Grant Opportunities Available for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

President Obama has a goal of putting one million advanced technology vehicles on the road in the United States by 2015. To support that goal, government groups nationwide are offering several incentives to facilitate the move toward plug-in electric drive vehicles and the necessary infrastructure.

For truckstops and travel plazas, installing electric vehicle charging stations can help tap into a new and increasing customer base.

Commercial charging stations can cost from several thousand dollars to $100,000 or more, based on the volts and the number of units a company is installing, said Genevieve Cullen, vice president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA).

Given the high price tag, it is no wonder incentives can spur growth for businesses interested in installing charging stations. There are dozens of state and federal programs and agencies that offer some type of financial incentive.

Until the end of this year, businesses installing electric vehicle charging stations can take advantage of the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. In addition to EV charging stations, the tax credit is available for several alternative fuels, including natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, E85 or diesel fuel blends containing a minimum of 20 percent biodiesel.

“The credit amount is up to 30 percent of the cost, not to exceed $30,000, for equipment placed into service in 2011. Fueling station owners who install qualified equipment at multiple sites are allowed to use the credit towards each location,” said Christina Kielich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cullen said the EDTA is working hard to extend the credit. She noted that although electric vehicles spend 80 percent of their time either at the owner’s home or workplace, there is undoubtedly a need for EV users to be able to charge on the go.

“Not everybody needs to go from zero to full at every stop. If they are there long enough to eat a sandwich and top off, they will add a little bit of range,” Cullen said.

“The next wave is the public and commercial charging. That is already beginning to happen,” Cullen said. For example, Best Buy, Hertz and some hotels are installing infrastructure for their customers.

In addition to tax credits, the government has also been funding grants. Earlier this year, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu announced a $5 million grant program intended to help beef up electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and private companies that have already received government funding are installing stations at private entities.

EV charging station manufacturer ECOtality is working to install more than 14,000 electric car charging stations in 18 communities around the country — a project it is funding with a $115 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The installations are happening in communities where the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are being released. They include Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif.; Portland, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis, Ore.; Seattle, Wash.; Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; and Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, Texas.

Most rollouts are happening regionally. “All of the electric vehicle automakers have their initial rollout markets, so infrastructure is growing out from those. Clusters will pop up and you have a regional approach,” Cullen said.

Because of the regional approach, several states are offering their own incentives. For example, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the Granite State Clean Cities Coalition provide competitive funding on a cost reimbursement basis for alternative fuel vehicle, advanced vehicle and alternative fueling infrastructure projects.

Ian Hines, a spokesman for the Maryland Energy Administration, said the Maryland General Assembly has passed a statewide electric vehicle planning council that he expects will be signed into law soon.

“That would coordinate the various stakeholders across the state to collectively identify and pose solutions. That is a good opportunity for [travel plaza owners] to get involved. Existing gas station owners are going to be a big part of any conversion on a large scale,” Hines said.

Because the program is still in the works, Hines said there isn’t an organized method for getting involved. However, truckstop and travel plaza owners in Maryland who would like to take part in the program can contact Chris Rice, transportation program manager at the Maryland Energy Administration, at (410) 260-7655.

State and federal opportunities are detailed on the DOE’s Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center website (see the box at left for more information).

Truckstop and travel plaza operators can also reach out to their local utilities for more information on funding and grants they may have available. Utilities can help operators figure out what they need to do to support recharging infrastructure and manage electricity demand.

Cullen said companies that offer EV charging stations are relying on a number of different business models when it comes to offering the service. “Some say we’ll give you the electricity for free so you’ll spend 20minutes in our store. For others, you buy a card and pay a flat fee,” she said.

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This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watchsubmit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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