UNC Charlotte, City of Charlotte, Duke Energy win prestigious Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Cleantech Award

UNC Charlotte, the city of Charlotte and Duke Energy have been named the recipient of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Cleantech award by the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster. The organizations were selected for the award based on their collaborative initiative PoleVolt™, which uses existing streetlights to provide curbside electric vehicle charging. This solution is the first of its kind in the nation.

Presented at RTCC’s fourth annual Cleantech Innovation Awards, the honor recognizes an organization or initiative that has demonstrated a strong commitment to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive cleantech economy. RTCC is a not-for-profit organization that supports the creation of sustainable communities through cleantech innovation and adoption.

“North Carolina is growing its presence in the clean energy and technology industry and UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center is a key part of that growth, along with our partners at the city of Charlotte, Duke Energy and Centralina Regional Council,” said Rob Keynton, dean of the William States Lee College of Engineering. “Our PoleVolt™ innovation is just one example of how we are partnering toward a better socioeconomic balance with greater access to clean energy in more communities. It is an honor to be counted among other strong innovators who are also forging solutions for societal challenges across the nation.”

A public-private effort between EPIC at UNC Charlotte, the city of Charlotte, Centralina Regional Council and Duke Energy, PoleVolt™ is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Office.

“The option to choose clean energy transportation should be available to everyone, so we’re proud to play a role in efforts like PoleVolt™ that help remove barriers to access,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “When you pair UNC Charlotte’s talented research team with the type of innovation we’re constantly developing at our Mount Holly Emerging Technology Center, we can all help make clean energy and an equitable economy a reality.”

Decreasing costs, increasing access

Placing charging stations in the public right-of-way along the curb can be expensive and difficult because of the potential need to run underground wiring and install new charging bollards in or near sidewalks. By utilizing existing streetlight infrastructure and connecting the circuits on overhead wiring, PoleVolt™ can lower the costs of installing EV charging stations by as much as 50%.

Future PoleVolt™ locations are planned in Charlotte and across the state.

Greener driving for all

The first deployment of PoleVolt™ was in February at the Ritz at Washington Heights Park in Charlotte’s Historic West End District — an initiative designed by community leaders in 2018 to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and improve health.

Two UNC Charlotte undergraduate engineering students — Grady Harwood and Philip Harmon — led the development of the project’s cloud-based software to launch charging from a smartphone. The students, along with Rob Cox, associate director of EPIC, gave a demonstration of the PoleVolt™ to the governor and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles at the February deployment event.

“I am grateful we are being recognized for our work to promote both sustainability and equity in new technology,” said Mayor Lyles. “We are committed to investing in our Corridors of Opportunity with clean energy and technological advances that will benefit residents now and into the future.”

Mecklenburg County is part of the nine-county Centralina region. Centralina is home to the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program for the region — the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition. The coalition has been working for decades to increase the region’s use of alternative fuels, improve air quality and reduce impacts of climate change.

“The Centralina region will be a model for EV planning and deployment because of these types of innovative partnerships,” said Centralina Executive Director Geraldine Gardner.

PoleVolt™ supports Executive Order No. 246 that seeks to accelerate the state’s transition to a clean energy economy by creating a carbon-neutral, sustainable state transportation system in North Carolina.