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Federal rural exemptions for electric vehicle chargers denied

Interstate 80 near Kemmerer, Wyoming. (2005)
Ken Lund
Interstate 80 near Kemmerer, Wyoming. (2005)

The Biden-Harris Administration has also sent Wyoming almost $400 million dollars as a part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law announced earlier this month.

This year the Biden Administration rolled out the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI) to make electric vehicles more commonplace. But for rural places in Wyoming it might be hard to get chargers in places nowhere near an interstate.

The program doesn’t require the state to own or operate chargers. According to a report from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), those interested in investing in electric vehicle chargers wouldn’t see profits until 2040. This is because of the low amount of through traffic in the state.

WYDOT’s Jordan Achs said they asked for exemptions for nine stretches of Wyoming highways that would exceed a federal requirement for chargers to be installed every 50 miles. But eight of those requests were denied.

“Fortunately, this first year doesn't really make that big of an impact, we can focus on those interstate stations that we were planning to build anyway. Those are in Pine Bluffs, Laramie, Wheatland, Douglas, Buffalo, Sheridan, and Sundance,” she said.

WYDOT reports to the federal government every year so Achs said next year they would reapply for the exemptions in 2023.

She said those towns and businesses interested in installing these fast NEVI chargers are also looking at slower chargers, to boost economic bang for their buck.

“A lot of municipalities are wanting maybe a lower level charger that can encourage people to linger and shop and actually spend money in that town rather than charging in 10 minutes and moving on to their next destination,” Achs said.

Wyoming is to receive around $26 million dollars through the next five years to distribute funds for these chargers. There are also other grants to apply to for those interested in installing electric vehicle chargers.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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