[caption id="attachment_233861" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Delaware home builders are now required to have newly-constructed homes to include some electric vehicle charger infrastructure. It’s one of many ways trade jobs may be impacted with the push to EVs. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ADOBE STOCK[/caption]
NEWPORT — For years, students at vocational schools have worked on conduits mounted inside classrooms, fishing cable inside walls to make connections and testing circuits. And at Delcastle High School, those skills stay the same, even when it comes to electric vehicle (EV) chargers. The only difference is the voltage needed to charge the car.“This portion of electrical installation has been around forever. It’s understanding what it takes, getting the conduit sizing for the wires and power distribution. Originally the plan was to go big, but with the power distribution we have we couldn’t do it,” Delcastle Tech Electrical Instructor Bryan Bryant said. “We’d need to bring a new 400-amp service to do it.”In the end, Delcastle students wired three EV chargers on its Newport campus, unveiled in mid-September. The pilot program is funded by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and grants and donations from Green Energy and Yale Electric Supply. Each charger can handle two cars at a timeWhile the technology behind the charger installation is not exactly new ground, it’s a sign of new jobs and skills that may be in demand as Delaware is looking to accelerate adoption of EVs. Gov. John Carney signed into law the Climate Change Solutions Act which has the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and driving away from gas-powered cars plays a large role in state’s plansDNREC estimates that cars produce 30% of the state’s total emissions. According to the state’s current projections, transportation is predicted to generate 4.8 million metric tons of emissions by 2050.To incentivize going green, DNREC has long-established rebate programs to subsidize the cost of EVs. With the ink on new state legislation drying and more Teslas and Ford F-150 Lightings hitting the streets, Delaware businesses are weighing how to meet the future demand.The DemandIn the past five years, demand for EVs in Delaware has grown substantially but they still account for less than 1% of all registered cars in the state. As of the end of July, there were 6,657 EVs out of the roughly 1 million cars registered with the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles. But in 2019, that number was 419.Even so, DNREC Climate, Coastal and Energy Administrator Susan Love argues that like any new technology, there’s always a lag time between early innovators and mass-market adoption. When DNREC first launched the EV rebate program in 2015, there were few models on the market that went over 100 miles on a single charge. Now, there are more than 40 models, and a few that can get 400 miles on a charge, while the state has put 450 public charging ports online.“And that’s not counting charging infrastructure in homes,” Love said. “With the visibility of charging stations out there, it also helps people understand that electric vehicles are not a niche for the rich or the technology-advanced people. It’s a different way of thinking: instead of going to the gas station, you can charge at home and get a good 30 to 40 miles. At a convenience store it could be 15 to 20 minutes. At your favorite convenience store, you could order a sandwich at the same time.”Delaware’s clean vehicle rebate program offers a rebate of $2,500 for electric cars with a manufacturer's suggested retail price up to $50,000. Gas-electric hybrids at the same price receive a $1,000 rebate. Since the program’s launch, it’s awarded more than $8 million in rebates to 4,000 vehicles, with 3,000 of them electric.
[caption id="attachment_233862" align="alignleft" width="300"] Delcastle Tech Electrical Instructor Bryan Bryant powers up an Ford electric vehicle with a charger students assembled and mounted at the high school. The exercise helped demonstrate the future skills to service what the state hopes is an accelerating market. |DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
Carney also signed a bill that codified the rebate program, and also raised the price cap to $60,000 and included used cars. There is about $2 million allocated to the program, which would cover about 400 EVs and 1,000 hybrids. But Love pointed out that federal tax credit rebates can also help bring the price down.Roughly a third of all cars that qualified for the state rebates were Teslas, the dominant EV brand — and the Kelley Blue Book values the median price of a Tesla model starting at $49,594. DNREC data also shows two local dealerships have either sold or leased the most rebate-eligible cars in Delaware: Diver Chevrolet and Sheridan Ford, both in Wilmington.“When you ask what’s the interest in EVs, it’s complicated,” said Chip Sheridan, owner of Sheridan Ford and Sheridan Nisaan in New Castle. “As a society, we will be adopting it, it’s just a question of what percentage. Nationally, the average is around 7%, and we’re below that.”As a business owner, he says he’s all in. Electricians are working on the dealerships service department right now to put in 15 chargers for Fords, mostly for the service department. Ford Motor Company is requiring dealers to make the upgrades or stop selling EVs. Sheridan estimates it’s costing $1 million to upgrade the facility which was built in 1967.“There are a lot of hurdles we need to solve with this, specifically with charging,” Sheridan added. “The fast chargers can be expensive and can get finicky with maintenance.”Sheridan himself drives an EV; and he found it cost $1,800 to retrofit his home to charge the car. Finding access to a public spot can be hard, as a charging station along Interstate 95 could have six or seven cars in line, each charging at 40 minutes.