City of Sioux Falls to get plugged in with new vehicle

KELOLAND.com Original
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FILE – In this Dec. 21, 2020 file photo, a Chevrolet Bolt charges at an Electrify America site outside Colorado Mills outlet mall in downtown Lakewood, Colo. Electrify America, an electric vehicle charging network funded with money paid by Volkswagen as punishment for its emissions cheating scandal, says it plans to more than double its number of charging stations throughout the United States and Canada. The expansion will include 1,800 fast-charging stations and 10,000 individual chargers by 2025. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The city of Sioux Falls plans to buy its first electric vehicle.

“We aren’t sure of the model, but we know it will be a sedan,” the city’s sustainability coordinator Holly Meier said.

Meier said the vehicle will likely be a level II plug in electric vehicle (EV) that will take a few hours to re-charge.

The vehicle would be one of several hundred in the state.

The state’s only EV is at Black Hills State University, said Leah Svendsen, the special projects coordinator for the South Dakota Bureau of Administration.

The city of Brookings just signed a purchase agreement for its first plug-in hybrid fleet vehicle, the city’s public information officer Chelsie Bakken said.

The vehicle should be added to the Sioux Falls city’s fleet in early 2022, Meier said.

There are “a lot of reasons” to add an electric vehicle, Meier said.

The auto manufacturing industry is moving to more electric vehicles, she said. The city can add an EV and be ahead or in line with that shift, Meier said.

Several studies have also shown the maintenance cost saving and environmental savings of EVs, Meier said.

The city of South Sioux City, Nebraska, has benefitted from reduced maintenance with its four electric vehicles, assistant city administrator Oscar Gomez said.

The city of about 14,000 people bought four electric vehicles seven years ago, Gomez said. It bought an electric motorcycle last year.

“The only thing we’ve really done for a maintenance piece is new tires,” Gomez said. “As far as maintenance, it’s really a savings.”

“Benefits gained will be a dedicated effort toward more sustainable practices and lessoning of environmental impact within our local government as well as greater fuel economy saving taxpayer costs,” Bakken said of an EV in Brookings.

Some details on the Sioux Falls purchase plan were shared by Mark Cotter, the city’s public works director, at the Aug. 3 budget meeting.

“I am so happy to see that you’re purchasing an electric vehicle,” council member Janet Brekke said during the Aug. 3 meeting. “That is a signal to me that we are making a real commitment to air quality.”

Brekke said electric vehicles are a way for the city to prevent and/or reduce air pollution.

If the city of Sioux Falls “does it right,” Brekke said, it could be the only city that never has an air pollution problem.

Meier said studies show that EVs can improve air quality because EVs do not have the emissions that fossil fuel cars do.

Several of South Sioux City’s department heads use the vehicles to travel between job or city sites, Gomez said.

The city’s community resource officers use the vehicles to check for ordinance issues such as illegal parking, weeds and similar, Gomez said.

“Our intent is for it to be housed in one department,” Meier said of Sioux Falls.

The city wants the EV to have regular daily use so costs can be compared to a regular fuel vehicle, she said.

One question the city has about EVs is how they handle the winter, Meier said.

That’s also a concern for the state, Svendsen said.

“One of the state’s biggest concerns is the limited battery life, especially during the cold weather months,’ Svendsen said in an email to KELOLAND News. “Charging stations are few and far between across the state creating potential for stranded drivers and extended or delayed travel times.”

South Sioux City charges the vehicles overnight in the winter as a precaution because it doesn’t want a drained battery during the workday and because very cold temperatures can drain the battery quicker, Gomez said.

The charge can last several days in the summer but the charge drains quicker when temperatures are very hot, he said.

Sioux Falls will use a federal tax credit incentive to buy its EV, Meier said. The incentive helps to lower the purchase cost of the vehicle.

Although the market share for EVs has grown around the world, the U.S. has only 17% of the world’s total stock of 10.2 million EVs, according to the Pew Research Center, which quoted the International Energy Agency.

South Sioux City used a grant from the state of Nebraska’s Department of Energy to buy its electric vehicles, Gomez said. It plans to apply for a grant to buy two more vehicles.

Nebraska is one of the majority of states that have programs for the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles or for charging electric vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

The state of Nebraska offers incentives and other entities within the state do so as well. The Omaha Public Power District, the Nebraska Public Power District and the Southern Public Power District have incentives.

North Dakota, Kentucky and West Virginia do not, according to the National Council.

South Dakota does not have a program for the general public to buy EVs and its vehicle program applies to electric trucks and buses.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) has not received any applications for the purchase of electric trucks or buses, said Brian Walsh of the DANR.

The state has made Volkswagen trust funds available for electric vehicle infrastructure through the DANR. Applicants will receive reimbursement up to 80% for charging stations installed at locations across South Dakota accessible and available to the general public.

There are several levels of charging for electric-powered vehicles ranging from minutes to hours.

Level 1 uses a standard outlet. Vehicle owners would typically use this type of charge for overnight charging at home. The others vary by time and device.

An electric car owner prepares to charge his car at an electric car charging station on September 23, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

South Sioux City has one fast charging station that charges in about minutes, Gomez said. That charger is at a local grocery store.

The other seven chargers take about four hours, he said.

Drivers pay to use the chargers, Gomez said.

The electric charger in Brookings is at the county and city government center.

“The electric charging station is used almost every day and frequently used multiple times during each day,” Bakken said.

As does South Sioux City, Brookings charges the public for using the charger.

The public charger parking spot is available 24-hours-a-day-seven days a week, Bakken said. The rate is $1 for the first three hours and $2 for each additional hour.

The average charge takes about four hours for most electric vehicles, Bakken said.

Residents pay for their charge using the Chargepoint App or a ChargePass card, Bakken said.

Although South Sioux City plans to apply to buy two more EVs, Brookings has no immediate plans.

“The City of Brookings is always looking for ways to become a more sustainability-focused community and will consider the purchase of fuel efficient and sustainable vehicles in the future,” Bakken said in an email to KELOLAND News.

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