Five Midwest States Plan Build-Out of EV Charging Network

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have established a partnership to support the build-out of electric vehicle or EV charging infrastructure across the Midwest region.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons]

The goal of this agreement – known as the Regional Electric Vehicle for the Midwest Memorandum of Understanding or REV Midwest MOU – is to “accelerate vehicle electrification” in the Midwest, providing for fleet electrification along key commercial corridors. The MOU also ensures the entire Midwest region can effectively compete for new private investment and federal funding for vehicle electrification.

“By working together with our Midwestern neighbors, we can accelerate the region’s growth in the transportation sector, create jobs across our communities, and prioritize the environment that makes the Great Lakes region so great along the way,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D) in a statement.

Improving access to charging infrastructure and reducing range anxiety will support EV adoption and the next generation of American-made electric automobiles, he added.

Through REV Midwest, those five states said they will work together to remove barriers to electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles and enable EV charging across states by coordinating to optimize charging infrastructure, cooperate on best practices, and support standardization.

“[The] REV Midwest partnership is a bipartisan effort to build the future of mobility and electrification and connect our communities,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D).“Our partnership will enable the Midwest to lead on electric vehicle adoption, reduce carbon emissions, spur innovation, and create good-paying jobs.”

On top of that, the Midwest utility sector needs an estimated 105,000 new jobs to deploy EV charging infrastructure across the region by 2030, she added. As a result, those five state plans address workforce needs in concert with private industry; supporting workforce training programs to build the transportation system of the future.

“The Midwest has the ingenuity and the drive to develop innovative solutions to curb climate change,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D). “I am proud to work with my fellow Midwest governors to not only reduce pollution, but protect public health, create jobs, and increase consumer choice across the region.”

“I’m proud to partner with our neighboring states to put the Midwest region on the leading edge of providing the charging infrastructure needed to futureproof our transportation network and meet the demand as rapid adoption of electric vehicles continues,” echoed Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R).

“We shouldn’t have to choose between building a cleaner, more equitable state and economic development—and thankfully, vehicle electrification is an area where we can do both,” said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D).“This regional partnership [is] critical for addressing emissions from the transportation sector, ensuring folks in every community have cleaner air to breathe and creating jobs to meet our future workforce needs.”

Michigan DOT Part of EV Wireless Road Charging Project

A new initiative to develop the nation’s first electric vehicle or EV wireless charging infrastructure on a public road is gearing up in Michigan – and the Michigan Department of Transportation will play a critical role in this new project.

[Above photo of Governor Whitmer via the Michigan Governor’s Office]

The Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the state’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification that plans to deploy an electrified roadway system that would allow electric-powered buses, shuttles, and personal vehicles to recharge their battery systems while driving – enabling EVs to operate continuously without stopping to recharge.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) noted that the development of a “wireless dynamic charging roadway” would help address range anxiety among EV users while accelerating the transition to all-electric transit fleets in Michigan and beyond.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” the governor said in a statement. “This project reinforces my commitment to accelerating the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure in Michigan and will create new opportunities for businesses and high-tech jobs amidst the transition to electric vehicles.”

[Editor’s note: The governor also concurrently launched two other initiatives – the Lake Michigan EV Circuit and the Michigan Revolution for the Electrification of Vehicles or “MiREV” – to continue advancing Michigan’s EV and mobility landscape by building out critical charging infrastructure in the state and ensuring the strong pipeline of talent needed for automotive mobility and electrification career pathways.]

“We know the future of mobility involves connectivity and this initiative dovetails nicely with our other successes linking vehicles and infrastructure through technology,” added Paul Ajegba, director of the Michigan DOT. “This is a model we will build on across the state to further promote the governor’s broad and ambitious vision.”

The Michigan DOT has released a Request for Proposal or RFP to implement the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot along a one-mile stretch of state-operated roadway in Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb counties. The firm that wins the RFP will then work closely with the Michigan DOT, the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on this project. Michigan DOT added that, to date, it has activated the largest vehicle-to-infrastructure technology deployment – nearly 600 miles – in the United States, including a first-of-its-kind connected and autonomous vehicle or “CAV corridor.” The agency also noted that Michigan is also home to a diverse collection of automated vehicle and drone testing environments.

