Plans for a statewide charging network for electric vehicles are entering the critical stage, and the effort will require thoughtful collaboration among many stakeholders to bring meaningful and lasting results.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has been dutifully laying the groundwork for months.
In late September, Indiana’s Republican governor joined four Democratic governors in the region to forge a network for charging electrical vehicles across a five-state region. Now, Indiana will receive more than $100 million in federal funding over the next five years to fund its EV infrastructure.
Last month, at the urging of the Holcomb administration, Indiana lawmakers approved the regulatory framework for utilities to build charging stations and other wide-scale infrastructure for electric vehicles. At least two EV programs, proposed by AES Indiana and Duke Energy, already are under consideration by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
This week, Holcomb’s Indiana Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Indiana Office of Energy Development, issued a request for information to help start development of the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan.
Now is when the hard work will begin, as the state seeks feedback and recommendations from stakeholders such as electric utilities, highway engineers, electric vehicle manufacturers, shipping companies, consumer groups and more.
Input from all stakeholders will be needed to devise a forward-looking plan that isn’t outdated before it’s implemented and is flexible enough to be adjusted as technology advances.
IndyGo, the city’s public transportation system, learned the hard way that it’s best to stay as current and flexible as possible when it comes to EV technology.
In 2019, electric buses on its new Red Line fell short of their promised range of 275 miles, particularly in cold weather. Eventually, wireless charging stations were installed along the route to provide quick boosts to keep the buses running.
Those are among the many potential hiccups planners need to take into account as they prepare Indiana’s statewide charging network.
Drivers of electrical vehicles also are quick to point out that many public charging stations today don’t provide enough of a charge to make it feasible to power up anyplace other than home—and they hope the state makes sure to install high-powered and costly chargers that will truly allow for extended travel.
A visionary, comprehensive plan also is needed to make sure Indiana and its communities qualify for additional federal money that will be available later to fund EV infrastructure. The federal infrastructure bill approved by Congress includes $2.5 billion in competitive grants for such efforts, and Indiana needs to position itself to be in the hunt for a chunk of that money.
It is only with a high-quality plan that the state can put itself ahead of the pack and show it is serious about supporting the electric vehicle industry and recruiting a strong share of the thousands upon thousands of jobs the industry stands poised to create.•
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