Massachusetts has set some lofty goals to reduce carbon emissions, including putting 750,000 electric vehicles on the roads by 2030. But as the Globe’s recent reporting has shown, the state is woefully behind, with only 51,431 electric passenger vehicles registered as of March — and just 60 percent of those are fully electric.
There are myriad reasons offered for the shortfall, everything from the high price of electric cars to the minutiae of state and federal tax rebates. And there’s the chicken-and-egg problem of the lack of high-speed chargers on highways.
Massachusetts has really fallen down on that score, with a grand total of six charging spots on the entire 138-mile length of the Massachusetts Turnpike (and two of those have been out of order for months).
Still, some bigger states have done better. New York and Florida have more than twice as many EVs registered as Massachusetts, while California stands in a category all its own with almost 1 million. Those states also have far more fast-charging stations.
Five years ago, with some fanfare, then-Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and other state officials unveiled the half-dozen charging stations on the Mass. Pike, with Beaton saying they would give “consumers confidence that they will have access to charging stations on long trips, a commonly cited hurdle in transitioning to zero emission vehicles.”
The logic was impeccable; what a well-placed showcase to demonstrate the allure of electric vehicles and ease any anxiety about running out of juice.
But instead of maintaining and adding to the charging network, the state did the opposite.
Right now, all of the motorists stuck paying more than $4 a gallon should be seeing a line of electric cars charging up for a fraction of the cost. The reality is a handful of neglected, unreliable chargers that probably confirm people’s worst fears about the hassles of EV ownership.
The chargers at the Natick and Charlton-westbound rest stops haven’t worked in over a year. That’s not giving anyone confidence to buy an EV. There’s also not a good explanation for the current woeful charging situation on the Pike.
EVgo, the private company with its name on the chargers, says it wants to repair the broken terminals but needs state help with wiring issues. Without a firm date for when the terminals will be back online and with additional delays possible due to supply chain shortages, EVgo decided to stop listing all six chargers in its app. Motorists can still charge at the four working chargers, but the chargers are no longer shown as available in EVgo’s app or most third-party apps.
“We made a decision that we will continue to work with the state, continue and stay as a great partner, but we wanted to delist them so that we didn’t have any confusion from customers,” Jonathan Levy, EVgo’s chief commercial officer, told me.
The Department of Transportation didn’t reply to several requests for comment. At a Senate hearing last year, DOT highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver touted the six original terminals but blamed the federal government for the lack of expansion, my colleague Sabrina Shankman reports.
The answer didn’t sit well with the senators, including Mike Barrett. “The time has long passed where DOT can point to the federal government as the reason they’re not doing the job they need to do,” he responded.
Barrett is right. To give the EV market a jolt, the state needs to do its part.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.