony atop Beacon Hill on Wednesday. COURTESY PHOTO / STATE REP. JENNIFER ARMINI

“Imagine unlocking your car, getting out in the pouring rain with an umbrella as there is no shelter overhead, you have your credit card, your cellphone, your keys in hand; you’re trying to start the charger, looking at a tiny little screen with your back to your vehicle. You have to insert and replace the charger multiple times, still trying to hold that umbrella.” 

She continued: “Now it’s also dark, you’re in the back of a Wal-Mart shopping center near a dumpster with very little lighting, no other cars around you, and you’re surrounded by a row of large shipping containers … and unlike a gas car, you’re there for 45 minutes. We have security at ATMs when we’re there for two minutes. Anyone who is experienced traveler knows it is very ill-advised especially for a woman to be in the back of a building alone at night on a phone distracted and fumbling with a credit card and keys with your back turned. And yes, that is exactly the situation I found myself in over and over.” 

Singer told House members of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy the experiences left her certain that “the charging network is not ready” for the more widespread transition to electric vehicles that state policymakers are banking on to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts and elsewhere. 

Massachusetts will need to have at least 200,000 passenger electric vehicles on the roads by 2025 and 900,000 by 2030 to meet the state’s decarbonization commitments, energy officials from the Baker administration said last year. 

There were about 55,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids on the roads in Massachusetts, they said in October. Singer testified Wednesday alongside Rep. Jenny Armini, Democrat of Marblehead, in favor of a bill (H 3673) that would direct the Department of Energy Resources to establish safety standards and regulations for EV charging stations to ensure accessibility to the public, safe and well-lit siting, state of good repair, the safety of customer data and more. 

“She has done all we can ask of someone to support the transition to electric vehicles, buying in wholeheartedly. But this discouraging experience is more than enough to push those considering an EV the other way,” Armini said. “This bill is about the common concerns that slow our adoption of electric vehicles and the risks we take when we don’t ensure safe and accessible charging. The risk of being stranded or being stuck in an unsafe environment while charging are all barriers to meeting our climate goals.”

The transportation sector accounts for about 42 percent of the emissions in Massachusetts and the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050 calls ensuring that the vehicles on the road in 2050 are powered by clean energy “the primary strategy to achieve deep decarbonization in the transportation sector” and said that “transitioning the vehicles operating in Massachusetts to EVs will be the most effective decarbonization strategy for reaching Net Zero in 2050.”

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