Narissa Jimenez-PetchumrusCamila Zárate Ospina and Will Price worked with the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina, on their group Master’s Project (MP) to help develop an electric vehicle (EV) action plan for the Outer Banks town to adopt. The plan examines current conditions in Nags Head, projected EV trendS, sources of support and funding for potential improvements to the town’s infrastructure, and provides detailed recommendations for the town planning board to implement in years to come.

Duke Environment recently corresponded with Jimenez-Petchumrus, Zárate Ospina and Price, who are pursuing a Master of Environmental Management at the Nicholas School, to discuss the key findings of their MP as well as how gaining practical, hands-on experience will carry over into their careers.

What are the key findings of your MP?

The key findings of our client-based MP is that given the projected amount of EVs our client, the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina, can expect by 2030, the town will need to build between 100-250 EV chargers in both public and private locations with a focus on level 2 chargers (1 hour of charging provides 10- 20 miles of range). Nags Head is a huge summer tourist destination and tourists predominantly come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and N.C. to stay for at least 5 days.

Electric vehicle charging station sign
Electric vehicle charging station sign. Photo credit: NCDOT

To accomplish this will require partnering with other cities in the Outer Banks and filing public comments or participating in proceedings with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. To ensure that EV charging will be viable will involve addressing key resiliency concerns given susceptibility to coastal erosion, flooding, and natural disasters. Government funding will be key to providing this necessary infrastructure. 

How will having practical work experience in this project help you in your career?

This project is a real client consulting project, which has many universal career applications. Our project has involved teamwork, communication, problem solving, outreach to stakeholders, (heavy) research, understanding laws, building codes, current federal/state bills, funding sources, and more. All 3 of us have learned a great deal about EVs, EV chargers, and the benefits/challenges of expanding EV infrastructure. EVs are the future of transportation and doing this work couldn’t be any more current. It has proven to be an impressive experience for prospective employers as well.

What drew you to this project/client?

What drew all of us to this project was the ability to work on a real-world, concrete action plan that would set actual policy. The planning board for the Town of Nags Head will literally vote on whether to adopt our EV Action Plan. Local governments can meaningfully contribute to decarbonization given their deep understanding of their own municipalities. We all thought this was an important and interdisciplinary project that would produce real outcomes for a real client. Our client is from the Town of Nags Head off the coast of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. The Outer Banks are a barrier island that is susceptible to coastal flooding and natural disasters. Areas such as this are on the frontlines of the impacts of climate change, so we all saw this as an opportunity to engage in important work. We have been blessed to have a wonderful MP topic, team, advisor (Tim Johnson), and client.

The Master’s Project combines the academic rigor of a thesis with the practical experience of an internship, allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to projects that tackle real-world environmental challenges.