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Indiana’s demand for electricity grows with interest in electric vehicles

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana government is preparing to spend millions of dollars to build infrastructure for electric vehicles.

However, concerns have been raised about the existing power grid’s ability to support an influx of electric vehicles, or EVs.

Mark Potuck, a self-described dyed-in-the-wool Tesla fanatic, and his wife bought their current electric car three years ago. He can’t wait for his new to be delivered. “We have been waiting for a long time. We ordered it, I think in October, and we are not expected to have it until late July or even Sept. 2.”

Potluck added, “We took a test drive Thanksgiving, on the 18th, and, oh, my gosh, we just fell in love with it.”

The Potucks are from northern Indiana. They had stopped at a charging station near Beech Grove while on their way to Tennessee. He says the car maps out the route based upon charging stations.

In the past couple of months, charging stations have become more of a common sight in central Indiana. Tesla recently installed a high-speed charging location at a gas station on the west side, which attracts a steady stream of customers. The location has new electrical service to provide the power.

Earlier this summer, I-Team 8 questioned power companies on their ability to provide power during peak demand. Now, I-Team 8 asked Zac Elliot of AES Indiana if the utility is ready for EVs .

“I think there is a common misconception that all electric vehicles when they come on the grid will be charging stimulatingly, and we don’t believe that to be true. The probability of that happening is almost zero,” Elliot said.

He says, as the need for additional charging stations grows, the electric companies expand their service. For example, when IndyGo ordered electric buses, the existing electric service was upgraded to meet the demand.    

“We do not expect or forecast any near-term reliability impacts, but we continually forecast load growth and, to that extent, that we do foresee any reliability issues in the future, then we would make the necessary investments to support ongoing reliability,” Elliot said. 

The upgrades to the electric service come at a cost.

The Bob Rohrman Indy Hyundai dealership on the east side is in the process of installing charging stations to meet auto manufactures specifications. They are being asked to install 480-volt service in their building, which is typical power for industrial facilities, not car dealers 

 “We have to put in a new transformer. Just the infrastructure is going to be about 300 grand, with the high-capacity chargers, the quick charges, the Level 3s, we are going to be just short of half million” dollars, said General Manager Joe Gerry.

Indiana Department of Transportation is ordered to meet requirements set out in the national electric vehicle infrastructure program. INDOT expects to invest $100 million in EV technology over the next five years, which will require the electric companies to keep pace. 

AES’ Elliot said, “We see load growth happening fairly quickly. We are seeing 50% year-over-year growth in the number of registrations in Indianapolis, and it is coming fast.” 

More than a dozen states require a percentage of new cars offered for sale to be electric; Indiana is not one of those states.