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: 90017

Reported Deaths: 2017
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25857922
Ramsey10492318
Dakota7125125
Anoka5753132
Stearns377023
Washington357355
Scott242633
Olmsted228727
Nobles193116
Blue Earth15986
Wright15337
St. Louis135234
Carver13517
Rice13018
Mower12864
Clay126140
Sherburne109314
Kandiyohi9312
Winona85018
Lyon6464
Waseca5328
Steele5212
Freeborn5163
Benton5113
Watonwan5054
Nicollet49916
Todd4792
McLeod4462
Chisago4441
Le Sueur4444
Crow Wing43318
Otter Tail3924
Beltrami3764
Goodhue3309
Martin3199
Pine2810
Itasca27713
Polk2734
Isanti2580
Douglas2491
Becker2442
Carlton2391
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone2129
Unassigned20952
Morrison2031
Dodge1990
Chippewa1921
Sibley1793
Meeker1772
Wabasha1740
Brown1732
Yellow Medicine1582
Murray1542
Rock1520
Mille Lacs1453
Redwood1400
Jackson1331
Faribault1320
Renville1286
Cass1253
Roseau1160
Swift1141
Pennington1121
Houston1100
Fillmore1080
Kanabec1058
Koochiching1053
Lincoln1020
Stevens931
Pope880
Hubbard820
Aitkin711
Big Stone680
Wadena650
Grant584
Wilkin553
Lake530
Norman510
Marshall491
Lac qui Parle460
Mahnomen451
Red Lake390
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 80106

Reported Deaths: 1256
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15318256
Johnson499527
Woodbury498961
Black Hawk434986
Linn3783106
Story328617
Dubuque279840
Scott279727
Dallas269038
Pottawattamie200037
Buena Vista194712
Marshall176134
Sioux13503
Wapello126757
Webster119314
Clinton107018
Muscatine106452
Plymouth105220
Crawford10014
Cerro Gordo99621
Warren9286
Jasper76632
Des Moines7417
Marion7154
Tama69031
Carroll6345
Henry6074
Lee5967
Wright5621
Dickinson4856
Boone4677
Bremer4627
Washington43111
Louisa42515
Mahaska34019
Franklin33617
Delaware3353
Hamilton3143
Jackson3003
Floyd2983
Winneshiek2985
Clay2923
Benton2861
Hardin2761
Winnebago27111
Butler2592
Clarke2553
Emmet25210
Poweshiek2498
Lyon2483
Allamakee2455
Jones2443
Buchanan2421
Shelby2421
Clayton2323
Guthrie2235
Cedar2211
Chickasaw2210
Kossuth2190
Sac2140
Grundy2052
Madison2052
Cherokee1942
Fayette1911
Iowa1851
Mitchell1830
Howard1825
Harrison1782
Humboldt1733
Hancock1722
Calhoun1702
Mills1681
Palo Alto1600
Pocahontas1522
Monroe14810
Lucas1426
Page1420
Monona1381
Jefferson1341
Cass1332
Osceola1260
Appanoose1233
Taylor1231
Union1223
Davis1144
Van Buren1101
Worth1020
Ida970
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