(NewsNation) — Church leaders in the Washington, D.C., area want electric vehicle (EV) drivers to go with God.
Because their parking lots are often empty six days a week, the Baltimore-Washington Conference (BWC) of the United Methodist Church is working with the company Charge Enterprises to install EV chargers at its churches across the area.
For Paul Eichelberger, who serves as the treasurer for BWC, the fascination with electric cars started in 2020 when his wife’s gas-powered car broke down.
“She said she was never going to buy another car with an engine,” he said, adding that they soon bought an electric vehicle.
Now he wants BWC to play a part in America’s larger electric transition. He hopes that by installing electric chargers in church parking lots, they will be able to raise revenue and expand the church’s message into the community.
“I think there’s a lot of church leaders out there (whose focus) is to have the conversation with your community. Identify the key leaders of your community. What are the needs of the community, and then how can the church gather people around the table, use the church assets as well to help meet those needs?” he said.
Eichelberger pointed out that charging your electric vehicle at a public charger takes time, so people often get out of their cars and talk to other people.
“Those short conversations while people are charging, I think that actually can lay the groundwork of transforming communities,” he said. “So that’s where I think a church enters in and finds the ability to strengthen their connection to the community.”
For Charge Enterprises, which is working with BWC to establish the charging infrastructure, church parking lots are an untapped resource. This model could make churches an important asset to the infrastructure needed as more people buy electric vehicles.
“In an ideal world, if we could do every single church and we could put charging in every single one, it would be … unbelievable. Like, getting charging infrastructure out there is a great thing, just for the entire community,” said Jonathan Orr, Charge Enterprises’ vice president of business development.
BWC has picked about 20 churches for an initial pilot program of the charging infrastructure. They don’t have any public timeline for when the chargers are expected to be installed and active, but Orr said they expect to have them ready “sooner rather than later.”
One possible snag may be that churches tend to have more parking lot space in suburban and rural communities. Some of the suburban churches where BWC plans to pilot the program have more than 150 parking spaces.
EV charging in rural communities can be hard to come by, but the presence of churches could help ameliorate that.
But in cities, where many people live in apartments and don’t have access to home charging, it may be more difficult to install many chargers at churches.
If the pilot program does find success, churches may end up playing an important role in powering a major transition for American cars. Some estimates suggest the majority of cars sold by 2030 will be electric.