Kansas DOT Seeks Input on EV Charger Unit Placement

The Kansas Department of Transportation recently issued a request for information or RFI in advance of a request for proposals to install electric vehicle charging (EV) stations along the most traveled state highways.

[Above photo of an EV charging station by the City of Olathe, KS]

Through this RFI, the Kansas DOT said it seeks to receive input from “industry stakeholders and potential applicants” to help develop program criteria for awarding funding toward the installation of EV charging equipment to ensure “continuity of travel” across the state for travelers and commerce alike.

The agency added that it already has identified approximately 12 preliminary locations for the installation of Direct Current Fast Charging stations producing 50 kilowatts or more of power to improve public access to charging stations every 50 miles along primary corridors. Funding their installation would come from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust, which made approximately $2 million available to Kansas for EV charging infrastructure needs.

“We want to work in partnership with the private sector to expand EV charging stations,” noted Kansas DOT Secretary Julie Lorenz in a statement. “This RFI is the first step in that process.”

This effort by the agency reflects the impetus of an executive order issued by President Biden on August 5 for 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles, which includes battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.

That dovetails with a plan also initiated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency on August 5 to mandate an 8 percent annual increase in fuel efficiency for passenger cars and light trucks between model-year 2024 and 2026.

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, recently offered some state-level perspective on how to manage this transition to EVs – noting in a recent Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast that state DOTs will play a “critical role” in helping electrify the nation’s transportation system.

Mug shots of Sens. Schumer and Sherrod

Senators Unveil $73B ‘Clean Transit for America’ Plan

Two key Senate Democrats introduced a $73 billion plan on May 4 to transition the nation’s transit buses and vans to Zero Emission Vehicle or ZEV platforms.

The “Clean Transit for America” plan – introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the senate’s majority leader, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – would replace America’s 70,000 mass transit buses and 85,000 cutaway/transit vans to “clean energy vehicles.” The plan would also prioritize funding for areas with the worst air quality first.

Currently in the United States, only 2 percent of buses are ZEVs, argued Sen. Schumer in a statement. He added that the volume of air pollutants from diesel buses disproportionally affects low-income communities and communities of color. 

“To reduce the carbon in our atmosphere and address the climate crisis, we must transform our transit system,” he said. “The Clean Transit for America proposal will replace dirty, diesel-spewing buses, create new American jobs, help save the planet and protect public health, particularly in our country’s most vulnerable communities.”

“Americans deserve world-class public transportation that is delivered with modern, zero-emission buses built by American workers,” added Sen. Brown. “The Clean Transit for America Plan will create a significant number of good-paying, union jobs building zero-emission buses in the U.S. It is the kind of transformative investment we need in public transit that will put Americans to work [and] connects people with opportunity.”

In a related effort, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., recently outlined a “vision” for how the Environmental Protection Agency could adopt standards to reduce greenhouse gas or GHG emissions in the automotive industry and eliminate tailpipe pollution from new cars by 2035.

“The future of the automobile manufacturing sector is at a crossroads,” Sen. Carper – chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – explained in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“The Clean Air Act provides sufficient authority for the EPA to rise to this challenge,” he said in a statement released with the letter. “EPA can establish requirements on new cars that would significantly reduce air pollution harming communities, put the nation on track to maintain its leadership in vehicle technology, and make significant progress in fighting climate change.”

Sen. Carper added that “if the U.S. does not establish a robust policy that leads to ZEV deployment” he warned the nation “will be at risk of losing our automotive jobs and industry leadership to other nations, as well as enduring unnecessary public health impacts from pollution.”

Twelve Governors Urge Biden Administration to Impose ZEV Mandate

The governors of 12 states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – recently signed a joint letter urging the Biden Administration to establish national zero emission vehicle standards. They also urged the administration to leverage the proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to provide more fiscal support for ZEV infrastructure construction.

[Above photo via the Massachusetts Governor’s Office.]

The April 21 letter calls on the administration to require all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold to be zero-emission by 2035, with all new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2045.

“By establishing a clear regulatory path to ensuring that all vehicles sold in the United States are zero-emission, we can finally clear the air and create high-road jobs,” the governors said in the letter.

