RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Electric Charging Station Funding Takes Another Step

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Electric Charging Station Funding Takes Another Step

On May 28th the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee held a hearing on Assembly Bill 233. The bill would allocate a little over $10 million of the Volkswagen Settlement money to fund electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin.

RENEW Wisconsin, Customers First! and Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum all spoke in favor of the goal of the bill. We stressed the importance of preparing Wisconsin for the coming transition to electric vehicles, and, with our allies, made the case for using Volkswagen Settlement Funding to do so. A number of other groups testified with concerns about specific provisions that they believe need to be changed.

Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) and Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) are the lead authors of the bill. They both agreed that the legislation needs some work but they are committed to adjusting the proposal to ensure it best serves the mission of the bill, which is to increase access to electric vehicle charging in Wisconsin.

This legislation is similar to a proposal that Governor Tony Evers put into his budget bill.  RENEW is working  with stakeholders and elected officials to address the details of the bill and bolster support for using $10 million of the VW Funding for electric vehicle infrastructure.

In our testimony below, we highlighted the benefits of electric vehicles, the need for fast-charging stations, and our concerns with AB 233 that we feel need to be fixed for this legislation to be passed or for it to be included in the budget bill.

There is still time to get involved! Please reach out to your legislators to support AB 233 and Governor Evers budget proposal.

For more information on the background of the Volkswagen Settlement, see previous Electric Vehicle Blogs: Volkswagen Settlement Update and “The Volkswagen Settlement” – A Big Opportunity for Electric Vehicles.


Assembly Bill 233 – Clean Energy Corridor Grants
Testimony before the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs
Jane McCurry, Electric Vehicles Program Manager


Jim Boullion: Chairman Kuglitsch and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs for RENEW Wisconsin.  With me, and also from RENEW Wisconsin, is Electric Vehicles Program Manager Jane McCurry.

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization founded in 1991 that promotes all forms of renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs that support solar, wind, biogas, geothermal energy and electric vehicles.

RENEW Wisconsin supports AB 233 and its goal of expanding the availability of electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin.

I would like to turn it over to Jane McCurry to share information with you about the market for electric vehicles, details of the Volkswagen Settlement and why this legislation is needed.

Jane McCurry: The market for electric vehicles is changing fast. The upfront price of an electric car is dropping, and is expected to reach parity with internal combustion engine cars by the mid-2020s. Every major auto manufacturer has pledged to overhaul their vehicle offerings. We expect almost 200 new electric vehicle models to be available in the next few years, from SUVs to pickup trucks and sedans.

While most electric vehicle charging is done at home, public charging stations are needed for citizens who live in multifamily buildings, who travel long distances for work, and to support our robust tourism sector. Currently, Wisconsin only has 32 fast charging locations, most of which are densely located in the Madison and Milwaukee areas. In order to make driving electric accessible for everyone in Wisconsin, we need to build a network of fast rechargers that will allow both urban and rural Wisconsinites to drive electric with confidence.

The Federal Volkswagen Settlement, where the money for this bill originates, specifies that the funding can only be used for certain purposes. The Settlement authorizes using up to 15% of the funds for zero emission vehicle infrastructure. As of today, 45 states have opted to use part or all of their available zero emission vehicle infrastructure funding to build out the electric vehicle infrastructure in their state. Wisconsin is one of only 4 states that has submitted a plan for using Volkswagen Funds that did not take advantage of this opportunity.

In the Midwest, there is consensus that we need to act now. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio are all using the available Volkswagen funding for charging station infrastructure. Each of our Midwest neighbors have slightly different programs for utilizing the funding, however, the consensus very much reflects AB 233’s plan to prioritize fast charging along major highway corridors.

Because 85% of Wisconsin’s Volkswagen funds must be used for retrofitting or replacing diesel vehicles, we strongly support using the remaining 15% to create a permanent network of high-speed public charging stations, which would give people and businesses the confidence they need to buy hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in the coming years.

We believe that investing this 15% of the funds in charging stations is by far the best use Wisconsin’s Volkswagen Settlement funding. It is a long-term investment in a critical technology that will last for decades and will benefit everyone in our State.

I will now turn it back over to Jim to make our comments on the specifics of AB 233.

Jim Boullion: The coming increase in electric vehicles on the road is such an important issue that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission recently started an informational docket on the subject.  The information collected in that docket may provide valuable information to the Legislature in finding workable solutions to some of the issues identified in this bill.

