By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square
Set against the backdrop of a $15 million appropriation in Gov. Phil Scott’s fiscal year 2023 budget, state lawmakers are in the process of examining logistics for an ambitious rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Big picture, Vermont officials have expressed a desire to have a robust EV charging network across the state, with stations in urban, midsize communities and rural areas. But a number of the finer points are still being fleshed out.
Patrick Murphy, sustainability and innovations project manager with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, went before the Senate Committee on Transportation on Feb. 2. During the discussion, he said the AOT remains in the information-gathering phase.
“Right now, we just don’t have that data,” Murphy said of determining how many EV charging stations ultimately will be installed. “The federal guidance on the deployment of these funds is just to facilitate as much data as possible to guide future investments.”
EV charging stations will include equipment for one or more models: 480-volt fast charging; 240-volt for level two charging; and 120-volt for level one charging.
As electric vehicles increase in popularity, senators sitting on the panel questioned how the stations would be able to adequately meet demand.
“I’m worried about charge ranges,” said state Sen. Thomas Chittenden, D-Montpelier. “When we start getting a large number of people wanting to get to the charging station, what role do you think we should have in mandating that there’s a certain through-point, meaning the cars can queue up in a line, similar to a gas station?”
Murphy, in response, said such a scenario would require further expansion of the number of EV charging stations.
“As we develop our own state plan for how we’re going to deploy these funds, we’ll take into account potential demand for these places,” he said.
While there still are a number of big picture questions, the state is moving forward with plans of installing EV charging stations in 17 different areas. But the plan comes with a caveat – dependency on the still-volatile supply chain.
“We do anticipate them to all be installed and operational by the end of the year,” said Gary Holloway, downtown program manager in the Department of Housing and Community Development. “But there is some dependency on things coming into place.”
Holloway added, “We are hearing about delays with transformers of 20 to 30 weeks for some parts.”
While much of the committee-level discussion focused on public charging stations, the state is also offering resources for a $1 million grant program for owners of multi-unit housing developments interested in installing EV charging stations.
Bronwyn Cooke, community planning and policy manager with the Department of Housing and Community Development, said current statistics suggest 80% of EV charging occurs at home.
The state has opened its application window for the grants, Cooke said, and an April 1 deadline has been set. Plans call for awarding the grants April 22.
“This is the first time we’re doing a project like this,” Cooke said. “It is a pilot. We’re expecting to learn a lot. We’re expecting to get a lot of really good questions.”