In February, the federal government came out with guidance on how states should plan for the rollout of electric vehicle infrastructure on the nation’s highways over the next five years.
It also gave them a directive: Figure out your plan in five months.
The Indiana Department of Transportation released its draft plan last week, which describes when, where and how it plans to deploy a network of electric vehicle charging stations capable of charging up cars in a matter of minutes ― and ensure this network is sustainable.
The work to prepare for this transition has been happening mostly in research settings up until the last year or two, when incoming federal dollars from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law motivated stakeholders across industry, government and advocacy to start putting their heads together.
‘Good pandemonium’: Indiana races toward plans for a new era of electric vehicles
Biden’s goal for the national electric vehicle infrastructure program is to build enough charging stations so that drivers come across at least one direct-current charger ― known as “DC Fast,” these can charge a car battery in 20 to 30 minutes ― every 50 miles of highway.
Right now, Indiana has five such charging stations that INDOT knows of, with a possible sixth. It needs about 40 more, according to this plan.
Adoption rates also have a high hill to climb. Just 0.1% of registered vehicles in Indiana are electric, according to the document.
While INDOT is submitting the plan to the federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation by Aug. 1, public comment is open until Aug. 20.
Where will the charging sites be?
Indiana already has 325 public electric vehicle charging stations. These include stations owned by governments, utilities or private businesses; some are independent, some are part of existing electric vehicle networks, like that of Tesla, Electrify America and Blink.
Only five of them, for certain, comply with the requirements the federal government wants for its network: containing at least four capable ports of DC Fast-charging at a certain wattage, and on or within a mile of an interstate. INDOT is still looking into a sixth, in Mishawaka, that might not be one-mile driving distance from the nearby interchange, deputy chief of staff Scott Manning said.
INDOT’s draft plan identifies possible locations for the rest of the charging stations to satisfy the 50-mile rule, as well as a goal of every Indiana resident living within 40 miles of a station. The locations also take into account the level of demand that already exists in certain places, as evidenced by traffic counts, whether drivers already stop there, electric vehicle adoption rates in the area; as well as the location’s proximity to key destinations and historically disadvantaged communities.
They will be put throughout all of Indiana’s interstates, plus US 31. About a dozen would be within Marion County. Soon, INDOT plans to nominate the US 30 corridor for inclusion, too.
After the federal government certifies that Indiana’s highways are fully built out with infrastructure, Indiana will be able to use leftover money to install stations on other public roads.
The locations are preliminary because the state still needs to solicit site hosts and work with utilities to determine the their feasibility based on the power grid.
Some of the primary locations aligned with sites already selected for 61 DC Fast chargers that are being funded through the Volkswagen Settlement Fund, which resulted from the company installing defective emissions-control devices in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles. These are in various stages of development.
Some also align with where Tesla currently has private charging stations. In the plan, INDOT indicated a willingness to engage with Tesla to see if any of those could be converted to public use.
When will they go in?
The federal government will decide whether to grant its stamp of approval by Sept. 30.
Then the plan goes into motion, building up to station implementation in about three years. Here’s INDOT’s rough plan of what it hopes to achieve over the next five years:
Oct. 1 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023
- Develop contracting plan: what INDOT will ask of private contractors
- Develop criteria for selecting sites, design standards for the stations
- Develop minimum operations and maintenance requirements
- Engage with more groups from vulnerable communities
Oct. 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024
- Issue a request for proposals for sites identified above
- Identify site hosts and charging providers
- Make final selections for this round of priority sites
June 30, 2024 to June 30, 2025
- Implement stations in high demand areas, as defined by traffic counts, dwell time, electric vehicle adoption rates, utility readiness
- These stations go live in the second quarter of 2025
Sept. 30, 2024 to June 30, 2025
- Procure materials and site hosts for sites in other high priority areas, as determined by proximity to disadvantaged communities and key destinations
June 30, 2025 to June 30, 2026, and beyond
- Implement those stations, go live by the second quarter of 2026
What could stand in the way?
A number of factors could change the look and feel of this plan, which will be updated every year.
The utilities are a major stakeholder in the plan because they have to handle reorienting the electric grid to build these stations. A utility company will install new lines or equipment at no cost to the customer, so long as the expense doesn’t exceed the station’s estimated revenue for the first two and a half years. If it does, the cost gets passed along to the customer.
There could be certain locations, the plan notes, where this cost is too prohibitive for residents.
Where power is available and ready could impact the exact locations of the sites, too.
There are also supply chain issues that could impact the availability of materials needed for electric vehicle infrastructure, like microchips, fiber and transformers.
And finally, a general challenge that is a first for INDOT: The state agency will have to manage many stakeholders into the foreseeable future, from site hosts and operators to suppliers, utility companies and operational staff.
INDOT is collecting public comments through an online submission form at bit.ly/3aUb3cN through Aug. 20.
Contact IndyStar transportation reporter Kayla Dwyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @kayla_dwyer17.