Illinois gearing up for significant investment in EV charging network along highways

The federal government will be delivering $5 billion over the next five years across the country — with Illinois receiving over $148 million — so states can build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support climate-friendly modes of transportation.

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Tesla cars get charged up Tuesday afternoon inside a Target parking lot in the Logan Square community area.

Tesla cars get charged up Tuesday afternoon inside a Target parking lot in the Logan Square community.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

State officials are getting ready to make a huge investment in electric vehicle charging stations that they hope will help make Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ambitious plan to have 1 million electric vehicles on Illinois’ roads by 2030 a reality.

To that end, officials with the state’s Department of Transportation submitted a draft of a report last week to the federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation on how to leverage federal funding to expand its EV charging infrastructure to further support those vehicles on its highways.

That office will review the plans for compliance with its rules and has until Sept. 30 to approve the report, which outlines the current EV charging infrastructure in the state, provides an analysis of potential locations for future charging stations and suggests strategies to address expected challenges.

IDOT is relying on a windfall of federal funding made possible by the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year. Under that bill, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program allocated Illinois $148,621,459 over the next five years to expand the EV charging network along its highways.

Illinois is set to receive $21,998,178 of that money this year.

A map shows current and potential EV charging stations along Illinois’ highways, with purple stars representing proposed stations and blue dots showing already operating stations.

A map shows current and potential EV charging stations along Illinois’ highways, with purple stars representing proposed stations and blue dots showing already operating stations.

Illinois Department of Transportation

The federal government is providing $5 billion over the next five years so states can build EV charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles in an effort to address climate change caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. The investment will put the country on a path to having a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030.

Illinois has already been investing in EV charging infrastructure with the passage of the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan — which included $70 million just for EV charging stations.

Pritzker spokesman Alex Gough said Illinois is at the “forefront in the fight against climate change” in part because of these local efforts — including the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which gives a $4,000 rebate for the purchase of an electric vehicle.

“Charging corridors are also critical connectors for domestic and international freight and drivers moving across the nation,” Gough said. “By electrifying these corridors, the state will provide support of zero-emission technology for both light and medium duty vehicles.”

With funding coming from multiple avenues, Gough said, Illinois’ EV charging network “is on track to see an unprecedented expansion.”

Volta electric vehicles charging stations await cars Tuesday at a Jewel Osco parking lot in the Lake View neighborhood.

Volta electric vehicle charging stations await cars Tuesday at a Jewel Osco parking lot in the Lake View neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The state still has a way to go toward its goal of having 1 million electric passenger vehicles on the road by 2030. As of June, just 44,658 vehicles registered in the state were electric out of the more than 7 million passenger vehicles.

But the numbers are growing. In December, 36,520 electric vehicles were registered in the state — showing an increase of more than 8,000 vehicles in six months, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to IDOT’s analysis, there are 1,005 publicly accessible EV charging stations with 2,505 ports throughout the state, but there are only 93 “Direct Current Fast Charging” stations — the chargers compliant under the NEVI formula program — which equals just 184 ports.

IDOT is proposing to use the federal funding to fully build out its public EV charging network about every 50 miles along designated EV corridors. While the locations of each charging station are preliminary and can be changed, the report gives the public its first insight into how the state plans to support the growing demand for electric vehicles.

In total, there are 20 proposed stations along I-39, I-55, I-57, I-64, I-74, I-80 and I-90, stretching from Huntley in the north to downstate Goreville and from Tinley Park in the east to Galesburg in the west.

Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas in Illinois and it’s necessary that the state continues on this path toward cleaner technology, according to Larissa Koehler, director of vehicle electrification for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The organization was one of nearly a dozen environmental groups that sent its own report to IDOT, just days before the plans were submitted to the feds, that applauded the state’s actions but noted it still needs to move aggressively.

By its estimates, the state needs to invest $676 million in publicly accessible EV charging stations to support 1 million electric vehicles on the road — about $425 million more than what the state will get from the feds.

“The plan that was filed with the Joint Office is really just a framework — more of a framework that will culminate in a more robust plan down the line,” Koehler said. “It is my understanding that there will be a robust stakeholder process to determine where charging stations are located, with the first meeting slated for early September.”

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