For years, as electric vehicle sales lagged in Louisiana compared with other states, so too has the availability of public, fast-charging stations for them.
That’s starting to change. Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary born out of the automaker’s infamous emissions-rigging scandal, is set to bring three DC fast-charging electric vehicle stations to Louisiana, and Clean Fuels Louisiana is pushing for more than a dozen additional ones throughout the state in an effort to have one available every 50 miles along each interstate.
Ann Vail, executive director of Louisiana Clean Fuels, said the nonprofit is working on a master plan for electric vehicle infrastructure, aimed at landing a federal designation called an Alternative Fuel Corridor. If successful, she said it will boost Louisiana’s market for electric vehicles and make them a more viable option for customers.
“It’s hard to get dealers to sell these in Louisiana,” she said. “We’re hoping once we get this corridor designation, we’ll get dealers to sell more electric vehicles.”
Dozens of charging stations exist throughout the state, including in downtown Baton Rouge, in New Orleans and at retail centers like Tanger Outlets, Whole Foods and hotels.
But there are different levels to the charging stations. Most of the existing stations are level-two chargers, which can take hours to charge a vehicle. Most electric car owners have level-one chargers at home, which will generally charge a car overnight.
So-called DC fast-charging stations, however, are in short supply. Only seven exist in Louisiana, and six of those are exclusively for Tesla vehicles, according to federal data. Those are in Slidell, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe. The only nonbranded fast station in the state, offering public charging to all electric vehicles, is in New Orleans.
But Electrify America, as part of a 39-state, $300 million effort to deploy 2,000 electric vehicle chargers, is installing three public, fast-charging stations in the state.
One, in Breaux Bridge, is complete, according to the contractor. Another in Sulphur will be finished by the fall, Electrify America spokesman Mike Moran said. The firm is in real estate discussions for another, yet-to-be announced location.
Eddie Haynes, owner of JEH Solar, said Electrify America hired his firm to install the Breaux Bridge charging station. That location, at a Walmart on Rees Street, features six dispensers capable of charging 12 cars at a time.
“One question people always have about electric vehicles is, ‘Where do you charge them?’ ” said Simon Mahan, founder of Bayou Electric Vehicles, an electric vehicle group based in Lafayette. “For most (electric vehicle) owners, charging at home with an existing electric socket will work, but having dedicated charge stations available publicly will make charging more convenient.”
For the Acadiana region, there are no public electric vehicle charging stations, Mahan said, which makes the Electrify America station particularly valuable. The closest stations are in Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, making long-distance traveling more difficult for Lafayette electric car owners — especially those with cars that have shorter ranges.
Consumers who buy electric vehicles can take advantage of a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 and a state tax credit of up to $2,500, or 10 percent of the cost, whichever is less. Both tax credit programs are nonrefundable, meaning buyers have to have the corresponding amount of tax burden to get the full benefit.
Louisiana, which has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the country, has relatively few electric vehicles registered. At last count, Vail said there were about 2,000 electric cars registered in Louisiana. A map from the U.S. Department of Energy using 2016 data shows Louisiana had one of the lowest rates of electric vehicles per 10,000 residents. States along the West Coast, along with Colorado and Georgia, had the highest rates of use.
Vail said one of the issues is getting dealerships to stock the cars.
“A bunch of different carmakers are starting to push electric vehicles,” she said. “In the next year or two, we’re going to see more in the dealerships, on the showroom floors.”
Louisiana Clean Fuels hopes to persuade the state Department of Environmental Quality to spend a portion of the money it is getting from the VW emissions settlement on electric car infrastructure. Vail said she also hopes to attract businesses, like Electrify America, and persuade municipalities to embrace the technology.
Ultimately, though, more offices need to get electric car chargers, Vail said, so owners can charge their cars during the day.
“The key is going to be getting these at people’s places of work,” she said. “That’s going to be the biggest driver of adoption.”