Bill allows state to operate electric car charging stations

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — State agencies would be able to operate charging stations for the growing number of electric vehicles on Virginia roads under legislation approved by the General Assembly on Thursday.

HB 1934 would allow the Department of General Services, Department of Motor Vehicles and Virginia Department of Transportation to operate retail fee-based charging stations for EVs on any property or facility controlled by the agency. The charging services must be offered at prevailing market rates.

The bill, sponsored by Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, was approved 31-9 by the Senate on Wednesday and 66-34 by the House on Thursday. The legislation now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

Bulova has been an advocate for EVs because they help reduce greenhouse gases. He noted that automobiles account for more than a third of such emissions.

HB 1934 is Bulova's second effort to create more EV charging stations.

Last session, he successfully carried a bill allowing any locality, public institution of higher education and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to operate EV charging stations on their property. Those stations could limit usage to employees and authorized visitors.

Virginia currently has about 550 EV charging stations and more than 1,250 charging outlets, according to Alternative Fuels Data Center , a government resource that tracks such information.

The city of Richmond has 63 public charging ports. Thirty percent of those stations allow EV owners to charge their cars for free.

The General Assembly isn't the only group in Richmond focused on sustainable energy and electric vehicles.

The ninth annual Richmond Environmental Film Festival, which ended Saturday, screened the documentary "Evolve: Driving a Clean Future in Coal Country," about EV owners in Kentucky. The event was sponsored by Drive Electric RVA, a Richmond chapter of the Electric Auto Association that promotes EVs as both a transportation alternative and as a way to reduce air pollution and energy consumption.

Although the film focuses on Kentucky, Drive Electric RVA said the takeaway message transcends state lines and parties: "Not polluting shouldn't be political."

"We don't sell people cars," said Drive Electric RVA spokesperson Charles Gerena. "We sell people on the idea of them."

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This story was produced by the Virginia Commonwealth University's Capital News Service.