More electric vehicle charging stations coming to South Dakota
More locally operated electrical vehicle charging stations are coming to South Dakota after challenges with the supply chain, competition from a national charging network, and an industry shakeup from billionaire Elon Musk.
A settlement from the Volkswagen emissions scandal provided South Dakota with $1.2 million in funding for the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Program.
"We were super excited about it," said Ben Pierson, who works at Sioux Valley Energy in Colman. "The goal that we had in mind was to get some DC [direct current] fast charging infrastructure along the interstate corridors in South Dakota."
The program approved seven of about 25 applications from local energy companies last year. But five of those projects — for stations in Wall, Watertown, Brookings, Murdo and Sioux Falls — dropped out.
After some delays, two remaining stations in Chamberlain and Mitchell are scheduled for installation in the spring . About $1 million in funding remains.
So what happened?
First, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global supply chain, making it difficult to find necessary supplies, according to Program Administrator Barb Regynski.
Next, Elon Musk announced in July that he would be opening Tesla's charging stations to all electric vehicles. Tesla has about 30 stations in South Dakota but so far the universal chargers are only in the Netherlands.
Then, Electrify America — a national charging network operated by Volkswagen — unexpectedly announced in October that it would install stations in South Dakota.
Electrify America opened a station in Wall and is searching for sites in Rapid City, Chamberlain and Sioux Falls, Pierson said.
Regynski and Pierson — whose company planned to install a station in Sioux Falls — said some applicants pulled out since Electrify America's chargers would be faster than theirs.
The faster the charger, the more expensive it is to install, Pierson said. He said his company is changing gears and plans to install charging stations in cities away from the interstate since Electrify America won't be targeting those areas.
He thinks other companies will also throw their hats back into the ring.
"Some utilities are a little hesitant and kind of waiting to see what else happens. If anything else like this Electrify America development is going to happen, kind of see where they're going, see how quickly they're coming and then try to decide from there, 'OK where are the other spots that we need to fill in,'" Pierson said. "There is a still a need in South Dakota for electric vehicle charging and without these VW dollars it won't happen quickly."
South Dakota has received four applications since opening its second funding round in September, Regynski told the Minerals and Environment Board last week week. She expects to receive more submissions before the Dec. 31 deadline.
The state also has funding from the Volkswagen settlement to replace high-emission, government-owned diesel trucks and busses with more eco-friendly ones.