As to a few of the individual items in the bill, we have the following comments:

  • 20% to the transportation fund: RENEW does not object to EVs and EV charging stations paying their fair share to support road construction.  However, including a provision on road funding in this particular grant program presents some problems:
    • This would create a tax on charging stations that receive grant money but not on other charging stations. This will be anti-competitive and difficult to implement.
    • Instead of establishing a 20% tax, we would recommend including in the legislation a directive to the PSC asking them to make a recommendation on the best method for public vehicle charging stations to contribute to the road fund.
  • Time of use fees: As currently written, Grant recipients may only charge a parking fee based on the length of time at the charger and not on the amount of electricity consumed.
    • For a level 2 charger this is not an issue because the flow of energy can be almost equally received by all models of electric vehicles. On a DC fast charger, however, a Chevrolet Bolt can accept only 50 kW of power, but a Tesla Model 3 can accept 125 kW.  So, if both cars were plugged in for the same period of time, the Model 3’s battery would be filled with 2 and a half times more electricity.
    • The inequity of getting less power for the same amount of money on a per minute system is a problem. To address it, at least 21 states have allowed financially charging by the electron specifically for electric vehicle charging stations without violating public utility laws.
    • This is an issue that the PSC has included in their EV docket and they will likely make a recommendation on how this should be handled.
  • Grants may not exceed 50% of the cost to purchase and install a charging facility:
    • We agree that grantees need to have “skin in the game,” but the 50% limit may reduce the number of DC fast charging stations that will be deployed using these funds. For example, Pennsylvania allocated $1 million in funding, not part of the Volkswagen Settlement, for 50% matching grants. Their fund did not get any applications until they increased the percentage. Especially in more rural areas of Wisconsin, we may need more than 50% of matching funds to incentivize the installation of fast chargers.
    • We would recommend limiting the grants for level 2 chargers to 50% and allowing grants for DC Fast Chargers up to 75%. Allow the PSC to determine through their application criteria what proposals best serve the State’s goals.

Wisconsin’s plan to use $10,065,000, the full 15% of our allotted settlement funding, will go a long way toward ensuring Wisconsin will not fall behind in the transition to electric transportation. These charging stations will kickstart a whole new market of transportation that will benefit our State and local economies for decades to come. This is an opportunity to ensure all Wisconsin citizens have access to electric vehicles.

Not only that, but electric vehicles provide an opportunity to fuel our transportation with clean, homegrown energy that is produced right here in Wisconsin. Wisconsin spends $8.2 billion each year on fuel for transportation that comes from out-of-state. The program created by AB 233 will bolster our local energy production and local economies for decades to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. We are very excited to see your leadership investing in the transition to clean, high-tech transportation.

Tell your legislators you support matching grants for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations!

Tell your legislators you support matching grants for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations!

LEGISLATIVE ALERT!
Contact your Legislators to Support Public Electric Vehicle Charging Station Funding!

AB 233 was introduced on May 22nd and has already been scheduled for a public hearing this Tuesday, May 28. The bill designates a little over $10 million of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust money to provide matching grants for the installation of public electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers included a similar proposal in his 2019 Budget Bill. While the two proposals have some differences that need to be worked out, everyone agrees that we need to continue building our electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support the transition to electric vehicles that is coming to Wisconsin! We need your help to get this bipartisan proposal passed into law!

Email your legislators or attend the public hearing to support AB 233!

PUBLIC HEARING

Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
1:30 PM
225 Northwest

Assembly Bill 233
Relating to: charging facility grant program and making an appropriation.
By Representatives Neylon, Kuglitsch, Allen, Kitchens, Kulp, Mursau, Petryk, Skowronski, Spiros and Tauchen; cosponsored by Senator Cowles.

AB 233 Provisions

  1. Use $10 million of the Wisconsin portion of the Volkswagen Emission Settlement funds to provide grants to install electric vehicle charging facilities.
  2. “Charging facility” includes level 2 and fast charging equipment and analogous successor technologies that are available to the general public.
  3. The PSC will designate a clean energy corridor consisting of contiguous state trunk highways connecting Wisconsin to Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois.
  4. The PSC will develop grant criteria to determine eligible applicants for the grants at places of business located along the clean energy corridor.
  5. Grant recipients may charge a parking fee to use the facility if the fee is based on the time length of a session of use and not on the amount of electricity consumed by the user during a session of use.
  6. Grants may not exceed 50% of the cost to purchase and install a charging facility.
  7. The PSC may award multiple grants to a single applicant.
  8. Utilities that receive revenue collected from the charging facilities shall remit to the PSC 20% of that revenue, who will then deposit it into the state transportation fund.

