Two state senators are taking the Baker administration to task for broken electric vehicle chargers along the Massachusetts Turnpike.
As the Globe reported in April, two of the six chargers installed at rest stops along the 138-mile highway — in Natick and the westbound Charlton stop — have been out of service for over a year. EVgo, the company that operated the chargers, withdrew all six charger locations from its listings and said it could not repair the problems on its own.
On Monday, in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler, state Senators Cynthia Creem and Michael Barrett demanded that the broken chargers be fixed by July 1 and asked for information about who was responsible for their operation and maintenance.
“The continued inoperability of these chargers hampers the Commonwealth’s ability to reach its EV goals, not only because it makes it more difficult for EV drivers to travel across the Commonwealth, but also because it feeds into an inaccurate yet prevalent narrative that EVs are not reliable for long-distance travel,” the pair wrote to Tesler.
“We would like to see the broken EV chargers on the Pike returned to operation by no later than July 1 of this year, ahead of the busiest periods of summer travel,” the senators added. “We would also like to know that there is a plan in place to ensure that future issues with chargers are resolved immediately.”
The chargers were first installed in 2017. Matthew Beaton, then the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said 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.”
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.
Last year’s massive federal infrastructure funding bill included $5 billion nationwide for improving charging networks. Massachusetts is in the process of applying for its share of the funds, which will total about $12 million per year for five years, Katherine Fichter, assistant secretary and chief of climate and decarbonization at MassDOT, said on Tuesday at a seminar sponsored by AAA. The funds ultimately could be used to build 20 high-speed charging stops, each with at least four chargers, she said.
The state will require contractors to maintain chargers built under the program to avoid outages as much as possible, Fichter said, adding that the issue is a challenging one.
“EV chargers are more fragile than we want them to be,” she said. And sometimes parts are not available to repair broken chargers. “Even the private sector can’t get parts that don’t exist,” Fichter said.
The state is also separately funding grants for high-speed chargers with $13 million of its own funds. Grants went to 54 entities that plan to build 150 stations over the next year or so, Erin Bostwick, who coordinated the grant program, said at the seminar.
Lack of charging has left many consumers fearful of purchasing electric vehicles. Eight years ago, the Baker administration set a goal of having 300,000 electric vehicles on Massachusetts roads by 2025, but residents registered fewer than 52,000 by the end of March 2022.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.