Kit Carson receives grant to install electric vehicle charging stations

State awards less than a third of proposed $690K

By Doug Cantwell
dcantwell@taosnews.com
Posted 6/1/20

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has received a $200,119 grant from the New Mexico Environment Department to install a network of electric vehicle charging stations along the 84-mile route known as the Enchanted Circle highway. The route encompasses Taos, Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire.

The grant comes from New Mexico's $2.7 billion share of the Volkswagen Settlement Fund, which was established in 2019 to make restitution for the auto manufacturer's misrepresentation of emissions data for its diesel-powered vehicles.

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Kit Carson receives grant to install electric vehicle charging stations

State awards less than a third of proposed $690K

Posted

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has received a $200,119 grant from the New Mexico Environment Department to install a network of electric vehicle charging stations along the 84-mile route known as the Enchanted Circle highway. The route encompasses Taos, Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire.

The grant comes from New Mexico's $2.7 billion share of the Volkswagen Settlement Fund, which was established in 2019 to make restitution for the auto manufacturer's misrepresentation of emissions data for its diesel-powered vehicles.

Volkswagen installed emissions software on more than a half-million diesel cars in the U.S. - and roughly 10.5 million more worldwide - that allowed them to sense the unique parameters of an emissions test cycle set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This ensured that the vehicles would fully comply with all federal emissions standards during the annual emissions test required in many states - whereas the cars would shift into a different operating mode during normal driving that exceeded those standards.

The New Mexico Environment Department has awarded grants to various government and private entities that will fund the installation of 116 new charging stations in 23 of the state's 33 counties.

"In a rural state like New Mexico, installing charging infrastructure is critical to encouraging and increasing the use of electric vehicles, resulting in fewer emissions and better air quality, as well as decreasing the state's contribution to global warming," according to a statement released by NMED.

"Our future is predicated on the stability of our younger generation," said KCEC CEO Luis A. Reyes Jr. "We as a community need to invest in that future. We need to lead the way and create a sustainable, resilient future. It's our duty to the communities we serve."

NMED said that the funded charging stations will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by more than 40 tons annually in urban, rural and Native communities in New Mexico. This tonnage equals that of a large stationary air pollution source such an electric generating plant. "These projects will efficiently and cost-effectively reduce NOx pollution in areas of New Mexico where residents bear a disproportionate share of NOx pollution and in areas that are nearing the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone," the statement concluded.

As a Tesla EV owner and Renewable Taos founding member, Jay Levine has a vested interest in the project.

"They got about a third of the money they were asking for," Levine said in a May 15 phone interview. "We haven't yet had conversations with them [Kit Carson] about how they're going to spend that grant - whether they're going to look for more money or implement parts of the plan."

Kit Carson could not be reached for comment by press time on Wednesday.

According to an Environment Department spreadsheet furnished by Levine, KCEC had requested a grant of $690,733 to pay for its proposed Enchanted Circle network of five Level 3 DC "fast chargers" and 11 Level 2 (slower) chargers and accompanying infrastructure.

Levine said the latest Tesla fast chargers deliver 250 kilowatts of power and will fully charge his Model 3 Tesla in about 30 minutes. "For comparison," he added, "a standard 110-volt household outlet delivers about 1.8 kW. A 50-amp, 240-volt charger of the type you find at an RV campground gives you about 9 kW."

Levine chose the Tesla Model 3 for its long cruising range because he likes to go on road trips - without burning fossil fuel. It gives him about 325 miles on a single charge. "I've driven it to California and back several times and had zero problems," he said.

He noted that Tesla has made it a top priority to provide its "superchargers" on all U.S. interstates, and they've just about accomplished it. Montana and North Dakota, Levine said, are the last states where you might have problems finding a charging station, but Tesla has plans to equip them with interstate fast-charging stations in the near future.

"I know there's a Tesla supercharger station just off the interstate [I-40] in Gallup," he said. According to plugshare.com, it's located at the Hampton Inn off Exit 16 and provides four older-generation Tesla fast chargers that each deliver 120 kW. There's also an Electrify America charging station close by that provides 350 kW and 150 kW fast chargers.

Levine said he has a friend who owns a Nissan Leaf, a smaller EV with less range. "It's a good around-town car," he said, "with limited range. Though we once drove it up to Cabresto Lake [64 miles round trip from Taos Plaza]."

Several members of Renewable Taos own Tesla Model 3s. "A few other folks around town have bought them as well," he added, "partly due to our influence."

The other reason Levine bought the Tesla, besides taking road trips without emitting greenhouse gases, was so he could walk the talk.

"I wanted to be able to talk about it," he said, "to tell people, 'Hey, I just went to all these places in my electric car, I didn't have any problems and it was more fun.' So I could help to normalize the behavior of driving electric cars."

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