Thank you for your support!

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs at jim@renewwisconsin.org, or call at (608) 695-7004.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Electric Cars are Better for the Environment (Yes, Even in Wisconsin)

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Electric Cars are Better for the Environment (Yes, Even in Wisconsin)

Image courtesy of Union of Concerned Scientists.


One of the most common questions people ask me is, “Are electric cars really better for the environment?” The resounding answer is, “Yes!”

The logic behind the question is sound; if cars run on electricity, and electricity is made with coal, then electric cars are powered by coal. And is coal really better than gasoline?

Well, yes and no. Ideally, our electricity wouldn’t be made from fossil fuels. But, even so, driving electric produces fewer emissions than driving a gasoline car.

 

No Matter Where you Drive, Electric Cars Produce Fewer Emissions

Union of Concerned Scientists spent years answering this question. Their scientists added up the total emissions from conventional cars and from electric cars. They found that electric cars produce half the emissions of the average gasoline car.

Their findings show that across the country electric vehicles produce the emissions-equivalent of an 80-mpg car. Even in Wisconsin, where the majority of our electricity comes from coal, electric vehicles are far cleaner than the average gasoline car even considering the emissions produced during the manufacturing of the car.

 

Manufacturing Emissions Paint the Wrong Picture

Producing any kind of vehicle takes an abundance of resources and energy. Since electric cars have large batteries they take even more energy to produce.  In fact, the manufacturing emissions could be over 60% higher than a gas-powered car. However, as soon as the cars start to be driven the emissions decrease significantly.

 

Electric Cars are a Lot More Efficient

Electric cars convert more energy into forward movement than gasoline cars. Over 60% of the energy that goes into an electric car gets converted into miles traveled. A gasoline car only uses 20% of the energy from gasoline for miles traveled. This means it takes way more energy to power a gasoline engine than an electric one. So, even if both cars are using fossil fuels, the electric car will use less total energy and produce fewer emissions per mile driven.

 

No Local Emissions

Gasoline cars have tailpipes that emit harmful pollution. Electric cars don’t have a tailpipe, and don’t generate emissions while driving.

This has air quality implications. With a lot of cars operating in close proximity, urban areas and the areas around highways tend to have higher concentrations of air pollution. Since electric cars don’t contribute to pollution in cities and on highways, they can do a lot to help improve air quality.

 

Drive on Sunshine

Plus, electric cars can drive on sunshine. A gasoline car will never be able to be powered with clean, renewable energy. As more renewable energy continues to be added to the grid, electric cars will continue to get even cleaner.

If you don’t want to wait for the grid to get cleaner, consider getting solar panels for your home. Or, if you already have solar power, consider buying an electric car to drive on sunshine! Research shows that people who own solar panels are way more likely to also own an electric car.

So, while an electric car takes more energy to produce, it consumes way less energy during its life. If you care about the emissions of your vehicle, it’s time to ditch the gasmobile.

There are an abundance of other reasons to switch to driving electric, so keep in touch to find out more!

Tell your legislators you support renewable energy provisions in the budget bill!

Tell your legislators you support renewable energy provisions in the budget bill!

The Joint Finance Committee will begin voting on individual items for the 2019-2021 State Budget starting on May 9th.  Joint Finance is where nearly all of the key decisions about this year’s budget will be made. Your help is needed to ensure that pro-renewable energy issues remain in the final Joint Finance budget package!

Legislators on Joint Finance are especially important to the final decisions, but every legislator will have a vote in their respective partisan caucus and can impact what happens behind those closed doors.  Your legislator could be the key voice and key vote that keeps one or more of these provisions in the Budget!

Please call or write to your legislators and urge them to support the electric vehicle and renewable energy provisions in the budget!

 

More information about the Joint Finance Committee members, hearing dates and related information can be found on the Joint. Finance Committee webpage. Documents such as issue papers and other items related to the budget bill will be available on the Legislative Fiscal Bureau website.

 

Items Under Consideration for Inclusion in the Budget

Some energy items from Governor Evers’ budget have already been removed including establishing the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, Utility Contribution for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Programs, and State Carbon-Free Electricity Goal.

