New Mexico electric vehicle charger program targeting interstates, big cities

·5 min read

Southeast New Mexico might not be a top priority for electrical vehicle charging stations, as the region lacks an interstate corridor as identified by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the federal government.

Interstates 10, 25 and 40, connecting the state’s urban centers of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces showed the highest traffic, use of electric vehicles (EVs), and existing infrastructure so those areas would be prioritized, per a Thursday presentation from NMDOT.

The public meeting came amid the planning of a statewide network of charging stations for EVs in New Mexico after the state expected to receive $38 million in federal funds over the next year as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a signature legislation package signed into law last year by President Joe Biden.

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It was the second of six public meetings being held throughout the state, covering each of NMDOT’s six districts.

District 2, the subject of Thursday’s meeting, covers southeast New Mexico and was held in Roswell.

In the first year of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) plan the federal government was expected to approve $5.8 million for New Mexico with funds available for investment by September.

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Additional funds were also available through a competitive grant process.

The state, using the current database published by the U.S. Department of Energy, identified single charging stations in Alamogordo, Ruidoso and Clovis.

There were no known existing charging stations in southeast New Mexico’s other, larger cities like Carlsbad, Hobbs or Roswell, DOE records show.

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U.S. Highway 285, the main highway connected Carlsbad, Artesia and Roswell, was listed as a state highway that could be prioritized by the NMDOT, but its report showed growth in electric vehicles centered in the larger cities, thus charging infrastructure would be built out from there.

Carrie Giles with ICF, an electric vehicle-focused consulting firm working with the State to develop the program said it was important the program not only serve those who already own or can afford electric vehicles in large cities, but also motorists in remote areas.

She expected the cost of EVs to decline in the coming years and become more accessible with manufacturers trucks, Jeeps and other vehicles taking advantage of technological advancements in non-combustion engines.

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“The goal is to make charging convenient, reliable and equitable. We don’t want this to be a charging network just for the early adapters that can afford it to date,” Giles said. “It’s anticipated that the market prices will be dropping significantly. We do know the market is shifting. We are trying to get into every corner of the state. We want this to be for all New Mexicans.”

Giles pointed to the federal “Justice 40” initiative that specifies the Biden administration’s goal of spending 40 percent of federal funds on “equity communities.”

This includes communities, Giles said, that face high climate change and pollution risks, along with poverty unemployment among other issues.

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She said southeast New Mexico’s lack of interstate highways did not mean it would be excluded from the program.

“Here in District 2, we don’t have any interstate highways. We’re going to begin to connect this district to the rest of the state,” Giles said. “Just because they’re not technically interstate corridors doesn’t mean it’s not a priority for the state.

“What we’re really trying to find out is where you truly need this infrastructure and where we should prioritize it.”

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Damon Fordham with High Street Consulting, another firm working with the state on its EV network, said transportation was New Mexico’s second-highest emitter of greenhouse gas at 14 percent after oil and gas at 53 percent.

He said transportation leads in emissions nationwide, and expanding electric vehicle use in New Mexico would help the state reach its climate change and pollution goals.

In 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Energy Transition Act into law to set benchmarks for statewide emissions reductions, while also establishing a Climate Change Task Force.

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The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) also recently enacted “clean car rules” to require car dealerships to sell more EVs, and regulations to increase leak inspections and repair at oil and gas facilities across the state.

“There’s a lot going on in New Mexico,” Fordham said. “The clean car rules and NEVI plan will help reduce emissions.”

Jerry Valdez NMDOT executive director said that while New Mexico is heavily economically reliant on fossil fuels, and especially the southeast corner which is home to one of the world’s most active oilfields in the Permian Basin, the proliferation of electric vehicles would allow the state to reduce pollution in the long-term while diversifying its energy economy.

“What we’re looking at is being able to utilize renewable energy to address the climate change issues not only facing NM but the nation as a whole,” Valdez said. “This is something we are looking toward as a long term strategy to address fossil fuel.

“Oil and gas is still a big part of our economy, but this is part of a long-term vision to reach the governor’s goals for climate change.”

See an electrical vehicle charging station in your town?

Residents who observe electrical vehicle charging stations not included in the DOE's database were asked to submit them online through the Department's Alternative Fuels Data Center at https://afdc.energy.gov/stations/#/station/new.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Big cities top priority for New Mexico's electric vehicle chargers