City of South Bend seeks public input on electric vehicle charging plans
If you live or work in South Bend and drive an electric vehicle, the city wants to hear from you.
The city on Monday announced it will gather public input over the next month on its electrical vehicle charging availability. Conducting the public comment period is part of a plan that will make it easier for the city to receive grants to help it pay for the installation of more city-owned EV charging stations.
The city of South Bend government now operates seven stations, all around the downtown area, or the city’s core. By the year 2030, the city projects running 38 stations, says Alex Bazan, its director of sustainability.
“There’s a growing demand for EV charging stations and so, as the percentage of EV drivers increases, the availability of public charging stations also will be a growing challenge,” Bazan said.
In locating the new stations, the challenge lies in finding areas that are more accessible to people near the city’s outskirts, yet are still in areas that see enough traffic to make the stations’ placement as efficient as possible.
Another major challenge for cities is to ramp up EV station availability fast enough to meet consumer demand but not so fast that money is wasted by adding too many. Of course, these are uncharted waters for any city.
By 2030, combining city-operated EV stations and those that are privately run, South Bend’s report estimates the city will need anywhere from 700 to 1,700 stations.
In addition to giving the city input on where more stations are needed, the city also hopes residents will tell it how it should incentivize businesses to add stations, such as through tax incentives.
John Liberatore stopped Monday at a city-operated EV station on Jefferson Boulevard next to Howard Park to charge is all-electric Nissan Leaf. As it charged for an hour and a half while he waited to pick up his kids, Liberatore planned to walk across the street to The General, where he’d have a coffee and a snack.
“The General is going to get money from me. I’m going to patronize this local business because that’s where the charge is. It’s in a convenient place,” Liberatore said. “I think a business has kind of a captive audience when they have a charger out in front of it. It’s nice to get out of the house. I’m really glad the city provides these charging stations. I come here fairly often to plug in. I live not to far down that way, and, you know, win-win.”
Bazan said the federal government also is ramping up EV station development so there will be many more stations outside city limits coming in the near future.
“Having them not only downtown but in other parts of the city should also alleviate some anxiety that might come with, ‘Oh I’m coming from Elkhart. Is there a charging station sort of on the outskirts of the city that I can utilize before I enter the downtown area?’” Bazan said.
As more stations become available, Bazan says automakers also will design batteries that last longer.
To read the city’s plan, go to southbendin.gov/sustainability and look for “Public Feedback On Draft EV Infrastructure Plan.” Comments can be emailed to EVPlan@southbendin.gov. The city will collect public feedback through Nov. 1.