The following items still have a chance of being in the final bill if we can generate support for them:

  • Allocate $10 million of the VW Settlement Funds for EV Charging Station Grants: The Assembly GOP announced that they have a similar proposal for the VW money, but with slightly different details. Despite bipartisan support for funding EV charging stations, there are powerful entities who oppose this provision, or any money at all going to EV charging station infrastructure and are suggesting the money go to retrofitting diesel trucks instead!
  • Adds a $75 registration fee for all hybrid vehicles, not just PHEV’s: All hybrid vehicles (any vehicle that uses a battery to increase fuel economy) would pay an additional $75 annual fee that was originally designed to cover only Plug-in-Hybrid Vehicles. Battery-only electric vehicles (BEV’s) currently pay an additional $100 annual fee on top of the regular registration fee. The additional hybrid fee is designed to recover the gas taxes* that would have been paid if these vehicles were powered by gasoline only.  There is currently a lobby effort being made to increase the registration fee on pure electric vehicles from $100 to $300 per year, which RENEW Wisconsin strongly opposes!

(*Wisconsin’s current state excise tax rate dedicated to transportation is 30.9 cents per gallon. When the state’s petroleum clean-up program fee is added, total state taxes and fees collected at the pump are 32.9 cents per gallon)

  • Allocate $50 million to fund energy conservation projects and $25 million for renewable energy projects on state-owned facilities. These funds would help state agencies and the UW System meet their energy conservation goals and reduce utility bills. The savings from the reduced utility costs would be used to pay for these energy conservation and renewable energy projects!
  • Increase Intervenor Compensation Funding: The bill increases from $300,000 to $500,000 the annual grants the PSC is allowed to make to nonprofit entities that advocate on behalf of utility ratepayers. There are numerous important cases coming before the PSC in the next few years on issues such utility rate increases, renewable energy projects, coal plant closings and electric vehicles rules.  It is important that ratepayers have a strong voice at the table when these critical issues are being decided.
  • Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) would be allowed to award business tax credits of 5% for investments made on projects that improve energy efficiency or that generate energy from renewable resources. These investments will help Wisconsin businesses reduce their energy usage, save money and create jobs, which is good for everyone!

Thank you for your help in getting these items included in the final budget bill!  If you have any questions or would like more information about any of these energy related issues please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs at jim@renewwisconsin.org, or call at (608) 695-7004.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Now is the time for electric buses

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Now is the time for electric buses

Electric buses offer quiet, peaceful, and fresh-smelling commutes for riders. Sounds pleasant, right?

In a previous blog, I highlighted the benefits of electric buses. They’re less polluting no matter where they operate, are more comfortable to ride in, cheaper to run, and can be powered by renewable energy. No wonder Wisconsin cities like Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine will see electric buses on their streets soon. These cities will be the first in Wisconsin to benefit from electric transit buses, but hopefully not the last.

Cities across the world are investing in electric buses

Cities all over the world are overhauling their bus fleets to replace dirty diesel with electric:

  • Medellín, Columbia will get 64 electric buses in August.
  • Moscow, Russia recently purchased 200 electric buses, some of which have been operating since last fall.
  • Santiago, Chile purchased 100 electric buses which should be deployed soon
  • Shenzhen, China has only electric buses. 16,000 of them.

Medellín and Moscow, Santiago and Shenzhen. While these cities are very different than Eau Claire or Green Bay, they show that electric buses make sense in locations around the world. And if they can do it, why can’t we?

Why aren’t all buses electric?

In short, the price tag. An electric bus costs almost twice as much as a diesel bus upfront, although they do save money in the long run on fuel and maintenance costs. But, since transit authorities operate with tight budgets, it’s often not feasible to prioritize electric buses unless we use creative financing methods to get electric buses for the same price as diesel buses.

The electric bus solution: PAYS®

We have solutions that can reduce the upfront cost barrier, save the bus owner money, and maximize the benefits that electric buses afford cities. It’s called Pay As You Save®, or PAYS®. PAYS allows the transit operator to purchase an electric bus with an investment from their utility, which the utility recovers over time through a fixed charge on the transit operator’s utility bill.

PAYS is a win, win, win solution that puts more electric buses on the road. The transit operator saves money each month thanks to those reduced fuel and maintenance expenses, even with the additional monthly charge. The utility makes money by selling more electricity, and we all benefit from less exposure to air pollution.

For more information about how PAYS works in practice, visit Clean Energy Works and watch their video above.

