Economic network

Missoula planners consider locations and power federal electric vehicle charging network

An electric vehicle charges in a parking lot in downtown Missoula. (Current Marting Kidston/Missoula file)

When the railroad pushed west in the 19th century, it created booming cities overnight and a new mode of travel to once-distant lands. As the country invests in an electric vehicle charging system, it could have a similar grip on some corridors and towns along the route.

Members of the Missoula Transportation Technical Advisory Committee this week began reviewing the federal government’s $7.5 billion to build this network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Montana will receive $43 million over the next five years to support the construction of convenient, fair and affordable charging stations. He is due to submit his Montana Alternative Fuel Corridor plan later this summer.

“These funds can only be used on EV corridors designated by the Federal Highway Administration,” said Jon Sand, deputy city planner. “This program is also going to focus on rural areas, which is exciting for us here in Montana.”

While some program details remain unknown, recommended federal highway corridors in Montana include both I-90 and I-15, as well as Highway 92 and Highway 2 through the Hi-Line. .

The corridor network lacks other routes taken, including Highway 200 and Highway 12. Local transportation boards may recommend that the state also consider other routes to ensure they can adapt to the future of electric transport.

Montana’s Proposed Alternative Fuels Corridor.

“We’re leaving the entire Highway 83 corridor, which is a huge tourist corridor,” said Sarah Coefield, member of the transportation committee. “There is a Tesla station at Seeley Lake, but I don’t know if it’s an all-electric charging station. If the state is not interested in moving away from the highway, then we should do what we can in Missoula County.

According to federal program guidelines, charging stations must be located within one mile of the designated federal highway corridor and accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They must also sit within a quarter mile of “amenities”, which have not been defined. Under these guidelines, most of the city of Missoula is covered and therefore will benefit from the federal program and its investment in an electric vehicle system.

But a small segment of the city still lies outside the guidelines, including parts of Brooks and Orange streets in Midtown.

“One of the things we would like to think about, do we want to develop a local rollout plan for Missoula and the greater urban area?” said Aaron Wilson, the city’s transportation planner. “There are a lot of potential benefits to that, having a good conversation locally.”

Although the Montana Alternative Fuel Corridor has been loosely defined, the exact location of the charging stations has not been identified. Under the federal program, stations must have 150 kW of power for each charger and a minimum of four chargers.

This will require significant electrical infrastructure, committee members said, and it could add another element to consider when doing other infrastructure projects, including roads, sewers and water.

“At the Metropolitan Planning Organization, we really need to know where these charging stations are going to go,” said Jeremy Keene, director of public works. “Every time we rebuild a street or replace a water pipe, we should think about how we power these charging stations. Having a plan is going to be really helpful for this.

The location of standby charging stations could also impact the construction industry, particularly housing and commerce. Wilson said a resident contacted him last year to purchase an electric vehicle.

However, the individual did not have access to a garage and wanted to install a mapping station on the boulevard, located in the public right-of-way. These issues could become more significant as electric vehicles become more common.

“If you’re building new developments that don’t have EV charging infrastructure, it could become very difficult in the future,” Wilson said. “Thinking of a multi-family or single-family home without a garage, or if we’re using street parking and charging has to be in the right-of-way, that creates a lot of issues, I don’t think. we are prepared. There are a lot of things that we need to seriously think about.

According to federal program guidelines, electric charging stations must be located within one mile of the alternative fuel corridor, which covers most of Missoula, as shown in yellow.

Despite the challenges, new EV corridors and the charging stations therein could bring benefits if properly placed. Unlike gas stations where a vehicle can be refueled in minutes, recharging an electric vehicle takes time depending on the level of charge and the type of charger.

“It’s a great opportunity to look at these locations as economic drivers,” Keene said. “If someone comes to charge their car, if there’s something they can do, whether it’s visit the city center or the mall, there’s a great synergy there and we should try to be strategic in the location of these charging stations.”

Sand said Montana Alternative Fuel Corridor charging stations will include a “CCS Combo” charger, the fastest and most versatile charger available. It provides 480V of direct current.

Currently, vehicles in this class have an electric range of 60 to 80 miles per 20-minute charge. Tesla vehicles have an adapter that can also use the system. But location will be key.

“It seems to me that as far as location goes, it might be worth having a quick chat with Destination Missoula,” said parks manager Donna Gaukler. “A lot of it is longer distance travel, even if it’s local. For me, it would be sporting events, festivals, parks and stores or museums. These are the things you would want to do while you are arrested.

The state must submit its deployment plan by August 1 to the Office of Energy and Transportation to be eligible for funding.