The Federal Highway Administration announced that the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) will receive over $4.2 million to fill gaps in electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural areas and disadvantaged communities in the region. MACOG was one of 47 applicants nationally and the only one in Indiana selected to receive federal funding to strategically deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging.
MACOG will oversee the construction of 14 Level 2 stations in rural areas and 18 in urban areas, as well as three Level 3 charging stations at the South Bend International Airport, and along US-30 in Plymouth and Warsaw.
The majority of the funding from the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) program is devoted to Level 3 direct current fast chargers (DCFC), providing four 150 kW units at each location. At that power level, a vehicle can recharge to 80% in about 20 minutes to an hour depending on the rate that a particular vehicle can accept.
About a third of the funding is dedicated to slower Level 2 “destination” stations. These will be targeted to locations where the private sector has not and is not projected to invest in public charging: underserved urban areas and small towns that may include Argos, Bristol, Bremen, Culver, Middlebury, New Carlisle, North Liberty, Syracuse, Walkerton, and Winona Lake. In contrast, Level 2 units can provide about 7 kW of power or about 25 miles of range per hour of charging. Federal funding will cover up to 80% project costs.
“This funding will proactively provide a basic level of public charging access in many of our communities where there is nothing today. This will make it less risky for individuals and municipalities to benefit from the lower cost of operating EVs, knowing they have a back-up charging option nearby,” said James Turnwald, the Executive Director of MACOG.
As electric vehicle technology has matured over the past decade, long-range options have proliferated including all-electric pick-up trucks, SUVs, and even a plug-in hybrid mini-van. EVs are more affordable than ever, with new federal tax credits for used vehicles and the price of a new EV is as low as around $20,000 after credits are applied at point of sale for a few models. Theoretically, a wider range of people can find an EV that works for their budget and needs. However, the availability of charging locally is a major impediment to adopting especially all-electric EVs.
The battery manufacturing plant under construction near New Carlisle is evidence of the industry scaling up and bringing battery costs down to be more affordable, and less of a luxury. MACOG is working to prepare now for the charging needs of even a modest level of EV adoption. While all-electric EV registrations remain under 1% of vehicles in the region, even the pessimistic prediction of 10% vehicle electrification by 2030 would require a significant network of charging to be constructed in the next few years.
The primary driver in selecting locations was equity, as those who rent or live in multi-family dwellings or are low-income may be more dependent on charging elsewhere.
“To avoid a future where only people who can conveniently charge at home benefit from electric vehicles, MACOG is focused not on where EVs are now in the early adopter stage. We are targeting investment where EVs are less likely to be adopted due to lack of charging,” said Turnwald.
Many small towns do not have public charging in or en route to their community, especially those who are not located near a major highway or urban area.
“We heard from especially our lake communities that they are seeing an influx of EVs. Outdoor recreation and tourism is an economic driver, and these visitors need to be confident they can charge,” said Leah Thill, MACOG’s Director of Sustainability.
Of the 10 Level 2 stations installed with MACOG’s assistance through the Volkswagen program, use in the City of Plymouth and Town of Culver has rivaled urban areas.
While most of the funding is dedicated to locations owned by local governments, some funding is available for non-profits and private businesses to apply to host a Level 2 station. MACOG encourages those who are interested to reach out to MACOG at email@example.com to receive updates.