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Mayor Wu announces new electric vehicle plan in effort to reduce vehicle emissions

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at City Hall.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday announced aggressive plans to widen the use of electric vehicles in the city, mapping out a plan to install more electric vehicle charging stations and overhaul the city’s current vehicle fleet.

The administration said the city would create 78 new publicly-accessible electric-vehicle (EV) charging plugs and expand the city’s EV car share programs that launched earlier this year. The ultimate goal, she said, is to have a charging station or EV car share site within a 10-minute walk of every Boston household by 2030. Currently only 57 percent of city residents have an EV charger within that radius.

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“We need urgent action to drive down vehicle emissions and protect the health of our communities,” said Wu, who made cutting carbon emissions a central plank of her campaign platform. “These steps will contribute to cleaner air and lower emissions, advancing Boston’s efforts to become a Green New Deal city.”

The city currently has 10 EV charging stations installed in municipal lots. In January of next year, Wu plans to install 28 new stations in lots in Nubian Square, Mattapan Square, Uphams Corner, and South Boston. Fifty more stations will come online in 2022. People who use the charging stations pay a small fee — usually just a few dollars — to plug in. The city is also adding four new EVs to the the Good2Go EV car-sharing program, which launched this summer.

And in the city’s new Fleet Utilization Policy, Wu outlined plans to review the size of its 1,200-vehicle municipal fleet (which does not include school buses or public safety vehicles) and transition it to zero emission vehicles. She also will create a review committee to manage and maintain the city’s equipment more efficiently.

The mayor’s office noted that a third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles, 65 percent of which are personally owned.

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The announcement comes on the heels of two other climate-centric policies Wu has introduced in her first few weeks in office: introducing fare-free service on three MBTA bus lines and divesting city funds from fossil fuels. And it aligns with the goals of the Go Boston 2030 program, which aims to create more accessible, sustainable transit options throughout the city.

“This is a tremendous step,” said City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who, as chair of the Environment, Resiliency and Parks Committee, oversaw his final hearing on Friday. O’Malley, who said he and Wu often vie for the electric charging station in City Hall’s executive garage, said he was “delighted” to see Wu take concrete steps toward widening access to EV charging stations citywide.

“A week doesn’t go by where I don’t get a phone or e-mail from a constituent saying ‘I would love to buy an EV, but I live in a condo or don’t have a driveway, or I can’t have a charger in my house,’” he said. “We are seeing a huge demand for them, and the more we grow them, the more they will be used.”

Wu’s office said that Eversource is supporting the installation of the new stations through its Make Ready program, which will cover the cost of engineering and design, permitting, and other required steps needed to build the infrastructure to power the stations. The utility is covering the cost of 16 stations in environmental justice communities in Boston; the city will pay for the rest.

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The city has allocated $300,000 in its transportation department budget to support the expansion of electric vehicle stations.

O’Malley said that each charging station costs the city about $2,400 a year, and that the city earns a percentage of the charging fees from users. Purchasing EVs for the city’s fleet will likely use the same funding sources allocated to the current fleet. While that may be a higher upfront cost, he said, the savings from not buying fuel will offset that expense over time.

City Councilor Ed Flynn said in a statement that the announcement was well-timed, as federal infrastructure dollars are poised to flow toward more charging stations and tax credits for EVs. And he praised Wu for taking action “to ensure that we reach our carbon neutrality goals, and do our part to combat pollution, climate change, and sea level rise.”

Casey Bowers, the assistant vice president of government relations for the Environmental League of Massachusetts, also hailed Wu’s announcement, saying transportation in Massachusetts is the largest source of emissions.

“This type of rollout, while ambitious, may meet the demand,” she said. “Folks are calling on the city to take these kind of actions.”


Janelle Nanos can be reached at janelle.nanos@globe.com. Follow her @janellenanos.