With influx of state and federal funding, Illinois looks to add enough chargers to support 1 million EVs

With influx of state and federal funding, Illinois looks to add enough chargers to support 1 million EVs

By COLE LONGCOR
Capitol News Illinois
clongcor@capitolnewsillinois.com

Illinois’ electric vehicle charging infrastructure is on pace to double this year, buoyed by an influx of state and federal dollars.

The investments are aimed at supporting both federal and state environmental goals. The Biden Administration set the goal of EVs making up half of all U.S. vehicle sales by 2030. Under the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act – Gov. JB Pritzker’s marquee climate law that passed in 2021 – Illinois aims to have one million EVs on the road by 2030.

Read more: Massive energy bill becomes law, investing billions between renewable, nuclear sectors

These targets have spawned major infrastructure programs, which after years of planning and funding are seeing tangible results in Illinois.

State funding allocated in 2023 put Illinois on course to double the number of direct current, or DC, fast charging ports on state roads within a year, from 993 to 1,914. The increase brings the number of fast charging ports to over 25 percent of the 7,000 DC ports estimated to be needed to support the state’s EV goals.

In Illinois, several agencies are part of the effort to ensure EV charging infrastructure gets where it is needed, but the drive is coordinated by Megha Lakhchaura, the state electric vehicle coordinator at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“We expect that we will need 36,000 public charging ports to support one million EVs. Most of these will be level two chargers, but we will need close to 7,000 fast charging ports by 2030,” Lakhchaura said in an email statement. “We expect to have over 2,000 fast charging ports by the end of 2024 if the chargers are installed on time.”

Read more: 1 million EVs: Inside the state’s plan for electrifying the transportation sector

There are almost 2,300 level two charging ports in Illinois which fully charge a vehicle in five to six hours. The number of DC fast charging ports, which can charge a vehicle in under an hour, increased in the last month from 993 to 1,010 ports.

The development of EV infrastructure will build on expansions completed last year. The number of electric vehicles in Illinois rose 60 percent last year – by more than 30,000 EVs – compared to the national average increase of 50 percent. As of January, the Illinois secretary of state reported there were 93,821 EVs licensed for state roads. 

“We spent money last year to double the number of ports within a year. So, by the end when all of this comes into fruition when the installation happens, you’ll have just seen a doubling of the number of ports by just the state programs,” Lakhchaura said. “And we’re not done yet. We still have more money to go on this year.”

 

EV funding sources

There are three main sources of EV infrastructure funding: the federal Charging and Fueling Infrastructure, or CFI, grant program; the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, or NEVI program; and state funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the IEPA.

“We have three baskets of investment to create this charging network in the state,” Lakhchaura said. “The idea is that everything complements each other, and we’re avoiding duplication or building at the same sites.”

Lakhchaura said building out EV charging infrastructure and educating the public on the advancements in EV technology is an important step toward moving Illinois toward its climate goals. 

“We’re just right at the start of the learning curve on how to use these vehicles,” Lakhchaura said. “We can get over this. It’s really about understanding this product and adapting to it and making these little changes like you do for anything you get in life.”

 

Federal Charging and Fueling Infrastructure

The Illinois Finance Authority, in their role as the Illinois Climate Bank, received almost $15 million from the federal CFI grant to develop community-based charging stations. The grant will fund the construction of 881 charging stations. Only 36 of the 881 chargers will be DC fast chargers. While DC chargers are faster, they are more expensive.  The focus of this track of the CFI program is developing community infrastructure to support local travel. 

“In these cases, people are more likely to be topping up a battery or leaving a car parked long enough to get a full charge on a level two charger,” Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson Paul Wappel said. “Level two chargers are significantly more cost-effective for these types of uses, which means we can install more chargers for the same amount of money.”

 

National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

The state will continue to receive funds through NEVI to build DC fast chargers along alternative fuel corridors, networks of highways with infrastructure to support electric and hydrogen powered vehicles. 

The program requires public charging stations be available at least every 50 miles along a corridor. Chargers must be publicly accessible 24/7 and be set up with combined charging system connectors and contactless payment options.

Illinois will receive $148 million between 2022 and 2027 to build a network of EV chargers along highways, starting with the interstate system. 

The state’s deployment plan was approved in September 2022. Wappel said final standards for the charging stations were set in February 2023. Phase one of Illinois’ plan will use approximately $50 million to build chargers at 46 locations within eligible corridors.

 

State programs

Meanwhile, Illinois is implementing its own programs to meet the goals set under CEJA.

The IEPA will award $27 million dollars in grants to build DC fast charging stations at public locations including hotels, shopping centers and gas stations. The grants are expected to be announced this month. 

“We haven’t issued the awards yet, “Lakhchaura said. “But what we’ve seen from the applications that we got is that they were spread all over the state.”

As part of CEJA, Illinois established a rebate program to incentivize the purchase of EVs. The program allows Illinois residents to collect a rebate for the purchase of an all-electric passenger vehicle from a recognized dealer. The current rebate rate is $4,000 per vehicle. In fiscal year 2023, 7,669 rebate applications were filled with 4,872 rebates awarded. The funding cycle for this year ended on Jan. 30 with over 5,500 applications being received and the maximum funds being allotted. 

Illinois school districts and bus companies purchased 180 electric school buses last year through the federal Clean School Bus Program. Lakhchaura said additional EV buses were purchased with funds from the Volkswagen settlement with a focus on communities that did not receive federal funds, such as Chicago. 

The settlement was the conclusion of lawsuits filed against Volkswagen for violating Clean Air Act emissions standards by installing “defeat devices” in certain diesel models between 2009 and 2015. The established trust provided Illinois with over $1 million in funds for diesel emission reduction projects.

Time is another crucial factor in the expansion of EV charging, especially as the number of EVs on state roads must increase 10-fold for the state to meet its stated goal. Lakhchaura said she expects to see significant progress this year.

“In 2024, you can see more authorizations and more money going out towards it. I can say that construction and installation take a while,” Lakhchaura said. “So, towards the end of the year, you’ll see dramatically more charging stations than what you can see today.”

More funding and resources will be needed to meet the goal of building 30,000 more chargers. Illinois will still have almost $100 million from NEVI for future use after phase one is completed. Lakhchaura said the state will continue to apply for competitive funds like CFI. While Illinois plans to continue to invest in EV infrastructure, Lakhchaura said the state won’t fund every charger.

“In the near term, Illinois will focus on installing a significant number of public chargers in the next two years to create a basic public infrastructure for the state,” Lakhchaura said in an email statement. “Future rapid growth of vehicles will lead to private companies investing in public charging without the need for grants and rebates. However, charging will require more funding and support for at least the initial years to support EV growth.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

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