Proterra’s Solution: Leasing the Bus Battery

Electric bus manufacturer Proterra announced this week that they are scaling up their battery leasing program. Proterra’s program leases the bus battery to the customer, which brings the upfront cost of the bus down. Much like PAYS, the Proterra program aims to accelerate electric bus adoption by allowing transit operators to buy an electric bus for about the same price as a diesel bus. Operating funds that would have been spent on diesel fuel instead go toward the lease payment, leaving a little extra for savings.

Now is the time to move on electric buses

Buses last a long time. It’s important to start the transition now because any bus that hits the road now will likely last into the 2030s.

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, summarized it well: “What worries me is that every time a new diesel bus deploys… You’re looking at 900,000 pounds of pollution on a 12-year deployment on a diesel bus.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Electric buses benefit the transit operator, riders, utilities, and citizens. Wisconsin has already started the transition to electric. Now is the time to speed it up by using these creative, proven financing models that are a win, win, win for Wisconsin.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Things are Picking Up for Electric Pickups

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Things are Picking Up for Electric Pickups

When I left for Michigan last Friday, I was not expecting my electric vehicle advocates meeting to remind me how important trucks are to American culture. The conference provided the opportunity to tour the Ford Rouge Factory and Rivian, the new “electric adventure vehicle” maker. Funnily enough, both experiences centered around pickup trucks. On the surface, trucks don’t exactly seem like the electric vehicle advocate’s dream, but perhaps we needed this conversation to help us think about really reaching the masses with electric vehicles.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour

The Ford Rouge Factory produces the iconic F-150. No photos during the tour were allowed, so I can’t share too much, other than that it was a fascinating experience to see the manufacturing facility in full swing. Workers literally put trucks together while we watched. Someone on the tour with me described it as “a ballet” of workers and machinery, each going at the exact correct pace to keep up with the production schedule and snap vehicles together seamlessly.

What struck me was the size of the vehicles. On the day we went, the factory produced extended cab trucks. They were giant! It was amazing to watch these cars roll off the line (every 53 seconds!). I highly recommend visiting Rouge Factory if you find yourself in Southeast Michigan.

In January, Ford announced plans to make an electric version of the F-150. I don’t know when or where yet, but I hope I’ll have the opportunity to tour the factory where electric F-150s are produced, too.

Rivian

Rivian is a start-up company that is developing “the world’s first electric adventure vehicles.” In February, Rivian announced a $700 million investment round, led by Amazon. They are working on a pickup truck and an SUV that are capable of taking you from the coast to the mountains and back on a single charge. Rivian’s cars look cool and have practical additions like the “gear tunnel” to give you even more space to store your adventure gear.

The first Rivian vehicle will be the R1T, an electric pickup truck. It’s expected to hit production in late 2020. Coincidentally, Rivian is testing its truck’s performance with a car that’s disguised as an F-150. There aren’t any ties between the two automakers*, Rivian just wants to test their technology without gaining attention, and the F-150 cab allows them to do just that.

Rivian’s Headquarters is in Plymouth, Michigan. You may remember from a previous blog that I grew up in Metro-Detroit – I actually went to Plymouth High School. It’s so fun to go home and see new companies combing transportation and technology in my old stomping grounds.

UPDATE: Ford Invests $500M in Rivian

Today (April 24, 2019), Ford announced a $500 million investment in Rivian. So much for my “no ties” statement above! Rivian and Ford will work together to create an all-new electric car,  which will be sold under the Ford brand. Ford is developing more electric vehicles for the market and hopes to use the Rivian “skateboard” – the bottom part of the car that contains the drivetrain, batteries, and brakes – in addition to their current plans. The partnership should benefit both companies, and put more electric cars options on the market.

What are the chances I visit both companies just weeks before the big announcement! As a Midwesterner, EV-advocate, and Michigan-native, I am really excited to see two Michigan companies coming together in the name of electric cars. Stay tuned, I’m confident we will continue to see auto manufacturers announce commitments to further electrify their car offerings.

Things are Picking Up for Electric Pickups

In other electric pickup truck news, Tesla is teasing a new model as well. Lesser known companies Bollinger and Atlis are also both expected to drop new electric pickup trucks soon.

It’s an exciting time for the auto industry and electric vehicle advocates. I think these tours highlight that the transportation landscape, and the conversation, is changing in ways we didn’t expect. Drivers want electric trucks, and manufacturers want to provide them. The surge in electric pickup truck options is evidence that electric vehicles aren’t just for the sedan-driving eco-minded consumer, they’re for everyone.

For more info on the number of electric vehicle options available soon, check out our infographic, Electric Vehicle Market Outlook.

*See UPDATE above.