Charging stations coming to city

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Juanice Gray and Carolyn Roy contributed to this story

The City of Natchitoches is getting charged – and it’s a good thing. Natchitoches is among more than 20 government agencies, universities and electric utilities in Louisiana that will soon be getting electric vehicle charging stations. Natchitoches is set to get two fast chargers, a value of $70,000. The Department of Environmental Quality is awarding grants to 26 entities for 82 charging stations, a $1.7 million value, using money from the state’s $19.8 million share.

This article published in the Sept. 2, 2021, print edition
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The money comes from a settlement worth nearly $3 billion between the U.S. Justice Department and Volkswagen over violations of the Clean Air Act, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. Volkswagen sold about 590,000 vehicles equipped with devices that worked against their air pollution control features, resulting in increased emissions of nitrogen oxide. Almost $12 million of Louisiana’s share of the 2016 settlement was set aside to replace 351 diesel engine buses owned by 16 school boards.

 

Another $7.3 million was given to the state Department of Transportation and Development and the Department of Agriculture to replace old diesel equipment and vehicles. The new grants are aimed at helping entities that either plan to buy or already have bought electric vehicles, by providing them with three levels of charging stations: — A Level 2 light-duty electric vehicle station, which is what Natchitoches will get, provides 240-cycle electricity that can charge vehicle batteries over several hours. — A direct current fast charger, which can charge a vehicle in as little as 30 minutes. — A paratransit charger station that’s designed to service multiple vehicles at once.

Community Development Director Randy LaCaze said he and others met and looked at locations for possible charging stations prior to being awarded the grant. One location that is ”for sure” is the area in front of Wendy’s and Popeye’s on University Parkway near I-49, above. Utilities Director Matt Anderson said he and the utility department has already looked into what would be needed to power a charging station. He said the power company would need to install a transformer. “(Charging stations) need a tremendous amount of power in a short amount of time,” he said. “There’s a lot to consider.”

Consumers are beginning to buy electric vehicles because they can take advantage of a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 and a state tax credit of up to $2,500, or 10 percent of the cost, whichever is less. Schools getting the chargers include Xavier University, LSU, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University, Centenary, Sowela Technical Community College, Nicholls State and LSU at Shreveport.

The cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Westlake, New Iberia, Bossier City, Minden, Natchitoches, Ruston and Pineville also are among those benefiting from the grants. Only seven DC fast charging stations exist in Louisiana, and six are for Tesla vehicles that use a unique plug.

Those are in Slidell, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe. The only nonbranded fast station in the state, offering public charging to all electric vehicles, is in New Orleans. This all comes on the heels of the the Biden-Harris Administration setting a goal of building 500,000 new public EV chargers across the U.S. by 2030.

Automakers are producing an increasing number of EV models, and one market analysis indicates that by 2022, there will be more than 500 EV models available worldwide, up from only a few dozen models available in 2020. According to national survey data, 78 percent of Americans believe that finding an EV charging station is at least moderately difficult.

Of drivers who are not planning to buy or lease an EV when they purchase their next vehicle, 48 percent reported concerns about not enough public charging stations. Unlike the existing national network of gas stations, which are estimated to number more than 150,000 as of April 2021, there were only approximately 38,000 publicly-accessible, non-Tesla EV charging stations nationally with approximately 79,000 charging outlets.

For drivers taking lengthier trips, fast charging is particularly critical, yet there are fewer than 4,000 non-Tesla DC fact charging stations nationally with approximately 7,700 charging outlets.