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Fairfax County to help more HOAs install electric vehicle chargers, expanding pilot

Electric vehicle chargers in a parking garage (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County is ramping up its efforts to help homeowners’ associations and other resident groups bring electric vehicle chargers to their communities.

The county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination is now accepting applications for the second phase of its Charge Up Fairfax pilot program, which provides technical and financial assistance to organizations looking to add charging stations in common areas.

“County staff and consultants will work with a new cohort of five common-interest (e.g. HOA) communities,” OEEC acting director John Morrill said in an Oct. 11 memo to the Board of Supervisors. “This second phase of the pilot will build upon initial participant feedback and lessons learned to bring more informed assistance to additional communities.”

The application window will be open through Nov. 12. In the memo, which was delivered to the board’s transportation committee yesterday (Tuesday), Morrill said his office hopes to launch the program at full scale next spring.

As the county pushes to expand Charge Up Fairfax, the HOAs selected for the pilot’s first phase in March are still working to get EV chargers into the ground.

Chosen out of nine applicants, including one that later withdrew from the process, the five communities were:

  • Penderbrook Community Association
  • Hidden Creek Homeowners Association near Burke
  • Three Reston neighborhoods — Harpers Square Cluster Association, Nantucket at Reston and the Inlet Cluster Association

Prior to the pilot’s launch, Reston Association had anticipated starting installations as early as July, but as of September, none of the five participating groups have selected a contractor yet, Morrill said in the memo. Four are now discussing quotes from contractors with their boards.

“There are no further updates beyond what is documented in the memo,” OEEC spokesperson John Silcox said when asked if any progress has been made in the past month.

Though Charge Up Fairfax hasn’t resulted in any new EV chargers yet, the pilot has helped the county and HOAs learn more about the process and obstacles that residential neighborhoods face when trying to add that infrastructure.

The two top challenges that the HOAs have encountered so far are the cost of installing chargers and the limited availability of guest parking, since the stations have to be accessible to all residents and guests, Silcox told FFXnow.

Townhouse communities will soon be required to provide visitor parking in common areas after the Board of Supervisors approved new parking regulations last month that will take effect on Jan. 1.

The county is paying up to $10,000 for engineering site visits and feasibility assessments by its consultant, Vybe Energy, for each of the communities, which can also get grants to cover up to one-third, or $5,000, of their installation-related costs reimbursed. HOAs in highly vulnerable areas can get up to $10,000 reimbursed.

However, one of the HOAs has been “reexamining whether to move forward with community charging stations” or have residents install stations individually in their assigned spaces, the OEEC said. Another group is still determining how many stations it will install, and a third has put its project on hold after it had to shift funding to address “more pressing repair needs.”

In addition, two communities are working with county staff to potentially create more parking spaces that could be used for their EV chargers, according to the memo.

Despite those challenges, the OEEC says interest in Charge Up Fairfax has been strong, with 63 participants joining a Sept. 14 webinar and “dozens of individuals” signing up to receive updates.

When fully launched, the program is expected to support 15 communities annually. The county allocated $625,000 in its current fiscal year 2024 budget that will fund approximately two years of Charge Up Fairfax.

“Participants have also indicated that the program materials and the feasibility memo have been helpful with their decision-making and next steps,” Silcox said. “OEEC will continue to work closely with the pilot communities to learn what adjustments should be made to the program before it is launched more broadly in spring 2024.”