“Moving quickly towards a zero-emission transportation future will protect the health of all communities,” they added. “With bold federal leadership, American workers will lead the way in designing, building and driving clean and affordable vehicles.”

The governors highlighted how investments proposed within the administration’s American Jobs Plan investments could support the “scaling up” of ZEV charging and refueling infrastructure – enhancing the investments already made by states.

For example, the California Department of Transportation in February installed 22 new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles or EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

Six energy utility companies announced in March that they are joining forces to build a seamless network of EV charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

Meanwhile, the governors also requested in their letter an expansion of tax credits to support the manufacturing of zero-emissions trucks, buses, and charging stations and funding to promote equitable access to ZEVs and transportation electrification at the local level.

One example of that is the deployment by the Cherokee Nation of two electric transit buses to transport employees and tribal citizens to work and tribal health centers, along with an electric school bus.

The tribe said it used a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in 2018 to help pay for those buses as well as construction of the recharging station.

“The Cherokee Nation has always been a leader in environmental conservation and forward-thinking efforts that will reduce harmful activities impacting our natural resources,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement. “As we work to reduce our carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2027, we are investing in sustainable projects that will have many long-term benefits,” he added. “Our responsibility as stewards of the land, air, and water will always be one of our most significant values, and introducing these eco-friendly transit vehicles into our fleet is an example of how we can make a great difference in our environment.”

Small Alabama Town Overcomes Barriers to Establish All-Electric Ferry

For two years, the Alabama Department of Transportation has quietly run an all-electric passenger and vehicle ferry, giving a tiny African-American community the distinction of having the only such vessel in the United States.

[Photo courtesy of the Alabama DOT.]

The story of how this unique ferry wound up in Gee’s Bend exemplifies the fundamental role transportation plays in civil rights, environmental, and social justice issues.

In the 1900s, Gee’s Bend had a hand-powered ferry – a wooden raft tethered to a cable stretched across the Alabama River. The old ferry linked Gee’s Bend – a community of about 300 people – to Camden, the county seat, where most of the grocery stores, schools, medical facilities, and government offices – including the voting registrar – are established. Without it, a 15-minute drive from Gee’s Bend to Camden turns into an hour-long journey.

“God blessed us to be able to have this ferry,” said Mary Ann Pettway, a champion African-American quilter and lifelong resident of Gee’s Bend. “That ferry is very important to all of us.”

Photo courtesy of the Alabama DOT.

However, as the civil rights movement rippled through Gee’s Bend in the 1960s, the ferry disappeared without explanation. The truth of its demise is as murky as the river it crossed, but the loss symbolized a host of injustices heaped upon the people of Gee’s Bend, who had limited access to jobs, education, medical care or emergency services.

That all began to change one night in 1993 when Hollis Curl – owner of The Wilcox Progressive Era, the county newspaper – looked across the river toward Gee’s Bend and saw smoke rising from a house fire. He knew the house was doomed and everyone inside was in danger because there was no ferry to get firefighters there in time.

“When I was a child, I remember him talking about it,” said Ethan Van Sice, the grandson of Curl, who died in 2010. “People’s houses were being burned down. He saw that smoke across the river and I think something in him clicked.”

Curl penned a front-page editorial, arguing that re-establishing the ferry would be good for both communities. The increased mobility, Curl wrote, would provide the children in Gee’s Bend with a chance at a better education and a better quality of life for everyone.

People in Camden were astonished at the newspaper’s editorial shift, but Curl’s words left them unmoved.

“It wasn’t totally received well,” Van Sice said.

Undeterred, Curl started a crusade to re-establish the ferry – and he found a willing partner in the Alabama DOT or ALDOT.

“We saw a need there,” said Josh Phillips, a public information officer for the agency. “We said, ‘We need to find a way to make this happen.’ It became a special project for ALDOT.”

Photo courtesy of the Alabama DOT.

After years of planning and some federal funding, the Alabama DOT finished the ferry in 2006, reconnecting Gee’s Bend to the rest of the world.

The ferry broke down often, however, and the service was unreliable. Ultimately, the agency decided to convert the ferry from diesel to electric power, replacing all the diesel components electric parts, lithium-ion batteries, cooling systems, and a computer and software package to orchestrate the operation.

The Alabama DOT also negotiated with two power companies to get sufficient electricity to each landing to re-charge the ferry’s massive batteries between trips.

