NM plans more electric vehicle charging stations

New Mexico would use federal funds to provide electric vehicle charging stations every 50 miles along interstate roadways under a new plan crafted by the state Department of Transportation. A charging station is shown here in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill on Friday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico would provide electric vehicle charging stations at 50-mile intervals – if not closer – along its three interstate roadways, under a plan released Friday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.

Specifically, the plan awaiting federal approval lays out how the state intends to spend roughly $38 million in federal funds over a five-year period in order to make it easier for electric vehicle owners to keep fully charged in the nation’s fifth-largest state.

Lujan Grisham said Friday the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations would reduce New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions, while also bolstering state tourism efforts.

“New Mexico is leading the nation in driving the future of greener transportation,” the governor said in a statement. “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.”

Only a fraction of the cars on New Mexico roads are electric vehicles, but the number has increased by five times since 2016, according to the state Department of Transportation.

As of this spring, there were just over 5,000 registered electric vehicles around the state, with most of them owned by residents of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.

While some electric vehicle owners can charge their cars at home, options have been limited along New Mexico roadways.

There are currently 189 publicly available charging stations for electric vehicles statewide, but only eight of those stations meet the basic requirements of a federal program, according to DOT. Those requirements include proximity to an interstate highway and at least four charging connections per station.

Meanwhile, at least 11 areas would need to have charging stations installed – including around Deming, Hatch and Cimarron – to meet the state plan’s goal of having stations available every 50 miles along the state’s three interstate roadways.

The plan does not cite specific locations for the stations, however, as that would be left up to DOT and utility providers to determine.

Meanwhile, questions remain about the capacity of New Mexico’s electrical grid to support a broad future expansion of charging stations, especially in rural and economically disadvantaged parts of the state.

Based on feedback received while crafting the plan, “electric utilities are generally confident in the grid’s capacity to support near-term electric vehicle charging station deployment, but capacity will become a concern in future years as charging infrastructure and electric vehicles become more ubiquitous,” the plan says.

In addition, some critics have taken aim at Lujan Grisham’s recent announcement of $10 million in state funds from a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to install more electric vehicle charging stations around New Mexico.

Larry Behrens, the communications director for Power the Future, a group that backs extractive industries, described the spending as a “green gimmick” and said most New Mexicans do not have the money to buy electric vehicles.

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