By HUNTER FIELD | Arkansas Advocate
Arkansas’ environmental regulators this week made a new round of rebates available early for community electric vehicle charging stations thanks to surging interest in expanding the state’s EV infrastructure.
The rebates can cover up to 90% of the costs of eligible public “Level 2” charging stations, which can charge vehicles in eight hours or less.
The rebate program is one of several approaches the state is using to build out its EV charging network, which has lagged behind other states.
Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment Secretary Becky Keough said there’s an urgency to deploy charging stations to communities, and she expects demand to continue to grow with the rising popularity and affordability of electric vehicles.
The current round of rebates, nearly $230,000, wasn’t planned to become available until 2023, but Keogh said her agency received greater-than-expected interest.
“I couldn’t be any more excited about broadening EV infrastructure across our state,” she said. “Due to the overwhelming amount of interest, we made the decision to make the last round of funding available now for the public. I’m encouraging all entities that have installed charging stations after February of this year, to apply for reimbursement. Rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.”
The rebate account’s balance, comprising a portion of the $14.6 million in settlement funds the state received from the Volkswagen emissions scandal, sat Tuesday at $227,791. In the first round of rebates this year, the program reimbursed more than $200,000 in EV charging station costs.
The next round wasn’t planned to become available until 2023, but the heightened interest prompted the state energy department to open it earlier, Keogh said. She said the department is also committed to offering another round of similar rebates in 2023 through another pot of available federal funds.
The rebates are available for up to 10 Level 2 charging stations per applicant installed after Feb. 1 and available for public use. Smaller rebates are also available for places like apartment complexes and employers that make the stations accessible to employees and tenants but not the general public.
The rebates cover up to 90% of the charging station costs on government-owned property and 70% of costs for public chargers on non-government property.
For workplace or multi-unit dwelling stations, the rebates will cover up to 50%.
Full eligibility criteria and rebate application information can be found here.
Since starting the program in 2021, the rebates have covered 137 charging stations and $629,316 in costs.
The rebate is one of three main state incentive programs aimed at increasing the number of EV charging stations in the state.
The second state incentive is a financial assistance program that will provide up to 75% of project costs for the installation of 150-kilowatt DC fast chargers, which can charge vehicles in less than an hour.
The third is the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted by Congress last year. Arkansas will receive $54.1 million under the program.
To start, the NEVI funds will be focused on the charging stations along interstates and alternative fuel corridors until those routes are “fully-built out,” meaning publicly accessible DC Fast Charging Stations every 50 miles within 1travel mile of the interchanges.
Then, focus will expand out to other routes based on need, like major state highways.
Ellen Coulter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said the agency is developing the application process and contracts for NEVI funds. However, it must wait to implement the program until the U.S. Transportation Department finalizes its rules, expected by summer 2023.
“Our deployment strategy is to spur local market investments through a competitive procurement program to award NEVI funds to owner-operators,” Coulter said. “Owner-operators may include private sites/partners, public sites/partners, or public-private partnerships. ARDOT will not own, operate, or site EV charging stations on its own property.”
EV growth in Arkansas
Fortune Business Insights projects the EV market in the U.S. will continue to grow from $28.24 billion in 2021 to $137.43 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate of 25.4%.
For now, Keough said state government isn’t dictating to any community whether it should be building EV charging infrastructure, but the rebate program is designed to make it easier for those entities that want to build charging stations.
In the future, she said there may be opportunities for the state to step in to fill gaps in the charging network if there is a compelling “statewide interest” in closing those gaps.
“Anyone in Arkansas who wants access to drive electric vehicles should have no worries about the accessibility of charging their vehicle, no matter where they live within the state,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “This continued push for expanding the reach of Electric Vehicle infrastructure will make sure Arkansas is fully equipped for innovative technologies.”
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