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Wisconsin DOT has electric plans for the new year — add more EV charging stations

EV charging station
Chuck Quirmbach
An EV charging station outside Outpost Foods in Wauwatosa.

The number of electric vehicles registered in Wisconsin has grown more than five-fold in the last five years. With new tax credits for EV purchases on the way, plus more EV models coming to market, the state transportation department has a mission.

That's to accelerate a multimillion-dollar plan to make sure there are enough EV chargers to travel around Wisconsin.

Wisconsin expects to receive nearly $79 million from the federal government over the next five years to foot most of the bill for new electric vehicle charging stations. The state's roughly 300 existing publicly available charging sites are mainly in the Milwaukee area, Madison and the Fox Valley and offer slower charges. This is far from having, what the state calls, alternative fuel corridors.

Maria Redmond, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, (left) answers a question from Lorrie Lisek, Executive Director of Wisconsin Clean Cities, (right) at a Wisconsin Clean Cities Conference in Green Bay.
Chuck Quirmbach
Maria Redmond (left), director of the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, answers a question from Lorrie Lisek (right), executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities at a Wisconsin Clean Cities Conference in Green Bay.

A federally approved state plan aims to fill gaps with faster chargers along the interstates and other major state roads, serving four cars apiece. Maria Redmond, director of the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, said sure, most EV charging is done at home or locally.

"But, when you want to travel, and you want to get out of town and travel across the country, you want to have that assurance you're able to recharge along the way," Redmond told WUWM.

Kaleb Vander Wiele, who heads DOT's EV charger effort, said when it comes to choosing locations for the 60 or so new charging stations, there has to be enough electricity at the site. And the locations will have to be able to handle what he called a culture change.

"When you fuel up your traditional vehicle, you're there at a gas station seven to 15 minutes. With an electric vehicle and a fast charger, we're thinking about 20-40 minutes. So, we want to make sure that we're placing these locations where you're able to use a restroom, you're able to do a little shopping, you're able to get a bite to eat," Vander Wiele said Thursday at a Wisconsin Clean Cities conference in Green Bay.

Kaleb Vander Wiele, of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, speaks at Thursday's conference.
Chuck Quirmbach
Kaleb Vander Wiele of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation speaks at Thursday's conference.

Vander Wiele said after final federal technical rules are issued soon, you'll start to see more charging stations being built in cooperation with other levels of government and the private sector.

"So, they can be either publicly or privately-owned. We don't intend for the department to own the charging stations. We intend to pass through the dollars to really an emerging business base that's excited about transportation electrification, to allow them to be supported by these dollars in their first projects," he said.

Vander Wiele said coming soon will be a GIS (Geographic Information System) computer map that will allow people to look at all 200 possible Wisconsin sites for public charging stations.

The state's plan comes as Wisconsin still only has maybe 10,000 registered EVs. But sustainable energy official Redmond said keep in mind what's in the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act — up to $7,500 tax credits for purchases of more new EV that meet certain criteria, including final assembly in North America.

"We want to make sure people in Wisconsin, who are purchasing vehicles, understand there are electric vehicle options, but also these incentives that are available to them. Also, local governments and the state itself to purchase electric vehicles to be able to use the infrastructure that is being built out," Redmond said.

Also coming, Redmond said, is a smaller tax credit for purchasing less expensive, used EVs. "I mean, I purchase used vehicles. I can't remember the time I purchased a new vehicle. So, it's really looking at opening the opportunity for everyone to be able to purchase an electric vehicle," she said.

Redmond said there are online sources of details of Inflation Reduction Act provisions for EV, including sites run by RENEW Wisconsin and Princeton University's REPEAT Project.

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