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.