Plans to jump start electric vehicle charging infrastructure along the Hwy. 61 corridor have hit a roadblock.
Hwy. 61 wasn’t one of the four corridors included in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s first round of funding for DC fast charging stations.
These stations, which can juice up an EV in as little as 45 minutes, were core to the city’s plan for a joint application with Lake City, Wabasha and La Crescent to build up the EV charging infrastructure along Hwy 61.
But the cities never got to submit the application before the MPCA made up its mind.
The grant would have covered 80 percent of the cost of the chargers when installed on public property and 60 percent if installed on private property.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” Winona City Manager Steve Sarvi said. “This is a missing part of the infrastructure required to make electric vehicles viable.”
According to John Howard, the city’s sustainability coordinator, the hope was that by having a regional plan for the corridor, it would increase the chances of getting funding for the chargers.
He said now the group will have to wait until 2020 at the earliest for the MPCA’s second round of funding.
“Our basic objection is we don’t like being told that we can’t compete,” Sarvi said, adding that city staff members were disappointed that Winona wasn’t eligible for the funding.
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Howard said improvements to charging infrastructure along Hwy. 61 would not only have eliminated a barrier to owning an electric vehicle but benefited tourists traveling between the Twin Cities and La Crosse.
“We’re kind of in a dead zone,” he said.“It’s an impediment to having an electric vehicle.”
Sarvi said with so few charging stations located along Hwy. 61, EV owners have to be careful when picking a route.
“You can’t get a five gallon can of electricity and pour it into your car,” he said.
Howard said in response to the news, the city has addressed a letter of concern to the MPCA stating the city’s disappointment and asking the agency to consider revising the grant’s criteria.
While the city isn’t eligible for the MPCA grant, the same limitations haven’t been placed on the slower and less expensive level-two chargers.
At an estimated cost of $5,000 a piece, these parking meter sized chargers cost a fraction of the roughly $50,000 investment required for DC fast chargers. However, the lower cost means drivers will need at least three to four hours to juice up their rides.
Howard said the initial plan was to purchase a single DC fast charger, which would be stationed in Lake City, along with several level-two chargers which would be installed in Red Wing, Wabasha, Winona and La Crescent.
He said now the city is pivoting to a plan that relies solely on the slower chargers.