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Increase in electric cars in Wisconsin will require more places to plug in

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Posted at 10:24 AM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 23:22:31-05

Two big announcements in the last couple of weeks mean major changes are coming in what we drive and how we fuel up.

First, President Joe Biden wants to replace the federal government's fleet of 645,000 vehicles with electric cars. Also, General Motors wants to sell nothing but zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035.

It's a good thing we have time because electric car owners say there are just not enough places in Wisconsin where they can plug in.

Ryan Clancy knows first-hand owning an electric car means you need to think differently.

"We were kind of an early adopter. Our first car had about 70 miles range, so it took some planning," Clancy said.

These days, electric vehicles can go a lot farther between charges but are still limited by the number of places to stop and plug in.

"If you have a Tesla, you have access to their network, which is great if you have that model car. But I'd love to see more throughout the state, throughout the Midwest," Clancy said.

In Wisconsin, there are only 550 public places to stop and plug in.

It's not a crisis today, with only 5,887 electric vehicles on the road here, compared to 4.2 million cars and trucks powered by gasoline.

Which begs a big question: do we need more electric cars to have more EV infrastructure or do we need more infrastructure to make people feel comfortable buying electric cars?

Chelsea Chandler is director of climate solutions for Clean Wisconsin, advocates for more government investment in car charging infrastructure.

That would remove a major mental block to buying an electric car.


"Having that confidence you can get where you need to go when you need to go there is critical and that's why public charging infrastructure is so important," Chandler said.

The Evers administration agrees and tried to spend $10 million from the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement on car charging infrastructure.

Conservatives sued to block that and won at the state Supreme Court, which means widespread progress has stalled.

"Better investments in public charging is going to make it possible for more electric vehicles to be on the road and make it more accessible to more people," Chandler said.

For now, the steps forward are small.

Ryan Clancy has two Tesla charging stations behind his business on Milwaukee's south side his customers are free to use.

He's also a newly elected Milwaukee County supervisor with eyes on expanding access in places like county-owned parking lots.

"That would be huge, and it's a great place to start. It makes sense having them inside parking structures because when you’re there, that's enough time to get enough charge to get back where you're going," Clancy said.

Gov. Evers's new budget proposal is taking another swing at building out more electric chargers. He's hoping for $5 million dollars to spend on it over the next two years.

Click here to find charging stations in Wisconsin.

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