State’s EV charging plans stall amid lack of bids

Electric vehicle fans anticipating fast-charging stations along New Hampshire highways will have to wait some more.

Plans to use $4.6 million from the VW “dieselgate” settlement to install DC fast chargers along 6 major routes in New Hampshire are on hold because there were no suitable bids to the state’s request for proposals last winter. The RFP is being reworked but COVID-19 restrictions have gotten in the way and no new release date has been announced.

“There were no qualifying bids for the RFP and it is being re-worked based on information gathered through a listening session and comments submitted following that session,” said Rebecca Ohler of the Air Resources Division of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Those suggestions ranged from the technical – such as requiring at least a 50 kW power rating and Open Charge Point Protocols for network communication – to questions about who should own the stations, to more general suggestions.

Among the latter, EVGo, a firm that operates 800 fast-charging stations in 34 states, recommends that New Hampshire concentrate on the center of cities rather than just interstate highways because apartments and townhouses in dense urban areas often lack personal charging stations that are available in single-family homes.

Brianna Brand, senior program director for Clean Energy NH, a group that participated in discussions for a new RFP, said she believed one problem with the first RFP is that the state wanted a single company to build and own most or all of the stations. The business model for most firms in this area involves the charging stations being owned by the developer or site owner, while the companies provide software and operations.

New Hampshire is a laggard in terms of public vehicle-charging stations compared to its neighbors. Except for a few Tesla-only charging stations, such as those at the Hooksett tolls, the state has relatively few easily accessible chargers open to the public.

Money for the charging stations comes from New Hampshire’s portion of a $15 billion settlement of a U.S. government lawsuit against Volkswagen for rigging its diesel vehicles’ computers to cheat emissions tests. The settlement is distributed to states based on the number of vehicles affected; New Hampshire is receiving $31 million.

As previously announced, $4.6 million of the state’s money will build charging infrastructure for electric vehicles; $15.5 million will go toward replacing diesel-powered vehicles owned by state and local governments, including school buses; $6.2 million will be up for bids from public or private groups that have proposals for ways to spend it that will meet the program’s goals of reducing the state’s air pollution caused by vehicles; and $4.6 million has been earmarked for administrative costs.