04-14-22 | Feature

Green Parking & Electric Vehicles

"The White House is calling for 500,000 new EV charging stations as part of the $174 billion plan to boost the EV industry" Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2021
by Professor Buck Abbey, Green Laws Research Project, Louisiana State University

These designs depict a green parking lot with charging stations. A shade structure, included over the parking spots, improve the sustainability and performance of charging devices. PHOTO BY ABBEY ASSOCIATES LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
The 6.8 kilowatt solar panels (top image) use the suns energy to replenish the electricity used by the charging stations. Each charging station uses electricity sourced off the grid, so the solar panels help refill what has been used. However, the solar panels do not supply enough energy on their own to full supply the charging stations themselves. The six car structures along with the 6.8 kilowatt solar panels costs about $60,000. Apollo Sunguard also offers 13.6 kilowatt solar panels (bottom image) that cost approximately $75,000 to $80,000.
The 6.8 kilowatt solar panels (top image) use the suns energy to replenish the electricity used by the charging stations. Each charging station uses electricity sourced off the grid, so the solar panels help refill what has been used. However, the solar panels do not supply enough energy on their own to full supply the charging stations
Plans from Abbey Associates Landscape Architects create a green parking lot with drainage features. PHOTO BY ABBEY ASSOCIATES LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
This illustration shows a design for a green parking lot. PHOTO BY ABBEY ASSOCIATES LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS

Sustainable Landscape Design
It should be a trend in sustainable design to convert sterile 'grey parking lots' serving gasoline powered vehicles into 'green parking lots' that accommodate alternative fuel vehicles. A useful standard measure of a green parking lot is to provide a minimum of 35% of the parking area devoted to doing environmental work. There are many ways a parking lot can become green. By definition a green parking lot provides environmental services.

To understand green parking, we must look to the future of the country and the way we use public open space. Future urban parking lots will be smaller, conveniently located, and primarily serving clean air vehicles. These include, electric vehicles (EV) natural gas operated vehicles (NGV), hydrogen powered vehicles (HV) and eventually small autonomous, self driving vehicles (AV). These cars will be different from those we drive today.
Green parking lots will be located at multi-modal travel points, near Interstate Highways and connected to transit terminals, shopping areas, entertainment districts, business centers or mixed use residential nodes. Suburbs will be connected by light rail, air rail, or subway vehicles also powered by renewable energy. Planted, multi-use open space will be an important part of these future parking lots and they will connect to bikeways and pedestrian walkways that will also serve golf cart sized 'personal carriers' for independent neighborhood traffic.

Greening Parking Lots
It is easy to recognize the elements of a green parking lot. From the late 1960s, parking lots recognized the benefits of beauty in parkings. In the 1970s, inspired by the first Earth Day, the first community landscape codes called for a variety of planting options for visual improvements, screening, and shading. In the 1980s, studies were conducted to determine how trees in parking lots affected air purification, solar control, and urban heat. We also learned at this time the importance of tree canopy in cooling cities. In the 1990s, stormwater management was recognized by the EPA for its benefit in reducing non-point pollution, stopping soil erosion, infiltrating ground water, and intercepting solid waste.

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 led to the incorporation into landscape codes of standards aimed at human health and well being. Parking lot standards recognize handicapped citizens by setting aside 'designated parking spaces' that made access to public buildings safer and more convenient for the elderly, infirm and sightless. Later parking was segregated for clean air vehicles (CAVs). Green parking lots can sort automobiles by use, size, capacity, and power train type.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, parking lot retentions, rain gardens, and bioswales came into common usage since they help preserve wetlands and provide native habitat within, or in close proximity to parking lots. These natural features also provide shelter and food for small creatures in the city.


The concept of sustainability entered the picture for architects, Landscape Architects and engineers when LEEDa,,?, the green building system, was introduced in 1998 (refined in 2007). Shortly thereafter the SITESa,,? program became available for Landscape Architects to use to create green buildings and restore disturbed urban lands. With these technological improvements, attention now can be turned toward designing green parking lots. Many SITES and LEED credits can be earned while designing parking lots to be sustainable.

