S.D. plans to help more electric vehicle stations

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two engineers from state government told the South Dakota Tourism Board on Wednesday that Electrify America plans to fund DC fast-charger systems across much of the nation so electric vehicles can rapidly re-fuel.

But the map they showed had nothing yet for South Dakota or North Dakota. Electrify America reportedly wants to do something, but in the meantime it’s an uncertain situation visitors traveling in electric cars — at least those that aren’t made by Tesla.

Tesla already has charging stations in South Dakota and across the country. But those chargers work only for Tesla.

For now in South Dakota, other manufacturers must rely on home chargers that take many hours to deliver enough power. There’s a handful of faster public chargers, subsidized by state government, that are coming on line.

But the lack of public chargers is one reason electric vehicle sales have been nearly non-existent in South Dakota.

Mike Behm, director of planning and engineering for the state Department of Transportation, and air-quality engineer Kyrik Rombough from the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources gave a 15-minute presentation on electric-vehicle corridors in South Dakota.

Rombough said the state Board of Minerals and Environment approved about $400,000 of subsidies for seven charging stations in Sioux Falls, Brookings, Watertown, Mitchell, Chamberlain, Murdo and Wall. He said the Wall project’s sponsor later withdrew.

Meanwhile, the minerals board decided in May to shift more money from South Dakota’s share of the Volkswagen trust fund into charging stations, subject to the trust administrator’s approval. That means the department could spend another $400,000-plus to $800,000-plus on chargers. 

Rombough and Behm said the Electrify America plan, which relies on the national part of the Volkswagen settlement, requires that new charging stations provide at least 50 kilowatts and be available to the public. That means Teslas could use them, too, with the proper converter.

They also would need to be within 50 miles of each other. Behm said South Dakota transportation officials have suggested the minimum distance be expanded to 70 or 80 miles.

Rombough said the models of fast chargers that South Dakota subsidized cost about $80,000. He said the 350-kilowatt fast chargers that Electrify America wants cost $150,000 to $200,000.

Behm said I-90 and I-29 would be South Dakota’s EV corridors during the next five years. Rombough said the six sites currently contracted should be running by this coming winter.

Rombough said a DC-fast charger at 50 kilowatts could charge a car for about 100 miles in about 30 minutes, while one at 350 kilowatts would take about five minutes.

“If you’re going to do a level one from your home, it’s going to take 24 hours.”

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