ST. PAUL — State environmental regulators on Thursday, Aug. 27, announced that $2.6 million in grants will be available through a program meant to expand the number of electric car charging stations in Minnesota.
For-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations and units of governments awarded grants through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency program can use them to cover up to 80% of costs for charger installations. Project proposals benefiting highways in Greater Minnesota are being sought for the program.
Grants distributed through the program have a $70,000 cap, the MPCA said, and enough should be available to erect 38 new charging stations. In a news release Thursday, MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said officials called the program another step toward their goal of powering 20% of light-duty cars with electricity by 2030.
"Funding infrastructure projects like this will help us reach our goals while supporting Minnesota’s green economy and our growing (electric vehicle) market," she said.
Money for the project fund will come from Minnesota's share of the $2.8 billion court settlement automaker Volkswagen entered with the U.S. for cheating on government emissions tests in 2015. MPCA officials plan on spending a total of $3.5 million of state settlement funds on electric car charging stations between now and 2023 and plan to commit millions more on other projects in that same span of time.
The $2.6 million set aside for the grant program announced Thursday, meanwhile, will go toward what are known as fast charging stations with the remaining $900,000 intended for Level 2-grade chargers.
"There will be multiple requests for proposals to distribute the funding over this four-year time period," MPCA spokesperson Mary Robinson said Thursday.
The program is one of several geared toward vehicle electrification that Minnesota officials plan to spend settlement funds on over the next several years. Earlier this month, the MPCA announced a similar grant program centered on electric school buses.
Grant proposals for the charging station program are being accepted from now until Nov. 25.
Minnesota regulators sought to reign in greenhouse gas emissions at first by targeting energy producers in the state but are focusing more and more on the transportation sector. Programs like the one announced Thursday are part of a larger effort on Minnesota's part to combat climate change by reducing emissions in the state by 80% over the next 10 years, a goal outlined in legislation passed in 2007.
They would also seem to couple with Minnesota's "Clean Cars" initiative, which positions the state to join with others in adopting California emissions standards — even as the Trump administration reverts to less stringent ones at the federal level. The initiative would, among other things, require manufacturers to deliver a set number of low-emission and electric vehicles for car dealerships to sell each year.
Industry officials in Minnesota have previously expressed their misgivings about the initiative and its viability, saying electric cars take time and money to sell in a state whose cold winters can affect battery longevity. The Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association has suggested instead that the state offer rebates for electric car purchases to encourage their consumption.