Electric vehicle drivers could soon travel farther in Idaho
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Electric vehicle drivers in Idaho must still stick close to their home cities, but a state official said Thursday that could change in the next two to three years as more charging stations are built and technology advances.
John Chatburn of the Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources told lawmakers that Idaho has a program to put in charging stations on major travel routes to add to those that already exist.
“I think it will pretty much amaze a lot of people how many chargers there are in the state of Idaho,” he told lawmakers at a joint meeting of the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee.
To put in more charging stations, Idaho is using about $2.8 million from a settlement Volkswagen made in 2016 with the federal government for a decade-long conspiracy to deceive the Environmental Protection Agency by cheating on emissions tests.
Chatburn’s office is accepting applications for the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Program to expand Idaho’s charging station network. It’s a cost-share program to install direct current fast-charger equipment. Chatburn’s office will give priority to stations in strategic locations along highways and interstates.
Jennifer Visser of Idaho Power also spoke to lawmakers and said three factors were causing hesitation among potential buyers of electric vehicles, but that all are improving.
She said most people think electric vehicles are expensive. But she said a new one can be purchased for about $20,000 with a federal credit of $7,500.
The second, which she called “range anxiety,” is concern about not being able to travel very far. But she noted some vehicles now are getting 250 to 300 miles on one charge.
A third problem is charging infrastructure, she said, but that’s getting better in Idaho, particularly with the program in Chatburn’s office to expand the network.
“When you combine these with what we currently have in place, that’s a pretty good network, and I think people can feel comfortable that no matter where they go in Idaho they can find a charging station in the future,” she told lawmakers.
One lawmaker asked if Idaho Power could handle the potential demand put on the system by charging electric vehicles. Visser said the company could meet demand through 2026, and by then a new power line should be finished and the company could tap that for more power.
The number of electric vehicles in Idaho remains tiny, but is growing quickly. State officials say Idaho had 1,000 electric vehicles and 1,304 plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2018. That’s up from 364 electric vehicles and 399 plug-in hybrids in 2017.
Republican Rep. Kevin Andrus had concerns about an increasing number of electric vehicles not buying gas that includes taxes to pay for road repairs. “Funding transportation is going to be a real trick as we move toward vehicles that do not participate in the traditional funding sense,” he said.