Planning an EV revolt: Public comment open on state’s electric vehicle infrastructure proposal

LARAMIE — The final draft of Wyoming’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure deployment plan is available for public comment. 

WYDOT’s plan outlines how the state will use federal money to build out a statewide network of electric vehicle charging stations to bolster Wyoming’s transportation infrastructure. 

The money for the project comes from three sources that are earmarked for EV infrastructure. If Wyoming rejects the project, the money will be used for the same purpose in another state.

“Our goal is that when money is appropriated in Wyoming, we’re going to spend it in Wyoming,” said WYDOT spokesperson Jesse Kirchmeier during an April public meeting in Casper. 

Wyoming will receive $1.2 million as part of a federal settlement with Volkswagen after the company violated the Clean Air Act. The state also will get about $24 million over the next five years from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program and additional money from discretionary grants. 

The plan says no funding to build or operate the stations will come from the state. 

Matching money will come from local jurisdictions or private entities. 

The state plans to facilitate funding with private companies, meaning it would help coordinate the project rollout and recommended locations for charging stations, then connect private companies with money to actually build, own and operate the stations.

The state will not proceed with the plan if it is not approved by the Federal Highway Authority. 

By building up the state’s EV infrastructure, Wyoming hopes to increase tourism and set the state up for a future with more EVs on the road. 

The plan says Wyoming “has a transportation problem and not an energy problem when it comes to EV infrastructure support along the corridors.” 

The challenging aspect of the plan is to address user “range anxiety” while not saturating the market for the charging stations. 

“We think this is a common-sense approach to bringing this infrastructure to Wyoming,” said WYDOT Director Luke Reiner in a press release this week. “We want any traveler, local or tourist, to be able to drive in our great state without worrying about whether the infrastructure is in place to support the type of vehicle they choose to drive.” 

Jordan Achs, a WYDOT spokesperson, said Wyoming residents have spoken to WYDOT about how this will bolster tourism and that they do not want a lack of EV-friendly infrastructure to cause people to bypass Wyoming on their way to popular attractions like Yellowstone National Park. 

Achs said officials have received a variety of reactions to the plan, including excitement and concern about the practicality of electric vehicles in the state, especially when taking into consideration winter driving conditions. 

Wyomingites are “looking forward to granting opportunities and economic opportunities these stations might bring to their towns,” Achs said. 

To use the NEVI money, the state will have to follow a set of requirements. 

One is to install a charging station every 50 miles, which is a point of concern for WYDOT officials and members of the public because of the state’s rural nature. 

WYDOT’s plan asks for exceptions to this and other requirements, stating the system would not be economically feasible for private industry when taking into consideration Wyoming’s low population and terrain. 

If the exceptions are not approved, the plan says WYDOT will only issue a request for proposal for four EV charging stations along interstates at Buffalo, Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Douglas. 

WYDOT would use about $7 million to subsidize the operation of those stations for five years and would return the remaining $17 million to the FHWA. 

After public comment closes July 27, WYDOT will edit the plan as needed and submit it to the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation by Aug. 1. 

Achs said WYDOT wants to hear everyone’s perspective, even if you never plan to own or use an electric vehicle.