The state is offering $2.6 million in grants to install more fast charging stations for electric vehicles in greater Minnesota as it works to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation to slow global warming.
The funding is to install up to 38 more direct current (DC) fast charging stations in public places along certain sections of highways outside the Twin Cities. There are now about 1,000 stations around the state, although less than one-quarter of them are the fast charging type, and parts of the state are lacking.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), which is administering the grants, said the installations will help reduce drivers’ anxiety about how far they can travel by electric vehicle.
“We want all Minnesotans to be able to drive an electric vehicle,” said Rebecca Place, the MPCA’s electric vehicle program administrator. “We’re hopeful more people will invest.”
The state has been amping up efforts to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, including potentially requiring auto manufacturers to sell low-emission and zero-emission models in Minnesota. About a dozen other states have taken that route, and electric vehicles are much more widely available in those states.
“It’s so challenging to even find one on a dealership’s lot,” said Joshua Houdek, senior program manager for transportation at the Sierra Club North Star chapter.
The MPCA is expected to publish a legal notice later this fall of its intent to adopt the sale requirement, called the Clean Cars Minnesota rule. The rule-making will include a public hearing before an administrative law judge.
The money for the new grants for charging stations comes from the $47 million Minnesota received from the national legal settlement with Volkswagen. About 15% is earmarked for electric vehicle charging stations.
The MPCA has said these cities could use the stations: Brainerd, International Falls, Warroad, Karlstad, Benson, Ortonville, Red Wing, Winona, La Crescent, Luverne, Worthington, Red Lake, Park Rapids, Ely, Thief River Falls, Crookston, Pipestone, Granite Falls and Fairmont.
Each of the stations will have a 50-kilowatt fast charger, with a less powerful backup charger. A 50-kilowatt charger will fully charge an empty battery in about 40 minutes, according to the MPCA.
The grants will cover 80% of costs up to $70,000; a 20% cash match is required. The MPCA is accepting applications until Nov. 25. Applicants for this round are expected to be private companies that install charging stations. Future funding later this fall is expected to target nonprofits and local governments as well, for installing slower Level 2 chargers.
Under previous funding from the Volkswagen settlement, Edina-based ZEF Energy has been installing fast-charging stations around the state in places such as Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, St. Cloud, Willmar, Marshall and Mankato.
Tim Sexton, MnDOT’s chief sustainability officer, said he’s excited about the build-out because it’s critical to help “normalize” electric vehicles for people thinking of switching from gasoline vehicles.
MnDOT has created an electric vehicle dashboard mapping charging stations across the state and tracking the number of registered electric vehicles, both plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles — 14,484 at last count.