Boston plans for new curbside EV chargers


Electric vehicle drivers who park in Boston could see hundreds of new locations for curbside charging installed around the city over the next two years, under a plan discussed on Tuesday by Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration.

Two companies have been initially selected to install about 250 charging locations at no cost to the city, Matt Warfield, new mobility director at the Boston Transportation Department, told a hearing of the city council’s ways and means committee.

The effort is just one part of the city’s plan to add more places to charge EVs for people who park on the street. The Wu administration is also adding 60 city-installed chargers at 15 sites around the city. Almost 7,000 EVs were registered to people living in Boston at the start of the year, according to data from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The city is finalizing contracts with the two companies, Warfield said without naming them. The companies are Itselectric, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Greenspot from Jersey City, New Jersey, people familiar with the selections said. (They spoke on condition of anonymity because the contracts have not been finalized.)

The city council also has to approve the two contracts, which are slated to run for up to 10 years.

Boston crafted its plans after reviewing the curbside charging experience of New York City, while some other locales have been less informative, Boston’s Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia said. New York “has shown a lot of successes,” Sellers-Garcia said. “Some of the cities that have gotten the most attention for EV charging are totally car-dominated cities like L.A.”

Boston is not planning to follow Cambridge’s lead and allow residents to drape their own charging cords across sidewalks, a more informal curbside charging solution.

Specific locations for the new chargers haven’t been selected yet. The contracts will require the companies to work with the city on site selection. Boston has been collecting requests from residents for several years about desired charging spots, which will be a starting point for the programs, Warfield said. Pricing for charging also has not been set, but the city will have to approve whatever rates the companies set.

At the hearing, city councilor Ben Weber said he’s been hearing from constituents who live in apartment buildings in Jamaica Plain and don’t have access to charging. “There’s certainly a large outcry for increased access to charging stations in my district,” he said.

The two companies selected have different business models.

Itselectric installs a slim charger post and users have to bring their own charging cable. The posts get power from a nearby private building, which could be anything from a retail store to an apartment complex. The company installs Level 2 chargers, which can add about 15 to 30 miles of range to an EV battery per hour.

Greenspot, which already operates some chargers in Brookline, installs larger stations with built-in cables, including some that are DC fast chargers, capable of adding hundreds of miles to an EV battery per hour.

Other cities and towns around Massachusetts are watching Boston before crafting their own curbside charging plans, according to Eric Bourassa, transportation director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Boston’s experience will test whether the market can support private sector companies trying to make a profit from charging, Bourassa said. “We are still in the early days of figuring out the right business model,” he said. “Cities need to test and see how these things work.”

Boston got 18 responses over the summer to its request for proposals on curbside charging. Many of the other companies responded with plans that relied on including large screens with digital advertising to finance the installations (much like gas pumps that now show ads). The two proposals that the city picked won’t have advertising, however.

If the contracts end early or a company goes out of business, the city will retain ownership of the installed infrastructure, Warfield said.

Aaron Pressman can be reached at Follow him @ampressman.


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