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Northern Wisconsin a target of state’s push to expand electric vehicle charging network

The planned locations of the 53 new electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin DOT
The planned locations of the 53 new electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation sometimes hears skepticism when people in the northern part of the state talk about buying an electric vehicle.

The problem?

“When you get to rural Wisconsin, there is little to no publicly-available electric vehicle charging stations,” said Kaleb Vander Wiele, the Transportation Electrification Project Manager for the DOT.

The DOT is planning to change that.

It announced it is awarding $23 million dollars to 53 locations to build new electric vehicle chargers.

“We believe they should have opportunities to charge that electric vehicle as they travel the state. They shouldn’t be limited to just charging at home. They should have some freedom to visit all of the places around Wisconsin that they usually like to visit,” Vander Wiele said.

The DOT put a particular emphasis on expanding charging opportunities in the north, perhaps giving more rural residents an incentive to consider an EV.

“The lack of publicly-available charging is the main anecdote we hear from users of the system and people who want to buy an electric vehicle, why they would not do that,” Vander Wiele said. “In speaking to northern Wisconsin, when we think about U.S. 8, we’re excited to be funding a project in a variety of locations, including Crandon, Armstrong Creek, [and] Rhinelander.”

The chargers will be placed along Wisconsin’s designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, which include U.S. highways 2, 8, and 51 and State Highway 29 in our area.

Location was a factor in selecting grant recipients, but the first priority was something else.

“Mostly, we considered amenities. Are you able to purchase something to eat, use a restroom, and have the types of things that you may have as a convenience when you [refuel]? When you look at lot of our projects, you’ll see a lot of fuel retail and convenience locations. You’ll also see a few restaurants and some big-box retail stores as well,” Vander Wiele said.

The first grant-funded chargers could be operational this fall, with most coming online next year.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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