Big steps forward for electric cars and buses

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This April, Minnesota policymakers made two key decisions that will speed the electrification of the transportation system.

Electric vehicle off-peak charging pilot approved

On April 12, 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a pilot program proposed by Xcel Energy that will charge electric vehicle owners less for fueling their cars overnight when electricity is cheaper.  While the pilot is small, it is the first step toward turning electric vehicles into a grid resource.  Rather than requiring a second utility meter (as Xcel’s current electric vehicle rate does), the pilot would use “smart chargers.”  Smart chargers can not only serve as a meter for an electric vehicle rate, they are also capable of being controlled by the utility.  In the future, utilities will be able to tell smart chargers to charge electric vehicles during high-wind production hours, which will help integrate variable renewable generation while also lowering costs for all customers.

Fresh Energy was integral in the development of Xcel Energy’s smart charger pilot, participating in stakeholder meetings and filing comments in support of the pilot. We have also urged the Public Utilities Commission to require the state’s other investor-owned utilities to offer similar programs.

Read more about the decision in a recent article by the Star Tribune.

Volkswagen settlement plan will support electric vehicles and buses

In 2015, Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests for its diesel vehicles.  As part of its settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the company must give money to states and tribal governments to mitigate the environmental harm caused by the offending vehicles. In April, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) submitted its final Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for how they would spend these funds.  The plan devotes 15 percent of the funds to installing public chargers and another 15 percent specifically for heavy duty electric vehicles (e.g. electric transit buses).  The funding will facilitate the buildout of a web of rapid electric vehicle chargers across the state; with other states also adding infrastructure. These investments will ensure that electric car drivers can reach key destinations without concern about range.

Throughout the process, Fresh Energy has been a strong champion for electric vehicles and chargers, participating in technical stakeholder meetings and providing public comments. We weren’t the only ones. Many of you also spoke out in support of electric vehicles. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s final report, “Support for more electric vehicles was by far the most common comment the MPCA received during its public engagement efforts. Minnesotans made a strong call to use as much of the Volkswagon settlement funds as possible for electric vehicle charging stations.”

Fresh Energy is excited about both these decisions that help advance electric transportation in Minnesota and we will continue to be actively involved in these efforts moving forward.

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