Charleston looking to upgrade its electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 4:26 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As more electric cars are hit the road, City of Charleston leaders say they are looking to come up with ways to make sure its network can handle that increased demand.

Charleston Sustainability Director Katie McKain said the city is working on an electric vehicle infrastructure plan, where they would look at locations and adjust policies, to support electric car charging in the future.

“If you live in a condo or an apartment like many folks in urban areas do, and especially Charleston, you are really limited by what your HOA or your governing board says that you need to do,” McKain said, “So there are lots of people who don’t have access to charge at home.”

Right now, the city has eight charging stations spread out across three of the garages the city owns that can charge a car in around six hours. The city plans to double the number of charging stations by the end of next year, and it would cost around $70,000.

McKain said other cities around the U.S. have set requirements for new construction to either mandate charging stations or have the capacity in place to handle putting in charging stations later.

That’s one direction the city is looking at in terms of city codes, but it is currently weighing its options and looking for help from neighbors on a way forward.

However, level 3 chargers, like Tesla’s Supercharger, remain few and far between.

“We don’t have the transformer capacity level 3 charging stations, for example, because the level 3s draw so much more energy than the level 2 stations will,” McKain said.

Tesla owners said they have to come to the supercharging station at the Tanger Outlets in North Charleston because it’s one of the few supercharging stations in the Lowcountry.

“I really have to plan out my trips if I come down to the Charleston area,” driver John Boyle said. “If I’m driving up to New York, I know that there’s multiple superchargers in the area, and I don’t have to preplan as much.”

McKain said last year more than $200 million in private investments were given to electric cars in South Carolina, where around 2% of all cars are electric.

“I think people are catching onto the trend and really are embracing the electric vehicle technology if they have access to it,” McKain said, “and that’s why it’s important that city government get involved and make sure we’re providing equitable access to charging infrastructure to everyone because, right now, not everyone has the opportunity to own an electric vehicle because they don’t have access to that charging infrastructure.”

McKain said they’re looking for help from neighbors and private developers on a potential way forward, which climate advocates like Charleston Climate Coalition Co-Director Belvin Olasov say is electric.

“Electrification is the way of the future,” he said. “It’s the way we’re going to get off of fossil fuels and dirty fuels and move to a climate-friendly future. I’m happy the city is moving on this.”

Dominion Energy spokesman Paul Fischer released the following statement in regard to Charleston’s efforts to upgrade its electric vehicle infrastructure:

Dominion Energy is committed to a sustainable energy future that transforms transportation and the communities we serve. As demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, we support easy EV access for our customers and the continued buildout of EV infrastructure.

The City of Charleston has created a survey for neighbors to give their input on the future of electric vehicles in the city. Click here for a link to their online survey.