By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) — Louisiana has submitted a plan to spend an expected $73 million in federal funds to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations along the state’s major highways over the next five years.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development submitted a Louisiana State Plan for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment to federal officials last month as part of a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program in the infrastructure law approved by Congress last year.
The law provides nearly $5 billion over the next five years to help states create a nationwide network of 500,000 charging stations spaced out every 50 miles along designated alternative fuel corridors. Louisiana was allocated $14.1 million for fiscal year 2020-21 and expects to receive a total of more than $73.3 million over the life of the program.
Louisiana’s EV infrastructure plan also fits into Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse emissions by a quarter from 2005 levels by 2025, then by half by 2030, and eventually net zero emissions by 2050. Edwards is also pushing to transition 50% of public fleets to low- and zero-emission vehicles and fuels by 2035, and to 100% by 2050. Another goal aims to build out 250 EV charging stations per 100,000 residents by 2050.
As of July 16, Louisiana had a total of 153 electric vehicle chargers across the state, though many are accessible only to Tesla owners. Of those, a dozen are non-Tesla fast charging stations, and only one currently meets the requirements for alternative fuel corridors in the federal guidance.
Louisiana’s EV plan identifies all 943 miles of interstate highways as EV corridors, as well as stretches of future Interstate 49 near New Orleans and State Highways 1 and 3235 near Port Fourchon, all of which were deemed eligible for the NEVI program.
The plan calls for two phases to spend NEVI funds, the first for 30 new or updated fast charging stations to meet the federal 50-mile spacing requirement, and a second for “installation of additional chargers along and off the nominated corridors to better serve high use areas and to achieve redundancy in underserved areas.”
“To make all nominated (alternative fuel corridor) segments compliant, the modeling suggest that 96 (fast chargers) at 24 sites should be installed at various locations along I-10, I-12, I-20, I-49, I-55, US-90, and a few local highways in the southern part of the state,” according to the plan.
The plan identifies approximately $91 million available for EV infrastructure, which includes the $73 million from NEVI and $18 million from a required 20% match from grant recipients.
“Accordingly, the state estimates that it will be able to install 300-760 charging ports based on these numbers,” the document reads. “The wide range is due to unpredictable factors such as inflation, (cost differences in estimates), supply chain change, site-specific variations, and other changes in hardware or labor costs over the funding period, which could all result in more or fewer allocated chargers from the available funds.”
Louisiana expects to fully build out alternative fuel corridors by the third year of the five-year program, and to shift focus to phase two for the final two years, with the goal of 75 fast charger sites with at least 300 ports.
Through the end of 2021, there were 3,065 electric vehicles registered in Louisiana, up about 63% from the year prior, though the vast majority are located near New Orleans and Baton Rouge. About half of the state’s 64 parishes have five or fewer registered EVs.