TOPEKA, Kansas (KCTV, KSMO) -- Traveling across Kansas in an electric vehicle will soon be easier thanks to a federal grant of nearly $40 million.

That will help people taking longer trips than their usual commute, but the benefit could extend even to those who don’t drive electric vehicles. And the long game isn’t just about the Teslas you see driving around town.

The impact could be felt in trucking and shipping, where their bottom line can trickle down to consumers.

John Puetz got his electric car about a year ago and is loving it.

“Just the ability to basically not have to pay for gas. Not paying for gas, especially with the gas price being so high. It’s really nice,” said Puetz while charging his Tesla at the Hy-Vee in Mission, Kansas.

But long trips can take some serious planning to find stations along the way and the typical charging stations involve a lot of sit-and-wait time. He was using a Tesla “super charge” station, which is only compatible with Tesla vehicles. Ordinary charging stations, he said, typically require six hours to get a full charge.

The additional charging stations being put in by KDOT use a newer technology called direct current fast chargers (DCFC).

Cory Davis, KDOT director of multimodal transportation and innovation, said there are currently 454 publicly operated charging stations and 951 ports in the state, but only 24 of those are DCFC.

The grant will help fund 16 more along designated EV charging corridors, which include I-70, I-35 and US-400. The federal program requires that they be spaced about 50 miles apart to provide good coverage along those corridors.

“The ultimate plan is to build out those corridors at first to allow travel within Kansas and then ultimately travel to destinations within Kansas and local communities and tourism type markets,” Davis said.

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program will provide $39.5 million to Kansas Department of Transportation’s Charge Up Kansas NEVI Plan over the next five years to help build a high-powered EV charging network across the state.

Davis said there are currently more than 4,000 electric vehicles registered in Kansas, and that number has been growing by 34 percent each year.

Not all of them are passenger vehicles. At the Hy-Vee charging station, KCTV5 happened upon an executive for EO Charging, an international company that builds “behind-the-fence” charging depots for fleets.

“Last-mile delivery is kind of the hottest sector now for commercial EVs,” EO Charging president of the Americas Tim Weaver said. “School buses are catching up very, very quickly.”

Last-mile delivery refers to the final step of the delivery process when a package goes from its warehouse to a retail store or your front door. A Prime example (pun fitting but not intended) is an Amazon delivery truck.

“The advantage of last-mile [for EV] is there’s no range anxiety. To a tenth of a mile, those vans and trucks go the same route every day,” explained Weaver, “but as you break out over those routes, you start to look at freight corridors, and that’s where a combination of public and private charging really pays off and extends what an EV can do.”

In other words, a fast-charging and strategically spaced network along major transportation corridors is essential for EV to work for freight service.

Weaver said the evolution of EV matters for clean air, but it also affects the bottom line.

“The fuel and the service are about 70 percent less electric versus diesel,” Weaver said. “If you still want free delivery five years from now, Amazon has to be doing it with an EV. Diesel is too expensive.”

The federal grant does require a local match. Davis said that could include a variety of funding sources both public and private. For example, a truck stop might want to partner on the project because the charging station would bring them additional business.

He added that the federal program does provide the first two years of funding upfront.

“We do have the first two years of federal funding. We’re confident in local partnerships to come up with that local match. And the plan being approved allows us to go out and spend those funds now,” said Davis.

KDOT intends to do a call for projects in the first quarter of 2023 and have the first set of charging stations up and running by late 2023 or the start of 2024.

The map below shows intended locations. The purple and green are existing DCFC locations. The blue are locations where building is already underway. The red are the locations targeted by the grant.

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