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Florida, No. 2 in nation for electric cars, about to get a boost to its charger network

Electric charging station on a wall
Sam Navarro
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Special for the Miami Herald
New charging stations for electric vehicles were installed on Miami-Dade County property at the county’s West Lot Garage on 220 NW 3rd Street, as part of its transition to low carbon transportation to combat climate change in Miami on Sept. 30, 2021.

Florida has a lot of electric cars — the second-highest number in the nation — and for drivers on long trips or a stressful hurricane evacuation there is always one big question: Where is the next charging station?

Florida has a lot of electric cars — the second-highest number in the nation — and for drivers on long trips or a stressful hurricane evacuation there is always one big question: Where is the next charging station?

That worry may soon ease. The state’s major highways could see potentially 100 new fast chargers thanks to a boost from the federal infrastructure bill the U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday morning. Florida’s initial share of the $5 billion federal pot to expand electric vehicle chargers nationwide was just over $29 million — the third-most nationwide— and more could be on the way in coming years. It’s part of several efforts to expand the charging network across the state.

Switching to electric vehicles is an increasingly popular option and, experts say, one of the most effective strategies for helping the nation transition away from fossil fuels to offset the worst impacts of climate change.

Susan Glickman, spokesperson for the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, said in a statement that this investment will reap big benefits for Floridians.

"Increasing fast chargers along evacuation routes will increase confidence in going electric. Electric vehicles are key to slashing the climate change pollution driving the extreme heat, flooding and sea level rise already harming Floridians’ health,” she said. “Clean cars save on fuel and also avoid tailpipe emissions that cause asthma attacks, emphysema, and some cancers.”

Florida must submit a plan to the federal government by August 1 on how it plans to use the cash, which can be used to install or upgrade fast chargers along the highway system. It’s the first installment of five years of funding, and once each state has built enough chargers along its highway system, the money could go to installing chargers elsewhere in the state.

Florida has the second-most registered electric cars in the county, with a little over 58,000 as of June. According to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, electric cars made up nearly 3% of all cars sold in Florida last year.

It’s hard to guess exactly how fast that number might grow, but calculations submitted by Florida Power and Light predict that the number of electric vehicles in its service territory, most of Florida, could jump to nearly 600,000 by 2030, and cross 8.1 million by 2040.

As the number of electric car drivers grows, so too does the risk that they won’t be able to properly evacuate if a hurricane threatens the coast. Florida’s first-ever electric car roadmap, produced by the Department of Agriculture in 2020, pointed out that most electric drivers live a few miles from the coast.

“Currently there is little infrastructure in the interior of the state to support evacuation, significant portions of I-75, and I-10 in the panhandle have very little fast charging,” the report read. “The acceptance and growth of EVs continues to accelerate in Florida, and reliable, high-speed EV charging facilities are needed to support the evacuation of owners during an emergency.”

Florida has 4,793 slow charging stations and 1,246 fast-charging stations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That puts Florida in a distant third behind California and New York.

A December 2020 statewide report estimated that Florida likely has enough slow chargers to meet state needs for a decade but that the fast chargers currently planned for installation along Florida’s highways will meet the state’s needs only until 2025.

The 34 fast-charging stations already planned to be installed along Florida’s highways are part of Florida’s $166 million settlement from Volkswagen, which was was found guilty of purposely falsifying emissions test results on diesel engines. Some. $8.6 million of that is going toward fast chargers.

Major utilities are getting in on the action too.

Florida Power and Light has already installed more than 400 charging ports across the state, part of its plan to install 1,000 slow charging stations and 75 fast-charging spots across Florida. Tampa Electric plans to spend $2 million to install another 200 charging stations. Duke Energy Florida has already installed 41 fast chargers and 549 slow chargers.

 Alternative Fueling Station Locator map
U.S. Department of Energy
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This Alternative Fueling Station Locator map from the U.S. Department of Energy shows the locations of charging stations for electric vehicles across Florida. U

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