New Funding Boosts More Electric Vehicle Charging Points in Iowa


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Marc Franke usually charges his 2013 Nissan Leaf — the world’s first mass-produced all-electric vehicle — in his garage in Ely.

But during the winter, when the Leaf’s 72-mile range between charges is reduced by a third or more in the cold, Franke plans his outings around where he can get a charge before heading home. him.

“Suddenly, in winter, this infrastructure is important to me,” said Franke, 71, a retired engineer and project manager.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that the Iowa Department of Transportation will submit a plan to the federal government this month on how Iowa would spend $51.4 million over five years to expand electric vehicle charging capacity. along interstate highways, including I-80, I-380, I-35, and I-29.

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program will provide $5 billion nationwide through 2026 for new charging stations at least every 50 miles and within 1 mile of highways.

“We’re expecting these sites at convenience stores, maybe malls, movie theaters,” said Stuart Anderson, director of the Iowa DOT’s transportation development division. “Some nice publicly accessible spots with some of these amenities are already in place.”

Iowa already has 276 public charging stations, including 71 that offer fast charging, according to data from the US Department of Energy. There are three types of charging stations:

Level 1 uses a common household 120-volt outlet and adds between three and five miles per hour of charge, Forbes reported.

Level 2 is most common for residential charging, providing 208 to 240 volts and adding 12 to 80 miles per hour of charging.

Level 3 fast charging uses between 400 and 800 volts to charge at a rate of 2 to 30 miles per minute of charge. These stations cost tens of thousands of dollars to create, Forbes reported, so they are only found at public charging sites.

Level 2 charging is often free at convenience stores, grocery stores and other businesses, which likely expect customers to spend money while waiting for their electric vehicle to charge.

In Iowa, Des Moines has the most charging points at 39, with Iowa City and Coralville combined having 33. Cedar Rapids has 16, Ames 12, and Davenport 11. 86 other cities and towns in Iowa have at least one charging station. Many of these sites have more than one charging port.

Iowa had more than 8,300 electric vehicles registered as of Dec. 31. Johnson County has the highest adoption rate, with 5.7 electric vehicles per 1,000 residents. The other 10 main counties are:

Dallas: 5.53 EV per 1,000 population

Jefferson: 5.49

Cerro Gordo: 4.47

Winneshiek: 4.07

History: 3.85

Polk: 3.8

Linen: 3.53

Scott: 3.39

Warren: 3.03

Iowa requires an additional registration fee for battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In May 2019, Iowa had 1,200 battery electric vehicles and 2,100 plug-ins, but less than three years later there were 5,000 battery electric vehicles and 4,400 plug-ins.

“Growth is significantly faster on the pure electric vehicle side,” Anderson said. “Four times the number in less than three years.”

With 276 public charging stations, Iowa has one charging station for every 30 electric vehicles registered in the state.

“Based on anecdotal information I hear, the system we currently have in Iowa meets the needs of electric vehicle owners in Iowa and those traveling within the state of Iowa,” Anderson said. “The challenge is that we’re seeing accelerated growth in Iowa and across the country. It is necessary to continue investments with public support. We see a certain reluctance among people to take longer trips – range anxiety.

Franke was 23 in 1973 when Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo on the United States, causing gas prices to skyrocket due to shortages.

“You couldn’t even get gas,” said Franke, who worked as an engineer at General Motors in Michigan. “After a few hours, you finally got to the pump and it ran out. It got to the point where range became a big issue. Everyone wanted to buy cars that would go 400 to 500 miles on a single tank.

Franke was appalled by the consequences of the embargo on the American economy. He sees many similarities between 1973 and 2022, when Russia’s war on Ukraine was part of the reason gas prices soared.

“We need to move away from oil as the primary fuel,” Franke said.

He moved to Iowa in 1985 and later served on the five-year board of directors of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association, a Hiawatha-based nonprofit that seeks to expand the use of renewable energy.

Franke and his wife, Cheri, bought the Leaf in 2013, the same year they added solar panels to their roof in Ely.

“It took about eight years to pay off,” he said of the solar panels, which charge his car. “Now I ride with free electricity from the sun.”

Franke hopes this fall to upgrade his electric vehicle to a Chevrolet Bolt, which has a range of 259 miles per charge.

Franke knows where all the electric vehicle charging stations are located around the Corridor. He knows he can meet his son for lunch at the North Dodge Hy-Vee in Iowa City and recharge the car battery while they eat. Or if he’s driving to Cedar Rapids, NewBo City Market or the Cedar Rapids Public Library are good places to charge.

“The biggest places where there haven’t been a lot of chargers are north of town in Hiawatha,” he said. “There is no public charger there. Same at Westdale Mall, no public chargers.

Hiawatha could benefit from new federal infrastructure funding for charging stations, which must be within a mile of the highway.

But Alliant Energy, an investor-owned utility that serves customers in Iowa and Wisconsin, is also looking at electric vehicle registrations and existing infrastructure to see where they can help install more charging stations, said said Melissa McCarville, spokeswoman for the company’s electrification team.

“We looked at that same data and looked at our service area and seen which areas might be willing to partner with us,” she said.

Last year, Alliant joined the National Electric Highway Coalition, a group of 50 utility companies that are committed to providing enough Level 3 fast-charging stations to “enable the public to drive electric vehicles with confidence.” along all major travel corridors in the United States by the end of 2023”.

Alliant is collaborating to help install a new charging station in Decorah and is researching other sites, McCarville said.

Electric vehicle use is expected to increase tenfold by 2030, prompting Iowa and other states to brace for a loss of gas tax revenue, which brought in an estimated $675 million over the past year. fiscal year 2021.

The Iowa Legislature in 2019 approved an electric vehicle registration fee in addition to regular vehicle registration. For battery electric vehicles, the fee is $130 per year; Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles cost $65 more.

The fee was designed to generate the same amount of revenue that is lost through the fuel tax, Anderson said.

“That covers passenger vehicles registered in Iowa,” he said. “What we haven’t captured are out-of-state electric vehicles and we don’t capture any fees for using large battery-powered tractor-trailers.”

Beginning July 1, 2023, Iowa will begin charging 2.6 cents per kilowatt hour for charging at non-residential locations, such as convenience stores, truck stops and private trucking terminals.

The system isn’t perfect, Anderson said. EV fees are the same regardless of the number of kilometers driven, unlike the gas tax, which brings in more income for people who drive more. And the state’s charging infrastructure is not yet suitable for charging tractor-trailers or electric buses.

“There are a lot more challenges to the ability to install that charging infrastructure and handle those heavy loads,” he said. “It will be an interesting transition.”

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