In spring of 2019, it all came together, and the first all-electric ferry in the United States purred across the Alabama River from the Camden terminal to Gee’s Bend.

Mike Wilson of the Alabama DOT said other state departments of transportation can make the conversion to all-electric in certain situations.

“The technologies are pretty much off-the-shelf technologies, so it’s doable in the right circumstances,” he said. “Most operations that are trying to do something like this go to a hybrid boat simply because the routes are longer. Our route is such that we didn’t need to do that.”

Tim Aguirre, general manager of HMS Ferries Alabama, said the first lesson is “don’t start from scratch. There’s a lot of experience out there on this, and there are engineering firms that know how to do this.” Having the nation’s first all-electric ferry in Gee’s Bend is “a fascinating story with a neat outcome,” Aguirre said. “Ferries connect communities; they always have.”

ETAP Podcast: Managing the Transition to Electric Vehicles

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Shoshana Lew – executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation – discusses the critical role state DOTs are playing in helping electrify the nation’s transportation system.

[‘Photo by the Colorado DOT.]

Prior to heading the Colorado DOT, Lew worked for nearly two years as the chief operating officer of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. She also spent eight years serving the Obama Administration, including a stint as chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“My career has been at the nexus of finance and infrastructure issues,” she explained on the podcast. “It’s provided an interesting vantage point to see how investment in infrastructure impacts the economy on a ‘macro’ scale as well as how it impacts everyone’s daily lives.”

Moving from the federal level to the state level added another level of detail to that transportation discussion, Lew said. When she first joined the Colorado DOT, she visited all 64 counties across the state to talk about what transportation issues they experienced. That also provided her with insight into the challenges of electrifying the state’s transportation system.

“This is something we are hugely focused on; it is kind of the moment for this,” Lew emphasized. “I think what you’ve seen last five years is the tipping point for electric vehicles (EVs) – we are at the cusp of the transition but makes the challenges very different. To get people where they need to go – for EVs to work in this space – we need to build out the EV recharging network. That has to happen now so state residents can have the option of using EVs and traveling to farthest reaches of the state.”

She pointed out that it cannot be understated how big the transition to EVs will be – especially in terms of how it will help everyone rethink mobility.

“The state DOT cannot do it all by itself – there are huge roles to be played by the private sector, public utilities, the state department of energy, and others,” Lew said. “You need to have everyone thinking about this.” To hear the full podcast, click here.

Energy Utility Coalition Plans to Build EV Recharging Network

Six energy utility companies are joining forces to build a seamless network of electric vehicle or EV charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

[Above photo of EV recharging station by Walmart.]

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of American Electric Power or AEP, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – plans to establish a network of direct current or DC “fast chargers” within their service territories that can repower a typical EV in 20 to 30 minutes.

Nicholas Akins, AEP’s chairman, president, and CEO said in a statement that this effort will provide drivers with “effective, efficient, and convenient charging options” that enable long-distance EV travel, with the coalition also considering recharging sites along major highway routes with easy highway access and amenities for travelers.

“Throughout the ages, travelers have had to figure out how to get from point A to B. From feeding and watering horses to filling gas tanks, and now recharging batteries, ensuring that there are convenient places to accomplish these tasks is critical,” he said. “With this effort, we are working to help drivers see that EVs fit their lifestyle and their travel plans, wherever the road might take them.”

Several state departments of transportation are also engaged in similar build-out efforts to establish networks of EV rechargers along major highways.

For example, the California Department of Transportation – known as Caltrans – recently finished installing 22 new “fast-charging” EVs stations at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

The agency said the 22 Level 3 DC fast chargers deployed as part of this $4.5 million project provide an approximate 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to EVs with fast-charging capability. The units also feature “universal connectors” so they can re-charge all EVs on the market, including Teslas, with an adapter. Charging is free with no time limit, Caltrans added.

In September 2020, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began providing free access to EV recharging stations situated at two of its park and ride commuter lots as part of a pilot program to encourage and support the broader use of EVs across the state. And in July 2020, DriveOhio – a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation – outlined a new statewide strategy to help expand statewide EV use in an Electric Vehicle Charging Study, which recommended building EV charging stations at least every 50 miles at specific locations along interstate, state, and U.S. route corridors.

