Aug. 11—JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri transportation officials are preparing to spend more than $100 million on electric vehicle charging stations as part of a national plan to boost the number of battery-powered cars and trucks on the road.
The Missouri Department of Transportation recently submitted a draft report to the federal government outlining how it plans to add charging stations at key locations along the state's interstate highway system.
The move could reverse a trend: Missouri has lagged behind other states in charging station build-out, a key issue in the expansion of electric vehicles. The state had been hesitant to invest, with electricity regulators and utilities at first waffling on their involvement. But the new plan is a signal that government and private industry are now preparing for a future with more EVs on the roads.
"The state is seeing a lot more coordination in terms of the transition to electric vehicles," said Travis Wood, policy and program manager for the Missouri Energy Initiative, an association of public and private entities, including the state's biggest energy utilities. "The state really needs to figure out how they are going to meet that growing demand."
Electric utility Ameren Missouri also said the commitment is good news.
"We are excited that Missouri will have additional funds from the federal government to help with this effort. Ameren Missouri is focused on bringing more electric vehicle chargers across Missouri so drivers can feel confident when traveling across the state," said Pat Justis, manager of Efficient Electrification at Ameren Missouri.
The program's goal is a "safe, reliable, accessible, sustainable, innovative Electric Vehicle charging system that supports transportation choice, for a healthy environment and economy," the draft report says.
The federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation is scheduled to review the plan through Sept. 30.
The feds have dedicated $5 billion over the next five years to help states build the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles as part of an initiative to address climate change caused by the exhaust from fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the goal was to build a national charging network across the U.S. "where finding a charge is as easy as locating a gas station." It could result in as many as 500,000 EV charging stations nationwide by 2030.
Missouri's plan will spend its first year studying good systems. And while it has identified some "priority locations," private investment could change current plans.
There are a relatively small number of electric vehicles registered in Missouri. According to the draft, 6,740 all-electric vehicles were on the road as of June 2021, representing less than 1% of all vehicles registered in the state.
While this is currently a nominal percentage of the fleet, existing projections indicate an anticipated growth to 5.02% of the overall registered vehicle fleet being electric in Missouri by 2035, the draft says.
According to the draft, there are 22 publicly accessible EV charging stations along Missouri's interstate corridors, but more are currently in the pipeline.
The plan calls for using the federal money to close the gaps between the existing stations to no more than 50 miles.
As an example, the draft calls for building a charging station in Concordia, between Columbia and Kansas City on Interstate 70.
That could help reduce what is known as "range anxiety" for motorists on long trips.
The program "is seeking to address this directly by positioning EV charging stations along major travel corridors."
Other potential sites include in St. Roberts on Interstate 44, in Lamar on Interstate 49 north of Joplin and Craig, and on Interstate 29 near the Nebraska border.
In addition, the plan outlines a need for the charging stations to have amenities because charging times are longer with electric than when pumping gasoline.
"Even with improvements in charging technology, the amount of time that will be required for EVs to recharge at DCFC sites along the highway will likely be around 30 minutes for the near future," the draft says. "Charging sites should be co-located with amenities that drivers can use while waiting for their vehicles to charge. These amenities could include convenience stores, restaurants, and parks."
In the first year, the state is expected to receive $14 million from the federal government, with that amount rising to $21 million annually in later years.
Ameren also has $4 million in incentives available to local businesses looking to install EV chargers, Justis said.
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