Granite Geek: EVs are in NH 10-year plan, but you have to look hard to find them

A lot of public chargers have been built since Eversource presented this map in a 2019 presentation but the message hasn't changed: The Granite State has, if anything, fallen further behind our neighbors.

A lot of public chargers have been built since Eversource presented this map in a 2019 presentation but the message hasn't changed: The Granite State has, if anything, fallen further behind our neighbors. Eversource NH—courtesy


Monitor staff

Published: 02-26-2024 2:11 PM

New Hampshire likes to be different. To celebrate our uniqueness we point to things like motorcycle helmet freedom and cannabis lack of freedom – nobody said we were consistent – and freeway signage.

Freeway signage? Yes, we are one of just a couple of states that still number freeway exits sequentially, as in 1, 2, 3, etc., instead of using the number of miles from the start of the highway or state border. (Vermont cheats, using both.)

And we’re going to stay that way, doggone it, even if tourists get confused. A proposal to renumber exits, as Massachusetts did in 2022, has been yanked from the state’s next Ten-Year Transportation Plan. Think different!

I discovered this tidbit when checking the 10-year plan, which proposes almost $5 billion worth of spending (much of it not state money) between 2025 and 2034 for roads, streets, bridges, roadside work and road paving plus some other transit stuff. It recently went to the governor for his consideration.

I was looking through the plan for something a little more significant than exit numbers: Whether we’ll continue balking at the transition away from 19th-century automotive technology. The answer seems, unfortunately, to be yes.

The Granite State is notorious in certain circles for our shortage of public charging stations for electric cars and trucks. While Massachusetts, Vermont and more recently Maine have realized that battery-powered vehicles are the future whether we like it or not and have been helping to build or locate chargers, New Hampshire has provided virtually no state support and it shows.

Many of our legislators hope either that EVs will somehow go away and we’ll return to the car culture of their youth, or else that the almighty “invisible hand of the marketplace” and the federal government will do everything for us.

Aside from Tesla, the marketplace hand is still invisible. The feds, as part of the Biden Administration’s sweeping clean-energy legislation, are slowly arriving but I do mean slowly.

The 10-year plan has federal money for 20 DC fast-charging units from Salem to Franconia plus infrastructure to add some in Hooksett, presumably alongside the Tesla chargers at the I-93 welcome center. That’s nice until you realize that construction isn’t slated to start on most of these until 2033. That’s three presidential elections from now!

As for Concord, four fast chargers were targeted at a Hannaford store in Concord but that idea has been yanked as too expensive.

Disappointingly there isn’t anything in the plan for slower chargers, called Level 2, presumably because the feds aren’t handing us money for them.

Fast chargers, called Level 3, serve the long-distance crowd such as tourists but the slower chargers, which cost much less to install, are more useful for day-to-day living. This isn’t obvious at first, because EV charging is different from pumping gas.

We fill up the car every time we go to a gas pump because there aren’t many gas stations around and the trip is a pain. But charging stations don’t require storing huge amounts of cancer-causing, explosive liquid, so they can be located all over the place.

In a well-designed world EV drivers don’t need to worry about filling up on every visit. They can stop at the store and add 10 miles in range from a Level 2 charger while shopping, go to the diner and add 20 miles, go to work and add 50 miles before heading out, and so on. Even if they don’t have a charger at home, this can keep the battery full.

Alas, it may be a long time before New Hampshire is such a well-designed world.

By the way, I realize that electric vehicles are no panacea. Swapping fume-emitting vehicles for EVs does nothing about the need for roads, parking lots, garages – the expensive and ugly infrastructure needed to support car-centered existence – and won’t cut pedestrian deaths or reduce the flood of used tires filling the landscape. Those improvements will require sweeping changes in the way we design and build our towns and cities, and how we support public transportation.

But EVs will trim local air pollution, reduce noise (an under-appreciated benefit in city centers) and are a necessary part of the transition to an economy that doesn’t put our grandchildren’s lives in peril.

Slow-walking their arrival into New Hampshire isn’t being different, it’s being dumb.