Los Angeles Revolutionizes EV Charging Accessibility: Transforming Light Poles into Power Stations

Los Angeles Revolutionizes EV Charging Accessibility: Transforming Light Poles into Power Stations
Los Angeles Revolutionizes EV Charging Accessibility: Transforming Light Poles into Power Stations

In an effort to simplify the search for electric vehicle (EV) chargers, the city of Los Angeles has devised a unique solution – installing EV chargers on light poles along city streets, taking advantage of the existing electrical infrastructure. Miguel Sangalang, Director of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Lighting, stated that enhancements such as fuse changes or structural retrofits may be necessary, but there will be no need for extensive electrical system upgrades.

The city has already installed 725 light-pole chargers, and the street light system has the capacity to support an additional 3,000 to 4,000 chargers. In contrast to commercial companies installing chargers primarily in affluent areas, Los Angeles is prioritizing locations that serve a broader range of communities. Sangalang noted, “We’re going to be that public option for people to have access to it on the right-of-way for everyone.”

In 2022, the US saw record-breaking EV sales, with approximately 1.4 million vehicles sold. However, clean energy researchers warn that insufficient public charging infrastructure could hinder widespread EV adoption and lead drivers back to gas-powered vehicles. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the US will require 1.2 million publicly accessible chargers by 2030, more than eight times the current number of 160,000 public chargers.

The initiative in Los Angeles represents the kind of creative solutions needed to reach this ambitious goal. Melissa Lott, a clean energy researcher at Columbia University, emphasized the urgency of the situation: “The slower we go, the bigger the impacts of climate change that we’re going to see… and that directly means impacts on our economy, but also our health.”

At the federal level, a national network of 500,000 electric charging ports is being developed with $5 billion in funding. The objective is to install a public charging facility every 50 miles along highways by 2030. While 33 states have proposed or awarded construction contracts, only four new charging sites have been built so far. Lott pointed out that constructing a national network involves various factors, including permits and labor, and that chargers need to be strategically placed, much like cellphone coverage in the early days.

In addition to building new chargers, maintaining existing public chargers is crucial. Regular service and repairs are essential for chargers to function optimally. Walter Thorn, Senior Vice President of Product for ChargerHelp, a repair company, stressed the importance of reliable charging infrastructure: “That’s a huge problem if the charger that you thought you were going to use to refuel your vehicle is actually inoperable.” ChargerHelp, which operates in 17 states, checks chargers in the field and reports problems to charging companies. The company claims to have serviced 18,000 chargers in 2022.

Improved maintenance can help address the charging gap. A JD Power survey found that 35% of EV drivers in the Miami-Port St. Lucie-Fort Lauderdale area and 29% in Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth had experienced instances where chargers were inoperable. Additionally, a 2022 study by the University of California Berkeley reported that 28% of public chargers in the San Francisco Bay Area were not functioning properly. To address this issue, ChargerHelp collaborated with the federal government to establish a new standard requiring chargers to be operational 97% of the time.