Arlington, VA

Once can hardly go a block in some parts of Arlington without spotting a Tesla, but the vast majority of vehicles on local streets are still powered by fossil fuels.

The proportion of electric vehicles on the road is expected to increase, albeit gradually. The Edison Electric Institute expects 3.5 million electric vehicles to be sold annually in the U.S. in 2030; that compares to the total of 17 million vehicles sold last year.

The switch to electric will have a number of advantages: less noise along busy roads, lower operating and maintenance costs, and a cleaner environment.

From a WTOP article yesterday:

Switching to electric vehicles would save lives, time and money, and the D.C. area would be one of the prime beneficiaries, a new study finds.

The American Lung Association’s Road to Clean Air report placed D.C. among the top 10 metropolitan areas that would benefit from a switchover to electric cars, buses and trucks by the middle of the century.

Compared with a “business as usual” scenario, the D.C. area would see about 175 fewer premature deaths a year by 2050; nearly 3,000 fewer asthma attacks; about 12,000 fewer lost workdays per year and more than $2 million in public health benefits, the association said in a statement.

Today we’re wondering: how many Arlingtonians are planning to buy an electric vehicle over the next 10 years?

Photo via Twitter

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

As we move into Phase 2 opening, we will continue our virtual solar and electric vehicle (EV) co-op sessions.

More than 200 homeowners have already installed solar panels as part of our Solar and Electric Vehicle Charger Co-op.

This spring, we’ve already had more than 280 homeowners attend virtual co-op sessions. Sixty-nine families have already had their roofs screened, verified as viable for solar, and they have joined the Co-op.

This June, we’ll continue with 3 additional information sessions. Please RSVP and join us to learn more:

  • June 23 — 6 p.m. Info Session link
  • June 26 — 12 p.m. Info Session link
  • June 30 — 12 p.m. Battery Storage 101 link

For those who  may not be familiar, the Co-op  helps Arlingtonians buy solar panels and EV chargers at a discounted price through bulk purchasing. The Co-op also provides support to participants to make the purchasing process easy. This year we will also provide information about storing your solar power at home in battery systems.

You can also take advantage of one of the last big federal solar tax credits. This year the solar tax credit will be 26 percent. In 2021, it will be 22 percent and in 2022 and beyond, it won’t be available for homeowners at all.

As you quarantine at home, use this opportunity to learn more about solar power, electric vehicle charging and solar battery storage. Take action today to help our community be carbon neutral by 2050.

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Delivery trucks are a frequent topic of complaints from Arlington residents.

Aside from double parking issues, they’re noisy and polluting. When you live near a truck loading dock, you often dread early morning deliveries and the “beep beep beep” of a truck going in reverse. The county often requires that new developments limit loading dock hours, as a condition of approval.

But what if the noisy idling, shrill beeps and diesel fumes could be a thing of the past? That is a future that Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall is seeking to hasten.

Electric trucks, which are poised to become an increasingly common sight on the roads over the course of the decade, are the solution to many of the current delivery truck complains. Gutshall says Arlington County should take proactive measure to encourage their adoption — “some extra oomph,” as he puts it.

Cautioning that “the idea is very conceptual at this point,” Gutshall said the general idea would be to give electric delivery trucks special privileges, via development site plans and other regulatory means, for things like longer loading dock hours and designated curbside loading spaces on public roads.

Rewarding electric truck owners, instead of punishing fossil fuel truck owners, should “stay within a legally defensible framework” when it comes to the Dillon Rule in Virginia, he said. And if it doesn’t, the now-Democratic controlled state legislature could also carve out permission for localities to pass such ordinances.

“Update the regulations to accommodate the reality of modern life,” he said.

Gutshall plans to raise the idea, which he tweeted about last month, with his colleagues on the County Board in the near future — perhaps during an upcoming discussion on curbside management. Should it prove politically feasible, the next steps would include a public engagement process and legal review.

Electric trucks will come with the added benefit of helping Arlington achieve some of its Community Energy Plan goals.

“This is not just an Arlington issue,” Gutshall told ARLnow. “There are lots of other communities developing climate action plans and everyone knows that vehicle emissions are a huge part of the overall emission profile.”

“Any boost we can give to push early adopters out of the nest,” Gutshall said, will “help get other jurisdictions to do the same.”

Photo via Tesla

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This fall, a pair of electric school buses will replace two older diesel buses in the Arlington Public Schools fleet, the first trickle of an expected wave that could convert the fleet to 100 percent electric by 2030.

Dominion Energy is helping to supply the two buses, and 48 others, to 16 Virginia localities, including Arlington. Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Prince William County are among the jurisdictions receiving new buses from Dominion.

“We will be getting two buses sometime in the fall,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed to ARLnow this afternoon, following the Dominion announcement. “They will replace two buses that are next in the replacement cycle.”

The new buses will be manufactured by Thomas Built Buses, a traditional school bus manufacturer that is now producing electric models. Dominion is offsetting additional expenses associated with the electric school buses beyond the cost of a standard diesel bus.

The power company is working on a multi-phase plan to move Virginia school divisions to all-electric school bus fleets by 2030. Beyond environmental benefits, Dominion says the buses will be used, essentially, as batteries on the power grid to help supply more electricity during peak times.

More from a press release:

The electric school buses will serve as a grid resource by creating additional energy storage technology to support the company’s integration of distributed renewables such as solar and wind. The “vehicle-to-grid” technology leverages the bus batteries to store and inject energy onto the grid during periods of high demand when the buses are not needed for transport. The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.

“We are excited to move forward with our commitment to bringing the benefits of electric school buses to the customers and communities we serve,” said Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell, II.  “This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools.”

This initial deployment will bring electric school buses to each of the company’s operating regions. Localities were selected based on the benefit the batteries would bring to the electric grid. […]

This is just the first step in a larger initiative to replace diesel-powered buses with electric buses. Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes. Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.

Photos via Thomas Built Buses/YouTube

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