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Missouri utility program to build more electric car chargers

Missouri utility program to build more electric car chargers

February 18th, 2019 by Associated Press and Joe Gamm in Missouri News

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri utility is planning to spend more than $4 million over five years to encourage the construction of more charging stations for electric cars statewide.

The Missouri Public Service Commission recently approved Ameren Missouri's pilot program to offer incentives to groups looking to build electric car chargers for public use, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The project aligns Ameren with other utilities and cities working to expand the number of electric car chargers in Missouri.

Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and some investor-owned utilities, including the Kansas City Power and Light, have created programs in recent years to build out infrastructure for electric vehicles, according to James Owen, executive director of renewable energy nonprofit Renew Missouri, an organization whose mission is to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout the state.

Last year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources put $6 million toward electric charging stations. The funding was allocated from the state's $41 million settlement related to claims that German automaker Volkswagen sold vehicles with engines rigged to cheat on emissions tests.

But Owen said the state still lacks infrastructure for electric cars, which hampers sales and leads to anxiety for drivers traveling long distances who are concerned about a lack of available public chargers.

Columbia has five public electric charging stations, but four are Level 2 chargers that take between 4-6 hours to fill a car's battery, according to U.S. Department of Energy data. The city has only one public charger, a Level 3, which can fill electric car batteries in roughly 30 minutes.

Although Jefferson City has no public stations, there is a charging station at the Missouri National Guard armory, Owen told the News Tribune.

Utility companies hope to provide at least 40 charging stations across the state in places including Jefferson City, the St. Louis area, Bowling Green, Warrenton, Moberly, Kirksville and Cape Girardeau, according to a map provided by Ameren Missouri. A co-op would supply power to a charging station in the Camdenton area of the Lake of the Ozarks, according to the map.

Most electric cars only have a range of 80 miles, considering the use of air conditioning, stereo systems and other functions, Herdler said.

Level 1 chargers are usually kept at home and take about eight hours to charge, said Kevin Herdler, executive director of St. Louis Regional Clean Cities.

"If you're going to go across the state you need that Level 3 charger," Herdler said. "Level 2 just takes so long to charge you don't have the option to get there quickly."

But there are no Level 2 or Level 3 chargers along the highways between Columbia, Rolla and the Lake of the Ozarks area.

Steve Wills, Ameren's director of rates and analysis, said the utility hopes to reduce range anxiety for drivers of electric vehicles.

"These much-needed corridors, which will help eliminate the long-distance charging barriers for EV traveling in Missouri, are good for our customers and state," Wills said.

News Tribune reporter Joe Gamm contributed information to this article.

This article was updated at 5 p.m. Feb. 18, 2019, with additional information.