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Dominion Energy, other utilities work toward designing the 'Electric Highway'

This year, Dominion Energy partnered with several other regional utilities to work out how to create a stream of charging stations from D.C. to Texas.

WASHINGTON — What will the highways of the future look like? Billions of dollars from the infrastructure bill are aimed at getting more electric cars on the road.

But how will the country make the transition from gas stations to charging stations? It appears that public utilities will play a major role in the transition. 

This year, Dominion Energy and other power companies have worked out a plan to prepare the electric highways.

Ten years ago, the revolution started with the first major wave of electric vehicles. That year Scott Wilson, Joyce Breiner, and Ron Kaltenbaugh each bought their first cars: a Nissan Leaf.

“My first reaction was how much fun it was to drive,” Joyce said. “Because it is quiet, really quiet and it just takes off.”

“I felt like I was doing something fun and interesting,” Scott said. “You had to kind of re-learn driving all over again. So, it's exciting.”

Scott, Joyce, and Ron were among those first 50,000 people to buy electric cars in 2012.

“That was the early days,” Ron remembered. “There weren’t enough charging stations to really go on any kind of longer trips.”

This year, the Edison Electric Institute estimates more than 1 million electric cars drive the highways of the country. President Joe Biden has said repeatedly, he wants to see that number explode.

The administration expects half of the new cars sold in the US to be electric.

“For those of us who have charging at home in a garage or off-street parking, you put in a charger, it's not it's not that big a deal,” Ron said.

So, we asked these 10-year EV veterans to find out what are some of the hurdles of the next electric car wave. 

They all agreed there are a number of different obstacles: New vehicle costs (which each said the gas savings alone make up for), gas-driving mindsets, information on the vehicles, things like that.

But another reason hurdle kept coming up: the accessibility of chargers.

“It's people who live in condos and apartments that have the biggest problem,” Ron said.

“They will also need to build fast charging in the middle of nowhere, so to speak,” Scott said.

Part of the responsibility of that electric future falls on the power companies, like Dominion Energy:

“The grid is ready to handle our customer demand,” said Kate Staples, the manager for electrification at Dominion.

Kate is one of the key players in navigating the role the utility will play in the electric vehicle future.

“It's important for us to talk to our peer utilities to make sure that folks have range confidence that they feel like they can drive an electric vehicle on vacation crossing service territories,” she said.

Earlier this year Dominion and several other utility companies formed: the Electric Highway Coalition.

One of the primary goals of the EHC is to build a system of electric car chargers that span from D.C. to Texas seamlessly.

“We look at a lot of maps, we look at adoption forecasts for electric transportation,” Staples said. “We talk with our communities; we're very engaged with our localities on their transportation plans.”

It's how the companies feel they can best meet the changing needs of the next decade.  So, more people can join Scott, Joyce and Ron on the electric highways.

“The future drivers don't know they're going to love it, but they will,” Ron said. “That's going to be exciting to see all that you know, all those new people come into the fold.”

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