Wisconsin is set to receive nearly $79 million over the next five years to expand electric vehicle charging stations through the bipartisan federal infrastructure law. Now, state policymakers are tasked with developing a plan by August to expand access as the auto industry and utilities rapidly move toward an electrified transportation system.
Policy issues facing electric vehicles and the state’s transportation system were the subject of a May 3 roundtable hosted by the Customers First Coalition and broadcast on WisconsinEye. Panelists included representatives from utilities, automakers, road builders, energy advocates and Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.
“We envision a significant increase in the number of electric vehicles that will be on the road,” Thompson said. “From my perspective, it’s incumbent on the public sector to be ready for this and to be able to support this on behalf of Wisconsin’s economy and the national economy.”
The Edison Electric Institute estimates that there are more than 2 million electric vehicles on the nation’s highways. That’s less than 1% of the roughly 276 million vehicles on the road, according to the most recent federal data. Wisconsin had 7,521 electric vehicles registered last year, and that number grew by an average of 9% each year from 2016 to 2020.
Automakers like General Motors have pledged to phase out sales of gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035. President Joe Biden has set an ambitious goal for half of all new vehicles sold to be electric , hybrid or fuel cell electric by 2030 as part of a greater effort to reduce carbon emissions. Transportation accounts for the largest share of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Thompson said Wisconsin must submit a plan to the federal government in early August on how the state plans to spend that funding. States must show that charging stations are installed at least every 50 miles and 1 mile from every exit on major highways designated as an alternative fuel corridor. Wisconsin currently has about 400 charging stations.
“To support and facilitate long-distance commuting and overcome range anxiety, we are committed to establishing a network of publicly accessible charging stations,” Thompson said.
As part of this, Thompson pointed out that only utilities can directly sell electricity. Thompson said the state needs to determine which entities can deploy electric vehicle charging stations and whether they can charge per kilowatt-hour.
A pair of bills sponsored by Republican lawmakers in the last session sought to expand electric vehicle charging by allowing private companies and local governments to own charging stations and sell electricity to drivers. They would also have allowed billing based on charging time or amount of energy used.
But, the amendments to the bills would have prohibited local governments from owning or renting charging stations, and they would only allow stations that charge for electricity from utilities rather than on-site solar power. . The bill failed to pass amid disputes over these changes.
“I think that’s something that we’re going to have to address, because I think the preponderance of that is going to be through the private sector with government funding and funding,” Thompson said.
Everyone should be able to build electric charging infrastructure, said John Fisher, director of state affairs at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
“We don’t have the luxury of choosing who gets to build where and things of that nature,” Fisher said.
Deb Erwin, director of policy and program planning for Xcel Energy, said the utility supports other groups — like businesses and local governments — selling electricity for electric vehicle charging.
“Many states have addressed this issue because it’s a barrier to electrification,” Erwin said. “We can fix this. We can fix it in a simple way, and we just need to put aside some of these differences. »
Republican Sen. Julian Bradley, who chairs the state Senate Public Utilities Committee, said in his opening remarks that the issues surrounding electric vehicles are complicated. He added that lawmakers owe it to their constituents to “get it right.”
“As we get into electric vehicles in the next session, I hope there’s a lot more consensus among my colleagues and stakeholders because these issues aren’t going away,” Bradley said.
As Wisconsin transitions to electric vehicles, the change raises questions about how to do it most equitably and maintain revenue for the state’s transportation fund that relies on fuel taxes, fees vehicle registration and driver’s license fees. As gasoline-powered vehicles become more efficient and more electric vehicles are adopted, it is likely that gas tax revenue will decline because people need less fuel.
“Obviously, with more and more electric vehicles coming onto the scene, we may have to revisit this whole idea if we’re going to fund transportation through a user-fee system,” Thompson said.
Wisconsin created fees of $75 for hybrid vehicles and $100 for electric cars in 2017 to help offset any losses.
Steve Baas, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said other states are looking at whether to fund transportation budgets through surcharges on charging stations, highway user fees and increased fees. Registration fees.
“You can argue that transportation, along with education and public safety, are core functions of government. We don’t educate through user fees. We don’t ensure public safety through user fees,” Baas said. “Maybe it’s time to see if we’re doing transportation more like those other stool legs (rather) than on a direct user fee basis.”