EDITORIAL: State must meet future EV demand

·3 min read

Aug. 17—Without any doubt, electric vehicles will grow in presence on Indiana roads.

But anyone who is considering the purchase of an EV has to wonder where charging stations will be located. How can a driver in Fort Wayne be assured of finding an accessible recharging station when driving nearly 300 miles to Evansville?

Planning for the future of EVs is underway by the Indiana Department of Transportation, which released a deployment plan of nearly 100 pages in late July. The end result is to meet the federal go0vernment's goal of installing a station every 50 miles of interstate highway.

President Biden wants a network of 500,000 chargers by 2030; all 50 states have now sent in infrastructure plans, a requirement to be in the first round of a $5 billion rollout.

The plan follows a study INDOT co-authored with Purdue University in what is known as the Joint Transportation Research Program.

INDOT didn't seem to catch onto the significance of the JTRP study, finding that it "concluded there is limited information regarding future trends for EV market penetration in Indiana."

However, the joint report takes into account the nervousness that the public feels — called "range anxiety" — when considering a vehicle's driving range when planning long-distance trips. Recognizing the anxiety might go a long way toward its remedy.

The JTRP study had a three-pronged purpose: assess the trends in EV operations focusing on EV charging infrastructure and EV demand; examine the deployment of charging stations; and investigate the effect of EVs on highway revenue and the feasibility of new revenue structures.

Note the latter point. Researchers found that, as expected, Indiana's revenue from fuel taxes will decrease significantly when vehicles using electricity instead of fuel hit the highways.

In 2035, according to the projections, about $2.3 billion would be generated in gasoline tax revenue for INDOT if all vehicles were running on gasoline or diesel. The report suggests about $1 billion of that will be lost because of climbing EV use.

In short, EV car owners, who already pay state registration and title fees of $150, might expect fees more than doubling by the year 2035.

As Hoosiers have come to recognize, private efforts to reduce our taxes usually result in government interference where we end up paying the same amount. But someone has to pay for road infrastructure.

The study also looked at EV "charging deserts," areas that could require significant energy charging spots. Topping the list were traffic-heavy Marion and Hendricks counties. The report names 16 other potential deserts including Boone, Cass and Madison counties.

Currently, there are 6,990 EVs registered in Indiana. INDOT, which held public meetings about the planning, created maps for possible charging stations. For example, there are 20 charging locations planned for the entire length of I-69 with one in Madison County at exit 233; Boone County has two on I-65, at exit 130 (Whitestown Parkway) and exit 139 (Ind. 39).

If Indiana's deployment plan is approved by the federal government, the state could receive $14.7 million yet this year to begin adding EV charging stations. More money from the $5 billion federal EV infrastructure rollout would come to the Hoosier state over the next four years.

But an increasing share of the financial burden of maintaining charging stations and building news ones and, more importantly, helping pay for Indiana's roads will surely fall on the shoulders of EV owners. Will they pay by miles traveled, by charging time or in some other way?

Although INDOT has been pushed by the feds to plan for EVs, the reports point to one clear-cut conclusion: electric vehicles will grow in prominence, and Indiana needs to be ready to meet nationwide consumer demand.