OPINION: Understanding EV charging plans key to public involvement

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One of the downsides of living in an age of advanced technology is information overload.

We all have information right at our fingertips in our cell phones at any given time. With every new announcement coming over as a breaking news push alert, text or email, it can be difficult to tell what is truly worth our attention at any given time.

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To add to the confusion, it can feel at times like we’re drowning in the alphabet soup of acronyms for all of the local, state and federal agencies and their programs. It’s hard to keep it all straight, even for those of us who are actively involved in the process.

Take for example the U.S. DOT/FHWA/DOE NEVI program and the WisDOT WEVI plan.

Have I lost you yet?

The two are connected and will bring important electric vehicle charging infrastructure to the state of Wisconsin. Understanding what is to come and providing support as the programs unfold is key to keeping Wisconsin on the forefront of advanced sustainable transportation technologies. It is definitely worth our time and attention to learn more.

The federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides $5 billion to build a national electric vehicle (EV) charging network over the next five years. The program will help states create a network of EV charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors.

As part of the program, the new federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation was launched in February as was the DriveElectric.gov website.

Wisconsin is slated to receive $78.65 million over the next five years through the NEVI program. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is designated as the state agency with oversight of the program. To be eligible to access the NEVI funds, states are required to submit an EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) detailing their intentions for the funding.

Wisconsin is calling its plan the Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (WEVI) plan. WisDOT is in the midst of a statewide electrification planning study launched in January along with the WEVI plan (which began in March), both of which are intended to create an action plan to electrify the state’s transportation system and recommendations on how to administer the $78.65 million over the next five years.  The plans are due by August 1, 2022.

WisDOT hosted a Webinar to share information and get feedback from stakeholders last month and is planning another Webinar for this month. WisDOT is accepting input from the public as it prepares the WEVI plan. Comments can be submitted via email at transportationelectrification@dot.wi.gov or you can submit comments and specific proposed locations for EV charging stations via the following form: https://www.pima.wisconsindot.gov/public/comment/project-comment-dynamic?project_id=14407.

Wisconsin Clean Cities is proud to be an active participant in the process of helping to electrify the state’s transportation system. You, too, can and should be a participant by making your voice heard and your support for the project known by submitting comments via the outlets above.

Cut through the alphabet soup of acronyms and information overload by being informed and engaged. Your input can help continue to drive Wisconsin forward.

This column originally appeared in The LaCrosse Tribune and other Lee Enterprises newspapers across Wisconsin. 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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