Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency’s (SMMPA) member municipal utilities have committed to establishing an electric vehicle (EV) charging network to help facilitate the transition to EVs in Greater Minnesota. Participating members will be installing a DC Fast Charger and two dual-port level 2 chargers in each of their communities by the end of 2020.
“It’s a great opportunity and an important first step to facilitate acceptance of electric vehicles, an amazing technology that will transform both the electric utility and transportation industries,” says Chris Schoenherr, SMMPA’s director of Agency and Government Relations and chief external affairs officer.
Since 90 percent of EV charging typically occurs in the owner’s garage at night, when electric demand is low, Schoenherr says utilities can generally handle that load without additional generation. However, the lack of public charging stations in most communities is a major barrier to consumers making the switch because of “range anxiety” – the fear they may not be able to reach distant destinations.
“Regardless of whether you are a small or large community, there is strength in numbers that creates economies of scale and sends a consistent message to our customers,” says Joe Hoffman, SMMPA Board President and Preston Public Utilities general manager. “As a board, we felt it was critical to move forward together on this key initiative that will help our communities.”
SMMPA is partnering with ZEF Energy, the largest independently owned and operated DC Fast Charging Network in Minnesota and Wisconsin. SMMPA will purchase the chargers from ZEF Energy and transfer ownership to its member utilities. SMMPA will cover the cost of maintenance.
ZEF Energy was selected by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to install charging stations as part of the Volkswagen settlement. With SMMPA working on a similar timeline, ZEF Energy was able to leverage its expertise and purchasing power to create a package that was viable for SMMPA members.
“SMMPA is taking a market-leading approach,” says Matthew Blackler, CEO of ZEF Energy. “It is removing a major barrier to EV ownership by making charging and cross-state travel as convenient and accessible as possible.
The DC Fast Chargers provide EV owners with a quick charge when they are traveling longer distances. The Level 2 chargers provide a charging option for EV owners while they are shopping, dining at a restaurant or conducting other business in town.
SMMPA member utilities are currently identifying potential sites for the chargers. Businesses that are interested in potentially being a site host for one of the chargers should contact their local SMMPA member utility.
Schoenherr expects it will take some time before the chargers are being fully utilized.
“In the utility business, we think long-term. A transformation begins with one step, and we are taking our first step today.”
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