Electric vehicle update: what to know and places to charge around the Richmond Highway Corridor

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Fairfax County resident charging up her electric vehicle (Credit: Fairfax County OEEC/YouTube)

First a look at the numbers: At the end of last year, there were 56,610 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. EVs now account for 8.8% of all new vehicles sold in the state, up from 3.1% in 2021. According to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Clean Car Law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, all new vehicles sold in the state must be fully electric starting in 2035.

2024 Tax Credits and Rebates

Jan. 1, 2024 is when qualifying consumers can start transferring their new clean vehicle tax credit (up to $7,500) — or used clean vehicle tax credit (up to $4,000) — to a car dealership and use the full amount of the credit as a down payment or discount off the vehicle’s purchase price. There is still some uncertainty about which vehicles will qualify for the new vehicle tax credit next year due to recently proposed guidance from the Department of the Treasury, which would disqualify vehicles with batteries manufactured or assembled in foreign entities of concern.

At the state level, the General Assembly in 2021 legislated the structure for an EV rebate program, which would have provided new car buyers with a $2,500 rebate on EVs under $55,000; low-income car buyers with a $4,500 rebate on new EVs; and used car buyers with a $2,500 rebate for vehicles under $25,000. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, gubernatorial changes and a shift in control of the House of Delegates, the program wasn’t funded.

When the next General Assembly convenes in 2024, there’s still no guarantee the state rebate program will get funding.

“Our budget is very tight this year,” said Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell. “It’s a question of whether we have the money for it and whether Governor Youngkin will sign off on it.”

Surovell himself is a huge EV proponent — he owns a used Tesla, and his wife also drives an EV. This year alone, the Tesla has saved him around $3,600 in fuel expenses, he said, and the car has “virtually zero maintenance costs” since there are no fluids.

“Just brakes and tires — I’m at 83,000 miles and still on my first set of brake pads,” he said.

Home-based EV Charging Infrastructure

To achieve the goals of the Clean Car Law by 2035, a robust charging network needs to be put in place, said Surovell. Some homeowners, like himself, have their own home-based charging infrastructure — in his case, two Level 2 chargers that use a 240-volt circuit that each cost around $300-$500, plus wiring expenses. The chargers enable him and his wife to fully charge their EV batteries in several hours, usually overnight.

To help homeowners with the transition to EVs, Dominion Energy developed an EV Charger Rewards program. The program enables owners of Level 2 chargers to offset charging costs by allowing Dominion to make adjustments to charging schedules or speed to manage impacts on the electrical grid during periods of high demand.

A fast-charging EV station at Mount Vernon Plaza (Credit: EVgo)

HOA-based Charging Considerations

For residents of apartments, condos or homeowner association (HOA) communities that don’t provide charging infrastructure, things can be trickier. Most of the existing EV charging infrastructure along the Richmond Highway Corridor is Level 2. To fully charge most EV batteries in less than an hour, Level 3 infrastructure is needed, and that infrastructure can cost around $100,000, said Surovell. Given Fairfax County’s plans to increase density around the corridor, that means a lot of new infrastructure will be required.

“You need to make sure there’s enough chargers, so people don’t have to wait,” said Surovell.

A few years ago, Surovell sponsored the “Right to Charge” legislation that prohibits HOAs, condo associations and cooperatives from banning the installation of EV charging stations in parking spaces owned by residents. Last week, Surovell was back in front of the Virginia Housing Commission trying to negotiate a way for HOAs to legalize EV charging in common parking areas or where residents don’t own their parking spots. Those discussions proved challenging.

“We tried to come up with legislative solutions, but we couldn’t reach consensus,” said Surovell. “Most HOA and condo associations’ governing documents don’t contemplate EV charging infrastructure as a shared asset for them to manage. They want to know who’s paying for all of this, and most aren’t pre-wired for EV charging, so their wiring and breaker panels can’t absorb the additional load. It gets complicated.”

Credit: Fairfax County

Some HOAs and condo associations in parts of Fairfax County are starting to explore potential installation of charging infrastructure in common areas. On Dec. 8, the county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC) announced the selection of five new communities for the Charge Up Fairfax program, which aims to help HOAs and condo associations with installing shared EV charging stations for residents and their guests. The communities will join five others selected for participation earlier this year.

None of the nine total applicants for phase two of the pilot program was from the Mount Vernon or Franconia Districts, said OEEC spokesperson John Silcox.

Charging Up Around the Corridor

Along the Richmond Highway Corridor, the number of EV charging stations is slowly starting to grow; however, most of them are located in the northern section between Hybla Valley and the Beltway interchange, including at Walmart (Hybla Valley), Mount Vernon Plaza, Target and a few car dealerships and apartment communities. South of the Hybla Valley Walmart, PlugShare — an app for finding stations — only shows charging stations at the Ourisman Kia in Woodlawn and at the Lorton Library. An EV charging station reportedly is “coming soon” to 8702 Richmond Highway, which is where the recently opened Dunkin is located. The 7-Eleven at Lukens Lane in Woodlawn has wiring installed but still has not put in a charging station.

Solar-based EV chargers for government vehicles on Fort Belvoir

On Fort Belvoir, the garrison recently rolled out 10 Beam Solar EV chargers in several locations; however, they are only for government vehicles, according to the public affairs office. The chargers were installed in response to an Army-wide directive that its fleet of non-tactical vehicles be all-electric by 2035.

Fort Belvoir spokesperson Paul Lara said it’s unknown when personal EVs will have the ability to charge on the installation.

Besides PlugShare, other websites for finding EV charging stations include the DoE’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator and the Virginia Department of Transportation’s 511 website. More EV information and resources can be found on the county’s website.

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