E-BIKE Act Would Offer Tax Credit for Electric Bicycles

Congressional legislation introduced on February 9 by Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would create a consumer tax credit to spur sales of electric bicycles for commuting and recreational purposes.

[Photo courtesy Jason Vogel, via Wikimedia Commons.]

The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment or E-BIKE Act would create a consumer tax credit that covers 30 percent of the cost of a new electric bicycle costing less than $8,000, up to a $1,500 credit.

“My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output,” explained Rep Panetta in a statement. “By incentivizing the use of electric bicycles to replace car trips through a consumer tax credit, we can not only encourage more Americans to transition to greener modes of transportation but also help fight the climate crisis.”

“Communities large and small are driving a bike boom [and] notably, electric bicycles are expanding the range of people who can participate and making bike commuting even easier,” noted Rep. Blumenauer, who is also the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus. “I look forward to working with Congressman Panetta on this important expansion of cycling opportunities.”

“The League knows life is better for everyone when more people ride bikes, and we know e-bikes make biking a more accessible and easier option for more Americans,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “We’re encouraged by congressional leadership on the E-BIKE Act, a bill that if passed will enable Americans to fight climate change and improve public health through the simple act of bicycling.”

Separately, the League of American Bicyclists recently named Tampa, FL, the number one city in the country for bicycle-friendly businesses or BFBs – a program that requires businesses to support and promote cycling to their customers, employees, and the community by providing bike parking, safety education, and promotions for retail customers who arrive by bike.

Tampa currently has 66 certified BFBs such as Tampa International Airport and Tampa General Hospital, adding nine new businesses in 2021 with six others renewing and improving their level of certification. “It’s exciting to see more and more cities such as Tampa embracing and encouraging safe, efficient multimodal transportation options,” noted Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault in a statement. “[We] appreciate this recognition from the Bicycle Friendly Business program as well as their efforts to recognize businesses going the extra mile for their employees and communities.”

Caltrans Deploys Fast-Charging Stations for EVs

The California Department of Transportation recently finished the installation of 22 new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles or EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

[Photo courtesy of the California Department of Transportation.]

“Fast chargers are essential to continue growing EV adoption in California and meeting our state’s goals for combating climate change,” explained Toks Omishakin, Caltrans director, in a statement. “Expanding the availability of convenient fast-charging stations along state highways is significant for the future of California transportation.”

The agency said the 22 Level 3 DC fast chargers deployed as part of this $4.5 million project provide an approximate 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to EVs with fast-charging capability. The units also feature “universal connectors” so they can re-charge all EVs on the market, including Teslas, with an adapter. Charging is free with no time limit, Caltrans added.

“With four new EV fast chargers at the Tejon Pass Rest Area on Interstate 5 and 18 others staggered approximately 40 miles apart, Caltrans has reduced recharging concerns for plug-in EV drivers on long-distance trips through the Central Valley,” added Tony Tavares, director of Caltrans District 7.

According to the California Air Resources Board, 70 percent of statewide transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions come from light-duty vehicles, including passenger cars, Sport Utility Vehicles, and light-duty trucks.

“This project is a tremendous example of how public agencies can collaborate with the private sector to fill gaps in the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) market,” said Tyson Eckerle, deputy director of ZEV market development for the Office of Business and Economic Development within the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom (D). “More chargers throughout the state will help to incentivize the purchase of EVs, getting us closer to Governor Newsom’s goal of 100 percent ZEV sales by 2035.”

Meanwhile, the Caltrans fast-charger deployment effort comes on the heels of a Biden-Harris administration executive order mandating that the federal government buy ZEVs for its fleet.

“We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future,” President Biden noted in remarks made before signing that executive order.

“The federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know,” he said. “With today’s executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order, we’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.”

The Biden-Harris executive order also coincides with a 63-page report recently released by the Center for Transportation and the Environment to provide suggestions for expanding the adoption of zero-emission buses in the U.S. transit industry.

That report – entitled Transit Vehicle Innovation Deployment Centers/TVIDC Advisory Panel Overview and Conclusions and published by the Federal Transit Administration – is the culmination of discussions held by the CTE-led advisory panel between the zero-emission industry and transit agency leaders and advocacy groups.