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I feel a little sheepish coming back to EVs in this newsletter — especially when public transit is increasingly left out of all kinds of conversations — but as a technology and built environment story, I find the gap between what the world of chargers looks like now, and what it will need to be, fascinating.
Oregon’s Department of Transportation has plunked down a significant chunk of change to build out a charging network. Half of the $100 million comes from the federal infrastructure bill, and Oregon will be use that money, plus another $10 million to put chargers for “light-duty vehicles” (i.e. everyday cars and trucks) every 50 miles along seven major highways in the state. Another $36 million will go to “close EV infrastructure gaps beyond those seven corridors” - including rural and urban areas, under-served communities, and apartment complexes.
Other states have put the federal infrastructure dollars and their own matching funds to some sort of EV projects. California is putting over $300 million into their own public charging network — but the Golden state includes more highway miles, and Oregon has currently 20 times fewer electric cars than California. So $100 million will likely have a larger impact in Oregon.
I asked ODOT some follow up questions about how plan to spend that money. How many chargers does $100 million buy?
The department doesn’t have a specific number in mind, spokesman Matt Noble says, but will spend the money over the course of 5 years with the goal of building “the backbone of charging in Oregon”.
In the first year, they want to build out charging along at least two highway corridors, Noble says.
So let’s do some back of the envelope math about how this would work in two of the targeted highways: I-5 (308 miles north-south in Oregon) and I-84 (375 miles east-west in Oregon).
ODOT says they’ll place charging sites along corridors every 50 miles, and each site will have at least four fast-chargers. That’s 14 charging sites with a minimum of 56 fast-chargers in the first year.
The purchasing will go through a bid process and the companies that win the installations will get to set the charging prices, Noble says, with a caveat that federal guidance requires prices be set at “reasonable” rates competitive to the local market. He expects more details on pricing tomorrow and the request for proposals to go out this winter.
If you’re a local journalist or generally interested in how your state is spending infrastructure money, EV chargers are a specific and shorter-timeline thing to keep an eye on — maybe even worth a public records request.
Thinking about EVs chargers as infrastructure also means you’ve got to be aware of maintenance: A study dreamt up by a retired professor and an environmental nonprofit visited a sample of current EV chargers available to everyone in the Bay Area over the course a few weeks. But nearly a quarter of the 181 stations and 657 charging ports they tested did not work or had some sort of issue when charging.
While this is a small fraction of the total chargers in California, it indicates the companies that operate chargers may need to put more effort into maintenance and ensuring reliability. It’s not like gas pumps don’t break… it’s just that there’s so many of them.
(If you want practical suggestions about how to manage the charging situation of an EV right now, my last Resource of the Month newsletter for paid subscribers broke down everything you need to know. If you’d like access to that and all future resource of the month emails, become a paid subscriber here.
Colorado’s ballot truce over oil and gas issues remains intact for this election season. Don’t expect it to last forever, though.
Heat pumps do work in the cold — Americans just don’t know it yet
If cities want to equitably adapt for climate change, they should talk to their public health teams
There’s plenty of stories about state legislators supporting gas and oil industry friendly bills while taking campaign contributions from these companies - but I’ve never seen such a literal “call is coming from inside the house” story.
In Manchin’s home state, wind energy finds bipartisan support
A conservative backlash to a major Florida utility saved rooftop solar payouts (for now) in the state.
Another renewable modeling study for the grist mill: California can get to 85% carbon-free energy by 2030, a recent study finds, but not necessarily by focusing only on solar and batteries (And as an update to my previous newsletter: California effectively hit 100% renewables for a moment about two weeks ago - but more notably, held at 80% for eight hours.)