Reston Association study of electric vehicle initiatives turns up obstacles

Reston Association is looking at potentially introducing greater electric vehicle initiatives, but a months-long evaluation of the proposal’s feasibility has revealed some hurdles.

During the RA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, COO Larry Butler and Cam Adams, the director of covenants administration, presented findings from a study of electric vehicles and charging stations that the board unanimously approved on Feb. 25.

One of the motions approved in February directed RA staff to study the possibility of installing electric vehicle charging stations at one or more RA facilities. The other motion called for staff to review the potential replacement of the association’s current fleet of fossil-fueled vehicles over the next 10 years.

With notes from consulting firm Kimley-Horn, Butler said at last week’s meeting that the availability of electric vehicles does not meet the general needs necessary for the complete conversion of the fleet at this time.

Since the majority of RA’s fleet consists of trucks, the current design for electric trucks does not meet the association’s needs, according to Butler, who noted that they typically have shorter beds than fossil-fuel versions and lack power capabilities for towing, hauling, or snow plowing.

However, he clarified that “this is really just the beginning of this investigation,” and the review to switch to electric vehicles will continue.

“The market isn’t there yet. It’s moving very fast,” Butler said.

He told the board that Kimley-Horn had recommended reevaluating electric vehicle options “every two to three, maybe four, years.”

“As the market becomes more robust with the types of vehicles, the cost of those because the competition will also come down…we’ll be in a better place to really look at more wholesale conversion,” he said.

There will remain consideration in the budget for electric vehicles, but a full conversion is not yet possible, in Butler’s opinion.

“We are in the early stages of going from fossil to electric. You’ve raised, I think, what are the major issues,” RA Director Bob Petrine said after Butler’s presentation. “I think the biggest single one is there isn’t at the moment a good break-even point. The trucks that are in offing are more toys than they are work trucks.”

Adams followed this discussion by addressing the board’s Jan. 28 directive to study how RA, the Design Review Board, and the covenants committee can assist clusters considering the installation of EV charging stations.

He suggested that a draft guideline could be presented to the DRB when it meets in July but estimated a final draft will take about five months to prepare, potentially for presentation in October.

While the Design Review Board has already approved six separate types of EV installations, it does not have an established guideline “that the DRB can objectively review that application,” according to Adams.

He added that the board would probably review any request submitted for an EV installations and that each “will evaluate it in a certain level of reasonableness that’s appropriate.”

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