For instance, parking lot paving can be designed for solar reflectivity. Coupling this with solar angle control will reduce urban heat buildup in cities and effect micro-climate. In addition, more attention can now be given to stormwater management, site soil fertility preservation, and vegetation biomass stabilization. Just recently a new sustainability credit was announced to help de-carbonize the design of sustainable landscapes. Furthermore, both LEED and SITES included green building practices pertaining to selecting sustainable building materials and green construction methodologies. But more importantly, perhaps the SITES program has developed standards to promote human health and well being associated with designed landscapes. Health research in recent decades point to beneficial effects of nature in regard to physical activity, mental, stress reduction, and behavioral health and social cohesion connected to nature in the city.

Cities are concerned with using alternative energy sources so parking lot lighting is being powered by the sun. A variety of low energy usage options such as compact fluorescent lamps, light emitting diodes, and halogen incandescents are much more energy efficient, and when combined with timers, photocells and dimmers reduce the cost of producing night time illumination. The control of electric energy wastage is an important feature of green parking.

Today, parking lots provide open space benefits and multi-use capabilities. They are taking on a new role. Parking lots can be designed for neighborhood connectivity, access to multi-modal travel, walking, biking, and physical recreation. There is even a place in green parking lots for bike parking and bike share opportunities for commuters. Better still, we find policy makers from the East coast to the West coast rethinking the nature of parking lots in the city and adapting community landscape codes to better address the parking lot, not as a place to store cars, but as a link in the entire system of city mobility.

Electric Vehicle Charging
As the country turns more and more toward a less-carbon economy, and as supplies of non-renewable oil based energy disappear, drivers will turn toward electric vehicles. Recent announcements in the Wall Street Journal by some of the biggest automobile manufacturers are predicting huge increases in the production of electric vehicles.

Since these vehicles will require many locations where recharging is needed, particularly for long distance travel, 'charging stations' need to be built to fuel these cars. Presently most electric vehicles are charged at home with low cost charging equipment attached to a building electric supply. However, these home charging stations, known as a Level 2 Charging Equipment, have their limits. It takes hours of normal home charging and add greatly to the monthly home electric bill.

It is necessary to use public charging stations for longer trips. These stations commonly contain Level 2 charging equipment or DC Fast Charge equipment. Level 2 will provide 10-20 miles of range per hour of charge. This public minimum 40-amp charger takes 6 hours to fully charge a standard vehicle. The DC Fast charge is the more expensive model offering 50-60kw and 100+ amps of power and will provide an 80% charge in 20-40 minutes and a full charge in 60 minutes. Time of charging is a factor of battery capacity (kWh) and charging power (kW). Drivers will have to search for charging station locations as they travel the nation's highways. They will find them in
green parking lots.

There are some 50,000 charging stations in the country today. The current administration is calling for 500,000 new charging stations by 2030 to handle the amount of EVs in use by that time. The expected cost of this, according to estimates, is $300 billion. In the near future charging stations will be as ubiquitous as the corner filling station. Presently some 58,000 miles have been designated by The White House as "alternative fuel corridors" where the nation will first install a nationwide network of charging stations. Look for travel signs when you tour America.

Presently, we see stand alone chargers in parking lots, along curb lines, near hotels, and retail shopping areas and a few other pioneering locations such as multifamily housing, city halls, and university campuses. But in a green parking lot a charging station consists of other elements.

Principally they contain a bevy of chargers, defined size parking spaces, an overhead fabric shade structure, appropriate markings, and signage. The shading of charging equipment is very important since it greatly improves the efficiency of power transfer. Most community codes require charging stations to be sheltered and have night lighting. In addition, they contain a space for socialization while waiting. A bike share and parking arrangement with a connection to multimodal forms of transportation may allow short off site visits while waiting for a charge. Green parking lots in the future will have EV car sharing operations too where many urban automobile users rent an EV or AV for short around town or a longer out of town trip.

Parking lots in the future may very well serve as some of the most prominent civic open spaces available. Especially so as personal mobility vehicles become smaller and mass transit is more prevalent. It is estimated by 2040 some 33 million driverless vehicles powered by battery and guided by 3D imaging and artificial intelligence (AI) will be looking for parking spaces in parking lots that are vastly different from what we have today. Green Parking will move us forward.


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