$1.8 Million for Waco-area Electric Vehicle Chargers as Part of Statewide Network Plan | Local News

Even as battery costs rise, automakers are rolling out more affordable electric vehicles that should broaden their appeal to a larger group of buyers. The latest came Thursday from General Motors, a Chevrolet Equinox small SUV with a starting price of around $30,000 and a range per charge of 250 miles (402 kilometers). You can get 300 miles if you pay more. GM won’t release exact pricing for the Equinox EV until it goes on sale around this time next year. But the SUV is at the bottom of the price list of electric vehicles sold in the United States by Edmunds.com. The average cost of an EV is now around $65,000. Industry analysts say hitting a price tag of around $30,000 and a range per charge of nearly 300 miles is key to enticing traditional buyers to ditch gas-powered vehicles.

Next month, the Texas Department of Transportation will begin looking for companies interested in helping establish a statewide network of electric vehicle charging stations, and transportation officials in the Waco area will be asked to recommend sites in McLennan County.

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program has earmarked $407.8 million through 2026 for the Texas plan, which will partner with companies to pay 80% of the cost of charging infrastructure.

The state’s plan will ensure that all interstate highways have DC fast-charging stations at least every 50 miles. Other state highways would have stations every 70 miles, and 254 county seats would have charging stations.

Each connector would be capable of supporting at least 150 kilowatts, enough to boost a battery from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes, according to the Texas plan. That would give an electric vehicle an additional 120 to 200 miles of range.

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Federal approval of the state plan is expected by the end of the month, allowing TxDOT to move forward in October to issue solicitations for private partners.

At first, electric vehicles were only available to those who could live with short-range econoboxes. Then came expensive luxury cars, and a few vans and delivery vans. Now they’re heading into the heart of the US auto market – the compact SUV. And many of the new entries sold or on the way have the range, price and features to compare to their gas-powered rivals. Some are proving very popular. Ford’s $45,000+ Mustang Mach-E is sold out for the model year. General Motors’ Chevrolet brand introduced an electric version of the Blazer on Monday night, starting at around $45,000 including shipping. Coming next year is an electric Chevy Equinox and a number of others. “The intent and pricing of this product is definitely to make it more available to more traditional buyers,” said Steve Majoros, chief marketing officer for Chevrolet, of the Blazer EV. All can travel around 300 miles per charge and are aimed at the small SUV segment, the largest part of the US market with around 20% of new vehicle sales.

During the program’s multi-year rollout, the state will work with regional metropolitan planning organizations to evaluate and award projects, Waco MPO Director Mukesh Kumar told the MPO board Thursday.

MPO Board Chairman Jim Holmes, who sits on the Waco City Council, said the process will depend on what companies are willing to participate.

“I think it’s great that we have a say in the destination,” Holmes said.

The state’s electric vehicle station plan shows DFO-based projects would begin within a few years, after interstate highways, designated as “electric alternative fuel corridors,” are built with stations. McLennan County could be eligible for $1.8 million from the program, according to the plan.

The plan, including interactive maps of existing and potential charging stations, is available at https://www.txdot.gov/projects/projects-studies/statewide/texas-electric-vehicle-planning-03-22-22. html.

The Waco area offers a handful of charging options, including a six-charger DC fast-charging station at the Bellmead Walmart on I-35, according to Chevrolet.com. A few hotels and car dealerships also offer limited electric vehicle charging options to their guests, and the Collin Street Bakery on I-35 in Bellmead offers Tesla Superchargers, designed specifically for Tesla vehicles.

Also at Thursday’s DFO meeting, the board received an update on other federal funding opportunities on the horizon.

The carbon reduction program is funded by the same Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as the electric vehicle initiative and will provide DFO with $549,000 per year for projects over the next five years.

“It’s a very small amount of money, but when used for low-cost, high-impact programs, it could be very effective,” Kumar said.

Cities in McLennan County are invited to submit proposals to DFO for review and possible approval in January. The projects require a 20% counterpart from local governments.

Eligible projects would be judged on criteria such as reduced carbon emissions, equity, impact on future generations, link to land use and readiness.

DFO also this month requested $560,000 from the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe Streets and Roads for All program to develop a plan to identify and address traffic hazards in the area. Pricing is expected to be announced late this year or early next year, Kumar said.

Last fall, General Motors CEO Mary Barra made a bold prediction: By the middle of this decade, her company would sell more electric vehicles in the United States than Tesla, the global sales leader. Since then, inflation has skyrocketed, interest rates are rising, material costs have skyrocketed, and a global shortage of computer chips still holds back the assembly lines of GM and other companies. Yet even as it faces immense economic forces that could push many buyers out of the new-vehicle market, Barra is delivering on its promise.

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