OPINION: Wisconsin charging ahead with electric vehicles

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"Electric Car Charging Station" by Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine is marked with CC0 1.0

February was a big month for electric vehicles across the nation and in Wisconsin.

Foxconn announced in late February its plans to assemble vehicles for EV startup Fisker, sparking buzz about the likelihood of operations taking place at the company’s Mount Pleasant plant.

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The U.S. Postal Service in February chose Oshkosh Defense for a ten-year, $482 million contract to manufacture new postal delivery vehicles with battery-electric power trains and fuel-efficient combustion engines that can be retrofitted with battery electric power trains.

Also in February, Edmunds reported EV sales are predicted to rise to a record high 2.5% of all U.S vehicles, up from 1.9% in 2020. At the same time, Jaguar and Ford announced plans to go all-electric by 2035, following General Motors’ January announcement to do the same. Volvo issued their all-electric pledge by 2030 early this month.

All of the EV talk is prompting questions about where the vehicles will charge. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, Wisconsin has 419 publicly available EV charging stations with 812 charging outlets and another 25 private charging stations with 50 charging outlets.

The reality is, most private EV owners – myself included – do the majority of their charging at their homes overnight with chargers in their own garages.

But what about those without private garages in single-family homes? Residents of multi-unit dwellings (MUD) like apartment buildings or condominium complexes may want to purchase an EV but do not have access to charging at their home. For those living in MUD in larger cities with street parking only, the issue becomes even more of a challenge.

Wisconsin Clean Cities is working to address that very issue through the Vehicle Charging Innovations for Multi-Unit Dwellings project. We are pleased to partner with The Center for Sustainable Energy, along with 12 other Clean Cities coalitions and a host of other partners, on the project with funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office.

The project team is engaging stakeholders to document barriers to multi-unit dwelling and residential curbside charging stations, demonstrating innovative technologies that address barriers and compiling project findings in an easy-to-use toolkit to distribute across national, regional, state and local channels.

The City of Madison in January adopted an ordinance requiring at least 10% of newly-constructed parking for multi-unit dwellings have infrastructure making the installation of EV chargers more attainable.

That’s a great step toward making EV adoption more accessible for all and we encourage other cities across the state to follow their lead.

Wisconsin Clean Cities also leads the Drive Electric Wisconsin project as part of Drive Electric USA, a partnership of U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalitions working to significantly advance EV adoption in 14 states.

In addition to accelerating EV adoption, the project is working to advance innovative approaches to reduce EV market barriers. The project also plans to create a Replication Playbook that other states can use as a guide for their own programs.

We welcome outreach from any public, private or nonprofit entity interested in joining our efforts.

Are EVs the answer to all of our transportation-related problems? No. Will every vehicle in the U.S. have to become electric? Not likely, but they are an important part of the solution to curbing climate change.

Tailpipe emissions account for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions, representing the largest single source of climate change-causing pollution.

Wisconsin should be proud of its efforts to be part of the solution with projects that will support local jobs, make EVs more accessible for individual consumers and fleets alike and improve air quality for all of those who live, work and play in our state.

More information about these and other projects working to drive Wisconsin forward is available on the Wisconsin Clean Cities Website at www.wicleancities.org.

This column originally appeared in Kenosha News. Lorrie Lisek is executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities and president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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