Communities along Montana’s Interstate Highways and U.S. Highways 2 and 93 are set to get an infusion of cash from the Federal Electric Vehicle Charging Station pending Federal Highway Administration approval of a plan submitted by state at the end of last week.
The funding is part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last November. If the electric vehicle infrastructure deployment plan co-authored by the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Department of Transportation is given the go-ahead, the state is set to receive $43 million to expand DC fast-charging stations in Montana. . This investment is part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The state’s plan prioritizes existing large gaps along the state’s interstate system and U.S. Highways 93 and 2 first. Upcoming funding will be locations where two or more highway corridors connect and opportunities to bring alternative fuel corridors, which the Federal Highway Administration describes as “the backbone of the new National Electric Vehicle Charging Network.” in compliance with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. To meet program requirements, each charging station must be located within 50 miles of another charging station, within one mile of established travel corridors, and within walking distance of amenities. The next level of investment will be directed to economically disadvantaged communities and access communities to national parks and other outdoor destinations.
Meeting these guidelines will take several years, with the federal government distributing a portion of the total $43 million allocation to the DEQ each year over a five-year period. In the first year of award, the state plans to add 10 new charging stations to ensure an EV charger is available every 100 miles of Interstates 90, 15, and 94. This fall, DEQ will launch a tendering process for its first round of contracts to achieve this goal. Entities eligible to apply include, but are not limited to, EV charging service providers, potential site hosts, electric utilities, businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations.
Utilities were strongly represented in plan meetings, representing nearly 20% of the 157 stakeholders who attended webinars, listening sessions or conventions where DEQ or MDT employees discussed initiative. How an expanded inventory of EV charging stations is expected to interact with electricity demand may help explain the interest of power companies and power cooperatives
DEQ Seeks Comments on Plan to Build Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft plan to build electric vehicle charging stations along major travel corridors in Montana. Once finalized, the plan will detail how Montana intends to spend $43 million in federal funds for DC electric vehicle charging infrastructure that was included in the 1.2…
DEQ has identified 10 communities along priority corridors where electricity capacity issues are anticipated in the form of limited supply or overloaded substations. Six of these communities are located along US-2, the national highway that runs along northern Montana’s sparsely populated Hi-Line. Columbus, Superior, Darby and Dutton are also on this list.
The plan emphasizes rural connectivity and focuses on “rural communities where private investment is less likely to occur”. Respondents to a public survey were asked if it was important to have charging infrastructure in communities that might not see many EVs today. About 70% of respondents said yes.
The plan identifies the approximate locations of 131 existing charging stations along Interstates 90, 15 and 94, and U.S. Interstates 93 and 2. About a third of those existing stations were at least partially funded with money from Montana’s share of a 2017 settlement with the Environmental Protection. Agency resulting from Volkswagen’s illegal circumvention of emissions monitoring technology.
The adoption rate for electric vehicles in Montana has lagged significantly behind national trends, but it has been growing. In January, 2,895 light electric vehicles were registered in the state. Most of them, 1,893, were battery-powered, with the rest being plug-in hybrid models. The number of electric vehicle registrations has more than doubled since DEQ began collecting data on them in 2019. DEQ estimates there will be 30,000 registered electric vehicles in the state by 2030, which accounts for 9% of vehicle registrations in Montana. Flathead, Missoula and Gallatin counties lead the state in electric vehicle adoption.
Nonresidents account for considerably more electric vehicle traffic than drivers in Montana, which is partly due to the state’s popularity as a tourist destination. Between May and August, the number of vehicle trips to Montana doubles compared to the winter months, and more than 70 percent of visitors enter the state by passenger car or truck. By 2030, DEQ predicts that 100,000 EV drivers from other states will be on state roads.
The market element of the equation – who will pay for the electricity that charging stations need to replenish electric vehicle batteries – is not fleshed out in the plan, but it is referenced in a section on how sporadic demand is expected in low traffic areas. rural areas.
“In a low-use scenario where a 150-kilowatt station is used once a week, the average utility bill impact for a single charging session would be $358,” according to the report. “Generally, the site host or station owner would be responsible for paying this cost.”
The report also discusses electricity tariff structures, which are calculated such that customers who require an irregular electricity supply or who use electricity during periods of peak demand pay more than those who have regular and off-peak electricity needs.
“Demand fees as currently configured in utility rate structures will be a significant barrier to building an electric vehicle fast-charging network in Montana that meets NEVI program requirements,” notes the report.
Another potential issue involves a law passed by Montana lawmakers in 2019 that prevents owners or operators of electric vehicle charging stations from basing refueling costs on the current cost of electricity. This means that EV drivers cannot incur charging fees based on kilowatt-hours of use.
Other potential pricing structures could be based on how long a vehicle is plugged into a charging station, although this “may create equity issues as older vehicles and batteries take longer to charge. than newer electric vehicle models,” the plan reads.
The state expects to announce the first round of funding for the program this winter or spring. At that time, it will also conduct outreach to economically disadvantaged communities in preparation for its first annual electric vehicle rollout plan review and update.
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