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Bill would build electric vehicle charging stations across Nebraska – WOWT

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – As more car companies vow to produce more electric vehicles, Nebraska is still just dipping its toes in the water when it comes to getting away from gas-powered cars.
A new bill in the legislature could change that, however.
State Sen. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln introduced LB-1257, which would use $10 million in federal funding to support electric vehicle infrastructure across Nebraska, especially in rural areas.
“The No. 1 obstacle to widespread adoption of electric vehicles is range anxiety, the fear of being nowhere near a charging station after depleting your vehicle’s charge,” Bostar said Wednesday in a legislative hearing.
Nebraska is behind other states when it comes to EV ownership. There are only about 2,500 state-wide.
“Installing charging stations throughout the state, in rural areas as well as high traffic corridors, will provide Nebraskans living in every corner of the state with the freedom to purchase an electric vehicle,” Bostar added.
OPPD just installed five public-access fast-charging stations in eastern Nebraska; Omaha, La Vista, North Bend, Syracuse, and Blair.
“Only really two were near the interstate, the other three were in kind of outlying areas to help people with their range anxiety, to help people that are going across the state of Nebraska, especially north-south,” says Kirk Estee, OPPD’s customer alternative energy solutions Manager.
“We try to look for grant opportunities so that we can help participate in expanding the charging network for our customers in the publicly available charging network,” Estee said.
“We also study the energy consumption of the various EV charges out there to try to do a better job planning for the future so that the grid can handle these addition EVs that are coming online without expensive upgrades.”
Estee says EVs are great for the state of Nebraska for several reasons.
“First of all, it’s great for consumers because we have very low-cost electricity here. Secondly, it’s great for the environment. I think the last number, 38% of OPPD’s energy produced is renewable — so you’re lowering your cost and benefitting the environment.”.
Bostar’s bill would take $10 million from Nebraska’s portion of the American Rescue Act Plan to create grants. The grants would provide matching funds to entities that install fast-charging stations.
The bill calls for entities to partner with and place EV charging stations at places like gas stations, grocery stores, hotels, municipalities, rural and underserved areas.
Bostar says not only would the bill encourage more people to go electric, but it could also help boost tourism to the state.
“By using ARPA funding for EV charging station infrastructure, we are signaling to auto manufacturers that we are ready to accept needed inventory to our dealers,” he says. “As well as encouraging EV owners from other states to come and visit or traverse Nebraska in their electric vehicles.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Bostar was questioned about why the government should provide subsidies to make this happen. Bostar compared the infrastructure to expanding broadband to rural Nebraska.
“It’s not profitable for a company to build fiber-optic cables out into rural Nebraska, it’s not going to make any money without incentives, without subsidies, without support, they won’t do it. But, we’ve decided that it makes sense to give that support. This is the same thing.”
“With regard to expanding throughout the state, anything that we can do to help the drivers have better access to their electric fuel like regular cars have to gas fuel sounds like a good idea, and a lot of the interstate is covered, but there does need to be another handful of sites added to meet the requirements that they’re saying in that infrastructure bill which is about 50 miles between chargers,” Estee adds.
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation allocated each state several million dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which passed in November, to build EV infrastructure in the next five years.
Nebraska was allocated $30.2 million, and Iowa was allocated $51 million.
Bostar said his $10 milllion bill would focus more on rural Nebraska, rather than focusing on all highway and interstate corridors.
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