By Kenzie Criswell
Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Transportation (MDT) have joined efforts to update Montana’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan. To minimize their impact on the climate, most vehicle manufacturers are moving toward electric vehicles (EVs). Accomplishing this goal nationwide requires a massive build-out of EV charging stations. Fortunately, the State of Montana is in the process of helping make that happen.
DEQ’s experience with alternative fuels and electric vehicles, and MDT’s decade long experience with fund allocation are a perfect combination to help spend the $7.5 billion of federal funding to help deploy EV charging stations across the nation. Montana will receive approximately $43 million dollars over five years to support this project.
Passed through the bipartisan infrastructure law in November 2021, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program will create a national network of EV charging stations using major interstates as its backbone (see image). This system will “support a convenient, affordable, reliable, and equitable national EV charging network” for EV drivers across Montana, according to DEQ’s Kyla Maki.
States must meet certain requirements to receive funds provided by the program. This includes: charging locations only being allowed along certain designated corridors which includes I-90, I-15, I-94, US-93, and US-2; each charging port achieving at least 97% annual average uptime; consistent operation and maintenance; and each charger must provide at least 150 kilowatts to a vehicle.
The plan will also only fund Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors. CCS connectors are standard chargers with added power so that a high voltage of energy can be provided in a shorter amount of time. Most cars can use these connectors or available adaptors. This doesn’t prevent businesses or local entities from funding other types of chargers; however, they will not receive funding for anything without a CCS connector.
These funds will be available to Montana until the $43 million is spent. Any funds that are not used will be taken back and redistributed to other states for the same project. So, rest assured, all of the project money will only be used for EV charging stations across the nation. This project will “make it easier to drive across states to communities we visit,” said DEQ’s Neal Ullman in a July 2023 video. The NEVI program assists charging stations and holistically connects rural communities, making electric vehicle driving easier and cleaner.
This article was published in the September 2023 issue of Down To Earth.