“I’d argue that it’s a good investment for a home, but in an apartment in the city? Not so much,” Sheridan said. Powering up at homeIn the slate of green bills Carney signed earlier this summer was Senate Bill 103, which requires newly constructed homes and apartment complexes to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure. That means builders should have wiring, conduit and junction box to handle overnight charging. Since a charging station is a dedicated line of power, the panel has to be able to support it.It’s less costly to do the wiring upfront. A Level 1 charger — a standard 110-volt wall outlet that provides the slowest charge time — costs an average of $750. Level 2 chargers, that use at least a 208-voltage outlet, cost an average of $1,100, according to Home Advisor.com. But if the project needs a new panel, it could cost thousands more.“With a single-family home, it could just be as easy as leaving room in the box. Any licensed electrician could do this,” Delaware Contractors Association Executive Director Bryon Short said. “But it’s where you get into multi-family complexes, you’re dealing with a different capacity. With a much larger system, the amperage could cost more and the conduit bidder capacity is bigger.”SB 103 also requires that all new apartments and condos complexes must have EV charging stations in 5% of all parking spaces and the infrastructure in 10% more of those spots.“With multi-family, there could be challenges in the layout of access to those chargers in a garage or a lot. With apartments right now there’s no dedicated placement for EVs even without a garage,” Short added.New Castle County has already required homes and apartment complexes to have the conduit and raceways for EV chargers in a “designated spot” as a condition for any building permits issued starting July 2022. Between then and late September, about 1,100 homes have been permitted and no multi-family complexes. Contractors and builders have told the New Castle County Land Use Department the cost could be as low as $200 for the panel location. For builders that install the panel in the garage, there’s no conduit required, so there’s no extra cost.Builders and Remodelers Association of Delaware (BRAD-DE) President Mike Riemann said New Castle County’s approach was reasonable as electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream. It also offers changes to upgrade as future electrical standards change.“We understand that vehicle electrification will become more of a part of the lives of our homeowners moving forward, but a lot of specifics are still up in the air. Grid capacity, charging standards, and other technical challenges have not been addressed yet,” Riemann said. “[The New Castle County approach] gives our homeowners flexibility to choose the charging solution that works best for them ... It is worth noting that this does add cost that is carried through to the buyer. While this is not a significant cost, items like this add over time.”
[caption id="attachment_233863" align="alignleft" width="300"] New Castle County Vocational Technical School District board of education president Yvette Santiago, left, cuts the ribbon on the first electric vehicle chargers installed at Delcastle Technical High School on Sept. 14. The hope is to install more at the district’s three other schools. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
Tools of the tradeState officials are looking to accelerate the electric vehicle adoption rate through other measures like awarding grants for chargers and setting targets for state-owned EVs. Now, stakeholders are looking at the best way to capitalize on it. Companies like DuPont have long been part of it, adapting existing products in motors. But New Castle County’s vo-tech schools see opportunities to transfer trade skills to charger installation and EV repair.“Last year, we started implementing electric vehicle maintenance shops in our auto program. The technology is still very new, so it’s not going to be a standalone program, but it will give students a chance to be exposed to it,” NCC Vo-Tech Career and Technical Education Specialist Dan Edelen said. “Even our auto tech instructor, when he started to reach out to [our business partners], they didn't know. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”The school district plans on adding EV charging stations at its three other schools over the years, with the hope that students can build them. Skills needed to complete the Delcastle chargers were electrical, welding and drafting.As for car maintenance itself, NCC Vo-Tech District is among the first to roll out a program. Delaware Technical Community College has an automotive program at its Georgetown Campus, and hopes to study adding electric vehicles to the study.Sheridan, who also serves as the president of the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers' Association, said in the future, maintenance on EVs may be cleaner. With no oil, technicians' jobs will get less dirty, but since the car is slightly faster, expect breaks and tires to be worn down more, requiring frequent changes.“It’s the battery that’s the problem. When that goes, it’s expensive to replace, and it’s a major concern to any service department,” he added. “I think our membership is nervous. There’s a lot of noise around this. One group thinks that we all will be driving EVs 10 years into the future, while the other feels like they’re being pushed into selling it. And they resent that. They still have questions.”
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