Wisconsin Public Radio

GOP Legislators Push Bills to Double State’s EV Charging Stations

Using federal funds and exempting charging stations from being regulated as utilities.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Nov 28th, 2023 12:41 pm
A ChargePoint electric car charging station. Photo by Jim Malewitz/Wisconsin Watch.

A ChargePoint electric car charging station. Photo by Jim Malewitz/Wisconsin Watch.

A pair of Republican lawmakers are circulating bills that would allow Wisconsin to use federal funds to nearly double the number of publicly available electric vehicle charging stations around the state.

State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, made the announcement Monday. They say the bills would change state law to allow private businesses to own and operate electric vehicle charging stations without being regulated as utilities.

The bills are currently being circulated for co-sponsorship and will be introduced in December. They could see a vote as soon as January 2024.

Wisconsin is slated to receive about $78 million from the federal government over the next few years to build its electric vehicle, or EV, charging network. But those stations must charge customers by the amount of electricity used, also known as kilowatt-hour. In Wisconsin, current state law allows only regulated utilities to charge per kilowatt-hour.

One of the bills would exempt EV charging stations from being regulated as utilities if they receive energy from a utility. The other allows the state Department of Transportation to establish and administer a program to provide funding for EV infrastructure projects.

DOT Secretary Craig Thompson spoke about the issue Monday on WPR’s “The Morning Show.” He said current state laws allow charging stations to bill customers by the amount of time a vehicle is plugged into a charger.

“It’s not a very wise way to go about doing it,” he said. “What we need is the legislation that’s being introduced … to not have these entities regulated as (an) electric utility under this, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to get that passed.”

Thompson said the DOT’s plan for the federal dollars identified 62 locations along key corridors in the state for EV charging stations. The federal funds would cover about 80 percent of the cost.

“That $78 million would be enough to deploy these fast chargers in each of those designated areas,” he said.

In a joint statement, Marklein and VanderMeer said their bills will make “wide-scale EV charging possible in Wisconsin” and help the state make federal funds available to private businesses, like local gas stations and convenience stores.

“This bill changes the law to allow for EV charging without this cumbersome regulation,” they said. “The bill also requires retailers to purchase their power from a utility and to collect an excise tax per kilowatt-hour that will be dedicated to the state’s Transportation Fund like the gas tax.”

Marklein said lawmakers behind the bills worked with stakeholder groups, like the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin Towns Association, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Kwik Trip, grocers and utilities.

“We have invested an incredible amount of time in putting this bill together, and we think we’ve got the support of an incredible number of both public and private sector organizations,” Marklein said. “At this point, I’m optimistic that it will pass after the first of the year.”

The lawmakers also said the legislation prevents the state or local government from selling EV charging, but government entities could lease public property to private businesses to own and operate stations or offer free charging stations.

Municipal electric utilities are the exception. They would be treated like all other utilities and could sell charging, the lawmakers said. But municipal electric utilities cannot use taxpayer money to build EV facilities under the proposal.

“The private sector is, we believe, in the best possible position to provide the fast charging units that can charge your vehicle in 30 minutes (or) 35 minutes,” Marklein said.

Marklein added that allowing the state to use federal funds to provide EV charging along key corridors would benefit Wisconsin’s economy because someone traveling through Wisconsin could patronize nearby businesses as they charge their vehicle.

“People that travel from Schaumburg or Chicago to Door County are going to need to maybe stop to charge in Sheboygan,” he said. “It’s important that we have those facilities available for people with EVs and this bill and this funding is a step in the right direction.”

Listen to the WPR report here.

GOP lawmakers circulate bills that would allow Wisconsin to access federal funds to build EV charging stations was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

3 thoughts on “GOP Legislators Push Bills to Double State’s EV Charging Stations”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    More goodies for rich people. That is what this plan is about. No regulation?
    Republicans are big on eliminating regulations.

    Of course, who needs pesky regulations when you can trust big business?
    I’d love to ask the 350 people who flew on two Boeing 737 Max airplanes that
    had secret flaws that caused crashes and killed them. I wonder what they
    would think of self-regulation?

  2. Goya says:

    I’m glad to hear there are there is support for this bill. However, I am concerned that the types of EV chargers that will be installed in Wisconsin may prevent many from embracing this new technology.  While trying to keep my comment brief by not getting bogged down in the technical differences, this article only says calls them “fast chargers”.  While this is a new industry that many, especially our elected officials likely aren’t well informed about. I worry that slower, “level 2” chargers, will be installed instead because they’re much cheaper to install compared to the much faster “DC fast chargers”. Most “level 2” chargers replenish about 25 miles of battery capacity per hour.  For comparison, even the slowest of DC fast chargers can replenish about 100 miles of battery in half the time.  While level 2 chargers have their place (grocery stores, office buildings, etc.), if our goal is to help usher in a new age of electric vehicles and entice those who are on the fence, I worry that the government will focus on installing these slower and cheaper chargers because they can brag about a high number of installations. We would be spending much of our taxpayer money on infrastructure that will be rendered obsolete upon their completion.  Electric vehicle charging will already be something owners need to adjust to.  To make the switch from a gas station to an EV charger much easier, I believe we should try to cut the charging times down as much as possible. Therefore, we should be making sure the vast majority of chargers we install along our highways are DC fast chargers, even if that means fewer stations are built because of their higher cost.

  3. domnoth@gmail.com says:

    I’m suspicious of these bills because it doesn’t insist of best speed charging rules which is disguised as saying the concept is to free charging stations from utility rules. But those are the rules that need inspection — and then inclusion!

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