NCDOT tests tech for free universal charging at light poles

Intentional planning and streamlined review processes should help wider implementation statewide of a system that provides free EV charging for the public, takes advantage of existing infrastructure and increases accessibility

editor@aashto.org March 11, 2022

Governor Roy Cooper (D) (seen above exiting vehicle) recently toured PoleVolt – a new electric vehicle charging station in Charlotte created by a partnership between the City of Charlotte, Duke Energy, Centralina Regional Council and UNC Charlotte – that uses existing streetlights to provide free universal curbside charging for electric vehicles.

PoleVolt – created through a partnership with the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center at UNC Charlotte, the City of Charlotte, the Centralina Regional Council and Duke Energy – received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. Lessons learned from this project about intentional planning and streamlined local government development review processes should help foster similar projects and help expand curbside EV charging infrastructure more broadly statewide.

Photo via the North Carolina Governor’s Office

The project is also in line with Executive Order No. 246 signed by the governor in January that directs the North Carolina Department of Transportation to work with public and private sectors to create a Clean Transportation Plan to guide the establishment of “a cleaner and more resilient” state transportation system.

The order also “underscores” the importance of emphasizing environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy, the governor said.

“The transition by vehicle manufacturers to electric vehicles is upon us and this station is just one example of how North Carolina is getting ready,” Gov. Cooper explained in a statement (below).

Gov. Cooper

“The quicker we move the more affordable electric vehicles will become for everyday people,” he added. “Our state is moving toward an equitable clean energy economy and public-private partnerships like this one will help make that happen.”

To help foster the development and deployment of similar projects, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Association of State Energy Officials, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding on February 23.

Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, explained in a statement at the time that this MOU provides a “framework for collaboration” in response to the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program established by USDOT and DOE on February 10 to build and operate a nationwide network of EV charging stations.

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Governor Cooper Highlights North Carolina’s Transition to Clean Transportation, Tours First-of-its-Kind Electric Vehicle Charging Station in Charlotte

The PoleVolt Electric Vehicle Charging Station Provides Free EV Charging for the Public, Takes Advantage of Existing Infrastructure and Increases Accessibility to Charging

RaleighFeb 24, 2022

Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured PoleVolt, a new electric vehicle charging station in Charlotte created by a partnership between the City of Charlotte, Duke Energy, Centralina Regional Council and UNC Charlotte. The station uses existing streetlights to provide free curbside charging for electric vehicles and expand access to charging infrastructure for people who do not have access to dedicated off-street parking.

“The transition by vehicle manufacturers to electric vehicles is upon us and this station is just one example of how North Carolina is getting ready,” said Governor Cooper. “The quicker we move, the more affordable electric vehicles will become for everyday people. Our state is moving toward an equitable clean energy economy and public-private partnerships like this one will help make that happen.”

“PoleVolt allows us to look at new innovation through the lens of equity,” said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. “This new station is an example of the city’s commitment to both sustainability and to the residents in our vital Corridors of Opportunity, areas of our city that have been under-represented in the past.”

“Duke Energy is working hard to eliminate barriers such as access to charging, so we’re proud to play a role in innovative solutions such as PoleVolt,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “We are committed to supporting state and local policy goals that deliver a cleaner energy future for all our customers.”

“As North Carolina’s urban research university, UNC Charlotte is uniquely positioned to partner with Duke Energy, the City of Charlotte and the Centralina Regional Council in the development of the PoleVolt™, the first universal electric vehicle charging solution of its kind in the country,” said Rob Keynton, dean of The William States Lee College of Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “The PoleVolt™ is just one of many examples of how UNC Charlotte’s research combined with community and business partnerships leads to creative solutions for current and relevant societal needs.”

“As the long-time home to the US Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program for our region, Centralina Regional Council recognizes the importance of projects like PoleVolt in meeting the challenges of our future transportation needs. As our region is poised for exponential growth, Centralina will translate lessons learned through this project around intentional planning and streamlined local government development review processes to help move pilot ideas to a more comprehensive deployment of curbside EV charging infrastructure at scale, in Charlotte and beyond,” said Geraldine Gardner, Centralina Regional Council Executive Director.

PoleVolt was created through a partnership with the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at UNC Charlotte, the City of Charlotte, the Centralina Regional Council and Duke Energy. The station uses existing streetlights to provide free curbside electric vehicle charging for people who do not have access to dedicated off-street parking. EPIC at UNCC received funding from the Department of Energy to develop this technology in partnership with Duke Energy, including involving students to help develop the technology for the station.

In January 2022, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 246 directing the North Carolina Department of Transportation to work with public and private sectors to create a Clean Transportation Plan that will craft solutions for a cleaner and more resilient transportation system. The Order underscores the importance of emphasizing environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy.

Read Executive Order 246