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Feds green-light Indiana plan for electric vehicle charging stations

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana Department of Transportation officials Tuesday said Hoosiers should begin seeing new public electric car charging stations in about two years.

INDOT announced the U.S. Department of Transportation had signed off on its portion of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan. The $100 million, federally funded project will install at least 44 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations near major highway interchanges across the state. Each one will have to include at least four charging ports and must be rated as a Level 3 charger, which can recharge a car to 80% in about an hour. When the project is finished, INDOT said, everyone in Indiana will live within 40 miles of a car charging station.

“Part of the goal of this plan is to reduce range anxiety for those who do use and operate electric vehicles,” INDOT spokesperson Natalie Garrett said. “I know a lot of their worry is having to plan their route so specifically to ensure that they have access to charge their vehicles to get where they need to go.”

The plan is not without its critics. Civil rights groups for months have lobbied INDOT to prioritize communities of color not only in placing the charging stations but also in selecting bids and choosing who will maintain the chargers. Denise Abdul-Rahman, the Indiana National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chair of environmental and climate justice, said the final plan does not specify exactly what officials will do to address those concerns. She said the plan needs more specific guarantees Black and brown communities in particular will benefit economically as well as environmentally.

“You can comply with ‘minority business enterprise’ and never give a contract to a Black business enterprise,” she said. “So that’s where we’re using this language of race-consciousness to ensure the inclusion of Black business enterprise in the installation of those charging stations.”

Abdul-Rahman said the NAACP and others have held several town halls of their own with federal transportation officials to highlight those issues. She said INDOT officials have indicated they will work with civil rights groups as the plan unfolds.

“We do believe that INDOT will, at some point, begin to make their plan more equitable and just,” Abdul-Rahman said.

INDOT’s Natalie Garrett said the state will solicit bids for the charging stations around the middle of next year. She said officials expect construction on the new charging stations to begin around mid-2024.

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