An electric car charges at a public charging station in Baton Rouge on Feb. 24, 2023. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
Louisiana has fallen far behind the rest of the nation when it comes to electric vehicle infrastructure, according to a recent study that analyzed the latest U.S. Department of Energy data. However, the state has plans to change that.
The vehicle research company iSeeCars.com published a study Monday that analyzed data from the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center and the U.S. Census Bureau to determine the number of residents per electric vehicle chargers in certain geographic areas. The study, using data compiled as of Feb. 8, ranked cities and states with the most and fewest publicly accessible chargers.
Behind only Mississippi, Louisiana is the second worst state in the nation with one charger for every 9,144 residents, compared with the national average of one charger per 2,280 residents. Neighboring Texas has about twice the number of chargers per resident as Louisiana.
Part of the reason is — until recently — Louisiana had very few electric vehicles on the road. By the end of 2020, the state had only about 3,100 battery-powered vehicles registered, counting fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids. That number has since more than doubled, according to Louisiana Clean Fuels Executive Director Ann Vail.
Louisiana now has 7,150 battery-powered vehicles registered, Vail said.
“There was a lack of vehicles in general to be sold over the last couple of years,” Vail said. “Even with all the problems we’ve had, more electric vehicles are being sold than ever before.”
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The lack of public charging stations has apparently not hampered demand for electric vehicles. Vail said car dealerships across the state cannot stock them fast enough because they sell faster than they arrive from the manufacturers.
Gerry Lane Chevrolet in Baton Rouge did not have any in stock on Friday, but salesperson Alex Terrebonne said the dealership just installed a new set of rapid charging docks and is expecting a shipment of electric cars soon.
“We don’t hold on to them very long,” Terrebonne said. “They sell pretty fast.”
Vail said consumers are demanding electric cars, and manufacturers have realized they are significantly more energy efficient. From bumper-to-bumper, counting everything used to manufacture and deliver the car to the consumer, electric vehicles are environmentally cleaner and more efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles, according to research from MIT.
“Even if your electric power grid is on coal, your EV is still cleaner,” Vail said.
Most electric vehicle owners charge their cars at home and only use public chargers on road trips. Still, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) plans to begin installing charging stations along the interstate corridors this year, according to the state’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment plan.
DOTD’s goal is to have chargers spaced no more than 50 miles apart along interstate exits. This is, in part, to ensure Louisiana has adequate infrastructure to handle hurricane evacuations.
To fund its plan, the state will receive $73 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will cover 80% of the costs. DOTD will solicit applications from developers this year and plans to install at least 300 charging ports over the next five years.
The industry is still working with federal regulators to adopt standards for charging ports, but Vail said she expects that to be settled soon. Charging stations will likely be owned and maintained by companies, utilities and municipalities much like they are currently, though consumers will eventually have to pay for the electricity, she said. Currently, most Level 2 public charging stations offer power for free.
“We may be starting behind, but we’re going to catch up,” Vail said. “There’s a huge interest… In a couple of years we’re going to have a very vibrant charging infrastructure across the state.”
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