U.S. Department of Energy-Funded Electric Vehicle Readiness Program Launches Across United States

via Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and partners are excited to launch Charging Smart, a new designation program that awards communities for electric vehicle (EV) readiness with a special focus on EV charging. Charging Smart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO). The program provides personalized, no-cost technical assistance to help municipalities set and achieve policies that facilitate the equitable expansion of EVs and EV charging infrastructure in their community. Local governments that achieve certain metrics are awarded Bronze, Silver, or Gold designations, a public recognition of their status as an EV-friendly community.

Charging Smart is launching a pilot phase for local governments in the states of Colorado, Virginia, and the regions of North Texas and Southern California. Communities in Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio are already engaged in a developmental phase of the program, and communities from one of these states are expected to become the first Charging Smart designated cohort later this spring. A comparable program has already launched in Northern Illinois in collaboration with Charging Smart. Charging Smart will be made available to communities throughout the U.S. in the future. 

Learn more and join the program at ChargingSmart.org

Charging Smart is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), with Great Plains Institute (GPI) serving as lead partner on the project. Other partners include RMI, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (MMC), Drive Clean Colorado, Long Beach Clean Cities, North Central Texas Council of Governments, and Virginia Clean Cities.

“We are thrilled to launch this new program that will increase access to electric vehicles and spur sustainable development in communities across the country,” said Toyah Callahan, Vice President—Local Initiatives at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. “This pilot phase in select states is the first step in our work to bring EV-friendly policies to local governments across the country, helping everyone access the clean transportation of the future.” 

Charging Smart is modeled on DOE’s SolSmart program, an initiative that offers expert technical assistance at no cost to help local governments adopt nationally recognized best practices to advance solar energy adoption. Since launching in 2016, SolSmart has helped over 500 local governments and their residents save time and money by reducing the soft costs of going solar. Independent research found that SolSmart-designated communities on average increased solar installations by 17% per month, compared to non-designated communities.

Now, Charging Smart aims to have a similar impact on EVs. Action at the local level is fundamental to EV expansion and accessibility, and by helping local governments adopt nationally-recognized EV best practices, Charging Smart will increase access to charging stations and other essential components of EV infrastructure. By helping local governments streamline their policies to avoid unnecessary burdens, Charging Smart aims to reduce EV charger costs and increase the number of EVs in the community. Increasing EVs brings numerous other economic and health benefits, including lower emissions, improved air quality, reduced noise pollution; and increased jobs as EVs become more popular across the U.S.

Charging Smart is committed to transforming the transportation system in ways that positively benefit people, the environment, and the economy. That includes an emphasis on making sure that all Americans benefit from the transition to electric vehicles and have equal access to charging infrastructure. Equity is embedded throughout the Charging Smart program: In order to earn designation, communities must achieve specific metrics that grant historically underserved residents greater access to the benefits of EVs and EVSE. Charging Smart is part of the Justice40 initiative, meaning that the program has a federal mandate to ensure that historically disadvantaged communities receive the benefits of this investment.

“The Great Plains Institute worked with more than 50 communities across Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio through the developmental phase of the  program. We find the cohort-based model is valuable, particularly for rural and small communities. We look forward to bringing our experience providing context-specific technical assistance and other best practices to communities across the nation through Charging Smart!” said Lola Schoenrich, Vice President of the Communities team at GPI. 

“We’re excited for the opportunity to work with municipalities and partners across the state to establish the Charging Smart program here,” said Bonnie Trowbridge, Executive Director of Drive Clean Colorado. “The Charging Smart program will help expand EV charging in an equitable way and will accelerate EV-friendly communities.”

“The Charging Smart program is an exciting opportunity for local governments in California to ensure that all residents can accelerate the transition to EVs and access the benefits of this clean transportation. At Long Beach Clean Cities, our team is ready to work with Southern California communities as part of this initiative,” said Jannet Malig, Co-Director of Long Beach Clean Cities.

“Dallas-Fort Worth has seen tremendous growth in the number of electric vehicles on the road in recent years,” said Amy Hodges, Principal Air Quality Planner, NCTCOG. “In the last 12 months, the number of EVs registered in the region increased by about 50%. As more residents choose to adopt EVs in the future, a public charging network to meet the anticipated demand becomes more critical. Through the best practices and processes provided in the Charging Smart program, North Texas communities can ultimately save time and reduce costs in their efforts to provide EV charging to all residents. We are happy to be working with the IREC to bring this timely program to our region.”

“Community transportation, energy, and emissions goals have led cities and counties in Virginia to ask to be leaders in the EV Charging Smart Program. Virginia Clean Cities is proud to be one of the early organizations supporting communities in this important effort,” said Alleyn Harned, Executive Director of Virginia Clean Cities.

Full details on the Charging Smart program, along with information on how eligible communities can participate, are available at ChargingSmart.org.