Nags Head Electric Vehicle Action Plan

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The number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in the United States is growing at a steady rate. More electric cars will necessitate more electric car chargers, both in public spaces and in private homes and rental properties. Local governments must prepare for the steadily increasing demand for electric car chargers, by educating business and property owners of the benefits of providing car charging stations, and by making charging stations available in public spaces.

The need to adapt to the rise of electric vehicles is especially important for small towns that rely on tourism. As more and more visitors begin to arrive by electric vehicle in the coming years, towns that are tourist destinations must prepare to meet the charging needs of their residents and guests.

In 2021, the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina approached the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment for assistance in preparing for electric vehicles in their town. A Masters’ Project team was formed to create this comprehensive Electric Vehicle Action Plan to assist Nags Head in planning for a successful and more environmentally-friendly future. Our team consists of Camila Zárate Ospina, who has a background in environmental engineering, Narissa Petchumrus, with a background in public policy, and Will Price, who has a background in law. We were graced with the supervision of Dr. Timothy Johnson, Ph.D., the Associate Dean for Professional Programs and Chair of the Energy & Environment Program at the Nicholas School.

The overall objective of this Action Plan is to determine what the charging and infrastructure needs of the town will be as the number of EVs increases, and then to make recommendations to the Town of Nags Head based on these findings.

To accomplish this goal, this team carried out extensive research into EV sales, charging requirements, local demographics, relevant laws, and comparable plans created by other cities/states. The team created a mathematical model to ultimately predict the charging infrastructure needs of the town for the next thirty years, based on projected sales figures and tourist behavior. Moreover, the team conducted numerous interviews with experts and local stakeholders to fully evaluate the needs and perspectives relevant to the plan. Consideration was made for issues of resiliency and equity particular to Nags Head. Finally, the team identified sources of grant funding and support for vehicle electrification, should the town choose to install its own chargers or electrify its municipal fleet.

Based on the results of this work, this plan concludes with recommendations for the town to pursue, separated into four broad categories: infrastructure, policy and outreach, resiliency, and sources of funding.

Regarding infrastructure, the results of the model projecting EV numbers in Nags Head recommends that the Town install 100 to 250 EV chargers by the year 2030. This figure includes both publicly accessible chargers and chargers installed in private homes and rental properties. The model further recommends that the town focus on the more affordable, slower-charging Level 2 type of charger, rather than the more expensive DC fast charger, because visitors stay for an average of five days, meaning that slower, more abundant Level 2 chargers will be more useful to the town than the less plentiful, much faster DC fast chargers.

With respect to policy and outreach, we recommend that the town develop a relationship with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) with the objective of laying the groundwork for support of future EV plans. We further recommend that the town present to local business owners and property managers on the importance and benefits of installing charging infrastructure in business parking lots and private rental properties. Our recommendation that town install 100 to 250 chargers, including both private and public chargers, by the year 2030, is informed by the fact that roughly 80 percent of all tourists stay in private rental properties. It will be up to developers and property managers to install chargers at the properties where the majority of visitors will be parking their vehicles.

Regarding resiliency, we recommend exploring the possibility of creating a microgrid for the town, that will be resistant to power outages caused by weather conditions on the coast. Similarly, utilizing battery storage could be another way to increase resiliency in the electric grid as more and more drivers rely on electricity to power their vehicles in the event of an emergency evacuation scenario. Finally, generally hardening electric infrastructure in the town will increase the reliability of EV chargers and the grids they draw from.

Finally, we recommend that Nags Head explore several promising sources of funding as it considers installing EV chargers. The Volkswagen Settlement fund provides millions of dollars of grant money in North Carolina for the purpose of constructing EV infrastructure. The Volkswagen fund is distributed in phases spanning several years, making the timing of the funding proposal deadlines ideal for Nags Head to evaluate their course of action and apply. Similarly, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act promises several million dollars for North Carolina to build EV charging infrastructure, on a timeline that should be compatible with Nags Heads decision-making process, should the town choose to apply for grants.

It is our hope that this action plan can serve as a useful tool for towns other than Nags Head. Just as we began our work by reviewing EV plans from other towns and cities, this document will serve as a good resource for other groups who are interested in learning more about electric vehicles and what their growth will mean for small towns, especially towns that rely on tourism, or are located on the coast.





Zárate Ospina, Camila, William Price and Narissa Petchumrus (2022). Nags Head Electric Vehicle Action Plan. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.