Minnesota to expand electric vehicle charging network

Money coming from settlement with Volkswagen over emissions cheating.

Posted: Oct 19, 2019 9:33 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota will spend nearly $1.7 million from its share of the Volkswagen emissions-cheating settlement to expand electric vehicle charging options over the next two years along the state's major highways.

The 22 added charging locations will collectively form a "minimum viable network" across the entire state, said Matthew Blackler, CEO of ZEF Energy, which will build and operate the charging stations.

The only region that will not see any new charging stations is the Twin Cities metro area, where officials determined there was less need. Highways with the most traffic and fewest existing fast chargers were chosen for the first round of investments, Blackler said.

ZEF has already built out much of the existing fast-charging network in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including a fast-charger highway corridor from the Twin Cities to Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior along Interstate 35 and Highway 61. The settlement money will pay for roughly 80% of the cost of the new chargers, leaving ZEF to pay for the rest or find financial partners to contribute in cities being served by the network.

The Twin Cities serves as the hub to the spokes of highways getting new chargers, said Rebecca Place, electric vehicle coordinator with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, but the site selection focused less on meeting the needs of the Twin Cities electric vehicle community.

"The complaint now we're hearing is that people in the metro can get out of the metro but people in Greater Minnesota can't get in," she said. "Electric vehicles are spread all over the state; it's not just a metro thing."

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The nonprofit news outlet Energy News Network provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

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None of the new sites are operational but Place expects a handful may be installed by the end of this year. State guidelines limited charging sites to within a mile of state highways or interstates that have access to a retail area open 24 hours a day, Place said.

The sites also must be "future proof" by offering 350 kilowatts of electricity so more chargers can be added later, Place said.

In the first VW settlement round, each site will have one fast charger and two Level 2 charging ports. A 100-mile charge using a fast charger takes 20 to 40 minutes, long enough for a driver to want a snack or something to drink, she said. Level 2 chargers take two to four hours for a 100-mile charge, she added.

Drivers may end up charging for a time with a Level 2 if the fast charger is occupied and then switching to it later. The state VW settlement funded one "supercharger" capable of charging vehicles in 15 minutes that will be in Albert Lea at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Interstate 90.

A handful of cities were pre-selected by the pollution control agency while ZEF mainly manages the specific site selection process within communities along the route, Blackler said.

The responses in those cities came from utilities, investor-owned utilities, city officials and Native American tribes. "People who responded promptly were the people we worked with first," Blackler said, and those tended to be larger organizations that had good community connections.

The communities had to provide potential sites for chargers and show support from local institutions. For the most part the cities were far enough apart to create a viable network, though a few are close together due to proximity to universities that are likely to have greater populations of electric vehcile owners and visitors, Blackler said.

David Ranallo, a spokesman for regional generation and transmission cooperative Great River Energy, said the expansion brings greater equity for electric vehicle drivers living in outstate Minnesota.

"People living in rural areas may have a 50-mile drive to the nearest mall, so they're looking at the proposition of an electric vehicle much differently than someone who lives in the seven-county metro area," he said. "This infrastructure will boost their confidence to really consider that choice."

Minnesota is receiving $47 million for the VW settlement that will be spent in three phases over 10 years. Under the agreement, states can spend 15% of the money on charging networks. Minnesota is doubling charging station expenditures in the second phase.

Place is currently planning which corridors will receive money during the next four-year funding phase. The plan will likely include highways selected for the first phase as well as new corridors, she said. Communities are adding chargers, making it harder to determine where gaps exist in the system, she said.

"By the time phase 2 gets going there may be cities which already have chargers in them," Place said. "We can't stop innovation. It eventually (will be) like gas stations. The more the merrier."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
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Polk582
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Goodhue522
Watonwan500
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Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
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Becker320
Lyon310
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Isanti250
Waseca240
Rock210
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Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
Sibley120
Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
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Kossuth70
Emmet70
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Union60
Adams50
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