NREL working to install charging stations on streetlights in Kansas City

Published on June 18, 2021 by Dave Kovaleski

© Metropolitan Energy Center

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) to install electric vehicle charging units on existing streetlights in Kansas City, Mo.

The streetlight charging stations will be open to the public and be available for anyone to use. They will be located in residential areas to support overnight charging.

“There is a real risk that electric vehicle adoption will be concentrated to limited geographic and demographic markets, minimizing the benefits to underserved populations that are already more susceptible to lower air quality and higher vehicle ownership burdens,” Erin Nobler, a project manager with NREL and one of the lead researchers on this project, said.

First, they identified the streetlights where installing vehicle chargers was technically possible. Next, they prioritized which streetlights would be selected as charging stations. Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology then examined traffic patterns in Kansas City to determine the areas with the most demand. The NREL team then identified locations where community members had few or no existing options for charging at home.

“Folks can park their car curbside as they normally would, go into their apartment, and in the morning their car will be charged,” Miriam Bouallegue, a sustainable transportation project manager with MEC, the lead partner on the project, said. The MEC houses the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition, which is part of a coordinated group of more than 75 coalitions throughout the country working to advance affordable domestic fuels and technologies.

Additionally, two virtual meetings are planned to gather input from Kansas City residents on where the charging stations should be located.

“We know the locations that are technically feasible, but now it’s totally community engagement focused,” Nobler said. “We’re asking the community what they think about the locations before making siting decisions.”

The community engagement work is being led by EVNoire, an organization with expertise in community engagement and environmental justice. Local nonprofit organizations within the community are also helping guide the outreach efforts.

“We’re really seeing folks get excited about electric vehicles and realize this can be a reality, even here in Kansas City,” Bouallegue said. “Electric vehicles aren’t just something that people out in California or people with a lot of money drive. Electric vehicles can be a reality for the community here in Kansas City.”

The project is being funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Metropolitan Energy Center.