Forget outfitting 2,000 miles of U.S. highways with electric vehicle charging stations. Why not go for 5,000?
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday said he and the governors of six other Western states have a plan to create a network of fast-charge stations that will ease range anxiety among electric vehicle drivers traveling along major transportation corridors in the region.
Eleven interstate highways - including Interstates 25, 70 and 76 in Colorado - were highlighted as initial target corridors in a network covering more than 5,000 road miles.
“This is an investment. Not just an investment of the future, but an investment in the brand of the Mountain West,” Hickenlooper said. “It's about making us a hub for clean-energy innovation.”
The announcement, made during Hickenlooper's welcome address to the National Governors Association's Energy Innovation Summit in Denver, comes 10 months after he and the governors of Utah and Nevada agreed to build an EV charging network covering 2,000 miles of highway across the three states. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico are the other states taking part in the larger Regional Electric Vehicle West Plan.
More than 20,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are already on the road in member states, according to a joint news release. As of June, 10,000 electric vehicles had been registered in Colorado. The state has the fourth highest rate of people switching from gas-powered to electric vehicles in the nation. It helps that as of Jan. 1, new buyers in the state qualify for a $5,000 tax credit.
Major U.S. automakers are committed to growing EV numbers in the West and beyond. Ford CEO Jim Hackett told investors Tuesday the company will introduce 13 electrics or hybrids over the next five years, including a small electric SUV due in 2020. A day earlier, General Motors officials said the company expects to produce 20 electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2023. Eventually, the company wants its entire product line to run on alternative fuels.
“Really this is just a tipping point,” Hickenlooper said, pointing to advancements like Chevrolet achieving more than 235 miles of range on a single charge as steps that will lead to wider adoption of EV. “You put in these charging stations across the West and I think you really do end up with a different kind of future.”
The REV West Plan outlines five actions member states will work together to:
- Coordinate station locations to maximize use and minimize inconsistency between charging infrastructure. Develop practices and procedures that will encourage more people to adopt electric vehicles, including addressing “range anxiety,” or the fear of running of out charge that is viewed as major barrier to getting people to give up traditional cars.
- Develop operating standards for charging stations.
- Look for ways to incorporate stations in planning and development processes, including through building codes and metering policies.
- Encourage automakers to stock a variety of electric vehicles in participating states.
- Collaborate on funding and finding opportunities for the network.
The governor's office has said no new funding will be sought to spur development of the network in Colorado. The most notable source of existing funding in the state comes from the $68.7 million Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal settlement.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had committed to spend $10.3 million, or 15 percent, of the payout on zero-emissions charging stations over the next five years.
It would take 50 to 60 new fast-charge stations electrify the key Colorado corridors. The stations would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 each, officials say. The state is expected to leverage the Volkswagen money to attract private investment to help develop the charging corridors.
No timeline for creating the multi-state network has been set. But Hickenlooper said the purpose of the plan is to spur quick development. And he expects some friendly competition.
“Certainly, if Utah is building their stations faster than we are, I'm going to ask our people why,” he said.
One issue member states will have to contend with is the lack of standardized EV charging technology. Tesla has installed 951 fast-charge stations that can be used only by Tesla vehicles. GM this week promised an increase in the number of electric fast-charging stations in the U.S., which now total 1,100 from companies and governments, pledging its system would not be "walled off" from EVs made by other manufacturers, The Associated Press reported.
Hickenlooper said governments will have to pressure vendors to provide technology that is flexible and conforms with existing or emerging industry standards to ensure the stations aren't obsolete three to five years down the road.