BEMIDJI -- Electric vehicle drivers in Bemidji will have a fourth spot to charge up in the near future thanks to a state agency and a Minneapolis business.
ZEF Energy Inc., was awarded funds through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to install 22 charging stations throughout the state, with one of them to be placed in Bemidji. According to an MPCA release, the investment will increase the state's charging network by 1,110 miles.
Communities selected to receive 50 KW charging stations include Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, Mankato, Marshall, Rochester and Willmar, while Albert Lea will have a 150 KW station installed. Rebecca Place, MPCA electric vehicle coordinator, said there are 13 station locations still to be determined.
"The 50 KW stations will allow people to charge a car in about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on your car's battery," Place said. "The 150 KW station will be able to charge a car in about 15 minutes."
In total, the investment for charging stations comes to $1.39 million. According to Place, the funds come from a national Volkswagen diesel emission mitigation settlement.
"We were awarded $47 million through the settlement," Place said. "It's available in a 10-year approach and we're just finishing phase one, which had $11.75 million. Phase two has $23 million from 2020-2024 and the last phase will have about $11 million, too, with 2025-2026."
Place said the agency is accepting comments now for suggestions on how to distribute the $23 million over the next four years. The funds, Place said, can be used to either replace diesel engines in heavy machinery, buses and trucks with ones that are more efficient, or add electric charging stations.
For the Bemidji location, ZEF Energy Founder and CEO Matthew Blackler said his company is working with the city of Bemidji to determine a good location to install the station.
"We're looking for a spot with a lot of retail, where someone has something to do while their car charges basically," Blackler said. "We want to make sure it's a positive for the city. We want the most amount of value for these pieces of infrastructure."
The community's three charging stations have been in operation since July 2016. They're located at the City Hall Parking lot, Paul Bunyan Park parking lot and at BSU's campus on the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex parking lot.
To submit comments on MPCA's phase two, visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/vw-phase-2.