A $38 million infusion of federal funds was granted to New Mexico to build a network of electrical vehicle charges along the state’s interstate highways over the next five years.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced it approved of the State’s plans to build the chargers Sept. 14 after it applied for the funds granted within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law last year by President Joe Biden.
In total, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program included in the bill allocated about $5 billion in five years to U.S. states for the work, focusing on the country’s interstate highway.
In fiscal year 2022, the NEVI program provided up to $615 million to states that submitted approved plans to the DOT.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who pushed for the funding in the infrastructure bill as it moved through the Senate said it was needed to see electric vehicle use increase in his state as part of the national agenda to reduce pollution from traditional fossil fuels.
“This historic funding will build out the first-ever nationwide charging network, accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis, and help New Mexico drivers save money,” Heinrich said.
The approval of the first phase, allowed funds earmarked for FY 2022 be immediately available to New Mexico as its NEVI plan is implemented, read the DOT’s acceptance letter.
The Highway Administration planned to work closely with states like New Mexico, per the letter, as plans are updated and enacted annually.
Gloria Shepherd, DOT associate administrator in its Office of Planning, Environment and Realty said in the letter that electric vehicles could help reduce transportation costs for Americans while reducing environmental impacts.
“Thank you for putting the United States on a path to a nationwide network of EV chargers that can ensure a convenient, affordable, reliable, and equitable charging experience for all user,” she wrote.
Per New Mexico’s plan, electric vehicle chargers will first be placed about 50 miles apart along Interstate 40, heading east and west through Albuquerque between the Arizona and Texas Borders, I-10, traveling east and west between Las Cruces and Arizona, and I-25 which stretches north and south from Las Cruces to Albuquerque and Santa Fe and further north to the Colorado border.
Counties with the most interest, based on surveys conducted earlier this year, were Dona Ana, Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Taos, per the NMDOT, and were likely to be prioritized as they also were areas where electric vehicles were already in high use.
Highways that travel within the state like U.S. Highway 285 in southeast New Mexico’s oilfields, could be focused on in subsequent phases, per the NMDOT, as electric vehicle use was expected to increase in the coming years.
Roads with 10,000 or more vehicles per day would be targeted after the interstates, per the NMDOT, including U.S. 285 between Roswell and Carlsbad, along with multiple roadways in the Farmington area and around Santa Fe and Los Alamos.
“In subsequent program years, as funds allow, NMDOT will focus on providing community-level chargers to ensure an equitable distribution of access to EV charging,” read the plan.
These high-traffic areas were most likely to see motorists in need of electric vehicle chargers, per the NMDOT’s plan, as the market was forecast to grow.
There about 5,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in New Mexico as of Spring 2022, per the NMDOT.
Ongoing policy efforts, per the report, were likely to lead to more EV use in New Mexico, growing by 6 percent by 2030 and 12 percent by 2050.
“Future EV ownership in the state of New Mexico will undoubtedly be impacted by recent and ongoing policy and planning efforts, including this plan as well as the recent adoption of a Clean Car Standard,” read the report. “As a result, New Mexico needs to plan for various potential futures.”
That means expanding chargers available in the state.
Of the 189 chargers available in the state, per the NMDOT, only eight meet federal standards – located in or near Gallup, Grants, Albuquerque, Santa Rosa and Tucumcari.
While chargers will be upgraded to NEVI standards, others will be added along the interstates where there are more than 50 miles between existing charging stations, the report read.
“Through its implementation plan in Years 1 and 2 of the NEVI program, NMDOT will work with the private sector to optimize the locations of new and upgraded or expanded chargers to provide a seamless customer experience and ensure the efficient use of funds,” read the report.
Upon submitting the plan in July, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the project would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support her administration in fighting pollution while also diversifying the economy.
“Whether it’s a trip across town or across the state, we are using every available tool to ensure that everyone in New Mexico can benefit from electric vehicles,” Lujan Grisham said.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.