Indiana ponders electric vehicle charger networks

By: - July 15, 2022 7:00 am

Indiana is preparing a plan for electric vehicle charging funding. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – State officials and private partners laid out first steps Wednesday evening for creating a statewide network of reliable electric vehicle chargers using federal funding.

It is part of a nationwide push to add at least 50,000 chargers for electric vehicles. Indiana will receive almost $100 million in federal funding with an explicit push to prioritize disadvantaged communities and rural areas.

State officials expect the monies over a period of five years through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.

Scott Manning, deputy chief of staff for INDOT (Photo from LinkedIn)

“Funding is directed toward the alternative fuel corridors and within those corridors (electric vehicle) charging stations must be located every 50 miles and stations must be within one mile of the interstate,” said Scott Manning, the deputy chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Transportation, in a Wednesday presentation. “Each station itself must have a minimum of four plugs or ports, each providing 150 kilowatts of power through a (direct current) source.”

Alternative fuel corridors, or designated roadways in the national network of electric vehicle chargers, in Indiana include all of the major interstates, U.S. 31 and several beltways. Indiana’s distribution of interstates means much of Indiana, except the most rural portions, will be within 50 miles of the preliminary round of chargers. 

Also in Indiana’s favor: the relatively mild climate and limited elevation changes, though research finds that the majority of electric vehicle owners reside in Hamilton and Marion counties.

“While EV adoption is currently relatively low, it is projected to steadily increase over the next 15 years,” said Diane Newton, the senior project engineer of infrastructure design firm HNTB

Because of the slow growth, the state’s electric grid capacity seeing an immediate impact isn’t likely, Newton said. But she said stakeholders recognize that electric utilities could play a key collaborative role in expanding charging infrastructure.

A survey of 2,200 Hoosiers, 78% of whom identified as members of the general public, cited the availability of chargers, the purchase price of electric vehicles and the range as obstacles for EV ownership.

“A quick glimpse of survey results tells us the availability of charging stations is the biggest barrier to EV adoption in their community,” Kerri Garvin, the executive director of Greater Indiana Clean Cities, Inc., said. “Respondents overwhelmingly stated that building more public accessible charging stations is needed to address the barrier.”

The plan moving forward

The state must submit its implementation plan to the federal government by August 1, anticipating review and approval by September 30. Public comment on the unreleased draft plan will open on July 20 at in.gov/indot.

Manning said after approval, the state will continue to develop the contract plan and find potential site owners. He predicted the earliest Hoosiers could see the construction of new charging stations would be in late 2024 or early 2025.

“(The funding) doesn’t expire, so to speak, so we’ll continue to add additional phases and build out the plan as long as the federal funding allows us to do so,” Manning said. 

Diane Newton, senior project engineer for HNTB (Photo from HNTB’s website)

Newton showed a map of the 241 EV charging locations throughout Indiana, just four of which are NEVI compliant. The four chargers appeared to be in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Jeffersonville and West Lafayette.

“There’s still a lot of the state that does not have charging infrastructure located within a reasonable distance,” Newton said. 

While the state has 30 Tesla superchargers, their closed proprietary system means they aren’t compatible with other car models. NEVI compliant chargers will need to be available for a variety of vehicles, including possibilities for long-haul trucking or public transportation.

“The sheer volume of freight movement in the state means that this will be an emerging priority in the coming years,” Newton said. 

With competitive grants available for both public transportation and freight, Indiana joined a coalition of states in the Midwest, known as the Regional Electric Midwest Coalition, to gain a competitive edge.

Goals for Indiana’s EV charging network

The state articulated four draft priorities to submit as part of their application: closing 50-mile gaps along the alternative fuel corridors, providing service in high-demand areas, providing service in disadvantaged/ rural communities and leveraging existing access to utility service. 

“One hundred percent of the preliminary sites identified are within at least 15 miles of a disadvantaged community and 62% are within five miles,” Manning said. 

Disadvantaged communities, where 59% of Hoosiers live, include both urban and rural areas. Being close to these chargers allows for potential benefits such as job creation and training opportunities. 

To fully implement the plan, interested parties must work with the state to be identified as an EV charger station. Station owners and operators are required to match 20% of funding and some stations funded by the $2 billion Volkswagen emissions settlement could be upgraded to become NEVI compliant. 

“We will potentially be partnering with some vendors that haven’t worked with INDOT before or maybe have worked with INDOT just in a limited capacity,” Manning said. “In anticipation of that we anticipate doing a significant amount of outreach and education on the business requirements.”

The first phase will include approximately 40 more stations along Indiana’s busiest interstates, with priority sites already identified by the state.

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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.

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