Fort Payne awarded grant for electric vehicle charging stations

Fort Payne is among 18 Alabama communities that will see the installation of electric vehicle charging stations near interstates and other major highways following the awarding of $4.1 million in grants to fund up to 80% of the cost. Many of the planned charging stations are along the Interstate 20/59 corridor with the goal of there being a gap of no more than 50 miles between charging locations to overcome consumer concerns with vehicle “range anxiety”.

The Fort Payne Improvement Authority applied for the $45,500 grant, working with the City of Fort Payne to install two electric vehicle charging stations at the recently modified parking lot on Fifth Street North. The area is outside the Fort Payne Depot Museum and the building where Fort Payne Main Street is relocating and has hosted a weekly farmer’s market.

At a Fort Payne City Council meeting in February, FPIA General Manager Mike Shirey said the charging stations could be installed and operational as soon as mid-summer. The stations are expected to attract visitors to the city to spend tourist dollars at local stores and restaurants while their vehicles charge. The city is considering ways to monetize the stations with promotional ads or signage.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced the grants through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), which manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management. The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and Alabama Power Co. are also partnering in the program.

“We have begun the journey of transforming vehicles operated by fossil fuels into those powered by electricity, and it’s important that motorists be able to charge their vehicles when traveling along the interstate and other major highways in Alabama” Gov. Ivey said. “Many of the vehicles manufactured right here in Alabama plants have already begun this transition, and it is exciting to come onboard with these projects to support these vehicles as they become more readily available and more Alabamians choose to drive them.”

ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said, “This program will have a range of positive impacts in Alabama from creating cleaner air to helping to sell more vehicles manufactured right here in Alabama. ADECA is pleased to join with Governor Ivey and the many partners in this program.”

Funds came from the Volkswagen Settlement Plan and the Alabama Legislature. The VW settlement arose from an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding VW’s violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Alabama was among states receiving settlement funds. Funds from the same settlement were used for a grant that enabled the Fort Payne City Schools to add the state’s first 100% electric school buses to the fleet.

Michael Staley, president of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, said the grants will “help bring Alabama motorists into the electric vehicle age.”

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations are available in the United States, deployed in key areas for public charging. Consumers are likely to do the majority of their charging at home.

Electricity can be used to power all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by drawing power directly from the electricity grid and other off-board electrical power sources and storing it in batteries. Hybrid electric vehicles use electricity to boost fuel efficiency. Using electricity to power vehicles can have significant benefits, Staley said, including increased energy security, improved fuel economy, lower fuel costs, and reduction in toxic carbon dioxide emissions.

The electric vehicle market is expected to get a huge boost with Ford recently introducing an all electric version of its best-selling F-150 truck.

DeKalb County offers some form of charging at Donohoo Chevrolet, Mentone Brow Park, Tranquility RV & Campgrounds in Mentone, DeSoto State Park and Hampton Inn in Fort Payne.

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