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Feds OK state EV plans, a big boost to Mountain West charging networks

Charging station for electric cars. Types and connectors of ports for charging vehicles.
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Fast chargers can charge an electric vehicle battery up to 10 times faster than a more typical charging station, which can take a couple of hours.

The Biden administration gave the green light to 35 state electric vehicle plans Wednesday, including five in the Mountain West. The approvals mean more than $900 million will be dispersed among the states to help them expand EV charging networks.

Colorado is due to receive about $57 million over the next five years, according to Matt Mines, the senior program manager with the Colorado Energy Office.

"There's going to be significant more investment from Colorado and our neighboring states through the [National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program] investments," he said. "And so there should be interstate fast charging networks in the next one to five years pretty readily available.”

Colorado has already opened 26 fast-charging stations, which serve the roughly 64,000 EVs registered in the state — a count that far eclipses other states in the region. One of the newest stations is in Julesburg, identified as a gap in electric vehicle coverage between Colorado and Nebraska.

These stations can charge an electric vehicle battery up to 10 times faster than a more typical charging station, which can take a couple of hours. Mines estimates that the fast chargers get roughly 80% of a full charge in about 20 minutes for the average driver, giving a big boost to those who drive long distances.

If you're traveling from the front range to the mountains to recreate, it's going to really enable that opportunity with minimal time required to charge your vehicle,” he said.

In the first year of the program, Colorado will get about $8.3 million, Mines said. He hopes some of the funds will make Colorado’s scenic byways more EV-friendly.

The administration also approved EV infrastructure plans for Nevada, New Mexico, Montana and Utah.

But those states, and also Wyoming and Idaho, all of which contain vast stretches of remote highway, have been skeptical of the federal requirement that EV fast-charging stations are built within 50 miles of one another.

“There are plenty of places in Montana and other states here out West where it’s well more than 50 miles between gas stations,” Rob Stapley, an official with the Montana Department of Transportation, told the Wall Street Journal in June. “Even if there’s an exit, or a place for people to pull off, the other big question is: Is there anything on the electrical grid at a location or even anywhere close to make that viable?”

The other state EV plans — like those for Wyoming and Idaho — will be reviewed on a rolling basis by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the Mountain West Reporter for KUNC, here to inform you of all the latest news affecting the Mountain West region. From new legislation to climate patterns to invasive species, I'll research what is happening in your backyard—as well as the backyards of neighboring states—and share those stories with you as you go about your day.