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Electric car chargers, cleaner school buses in the offering from VW settlement

  • An electric car charging station is seen at Granite State Credit Union in Tilton on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz



Monitor staff
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Hampshire will get $4.6 million to build charging stations for electric cars from the huge settlement from Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal, giving a boost to the state’s efforts in the electric-vehicle race.

The money is available from the state’s portion of a $15 billion settlement of a lawsuit by the U.S. government against Volkswagen for rigging its diesel vehicle’s computers to cheat emissions tests and downplay emissions of nitrogen oxide. The settlement is distributed to states based on the number of vehicles affected; New Hampshire is receiving $31 million.

Applications for its use will start being collected next month; the money is supposed to be spent within seven years to offset pollution from vehicles.

As indicated in what is known as the Environmental Mitigation Plan released last week, half of New Hampshire’s money – $15.5 million – will go toward replacing older, more polluting diesel-powered vehicles owned by state and local governments, including school buses. They can be replaced with cleaner diesel or alternative-fuel vehicles, which in some cases could be electric-diesel hybrids or even all-electric buses and trucks.

Another $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. A final $4.6 million has been earmarked for administrative costs.

The money for electric-vehicle charging could be the most visible effect of the settlement. New Hampshire has very few publicly visible electric charging stations, led by Tesla-only chargers on Interstate-93 and Interstate-95. A few dozen others exist – there is no official count – mostly at hotels or car dealerships.

Massachusetts and Vermont both have more visible electric-car charging stations than New Hampshire, a function of those states’ support for the technology.

The lack of electric-vehicle equivalent of gas stations means electric-car drivers contemplating long trips have to plan carefully before heading out. This isn’t as big a problem as it may sound because electric vehicles can be plugged in at home or work, and recharge that way. It is possible, even common, to own an electric car for years and do all the driving you want without ever needing to visit the electronic version of a gas pump.

However, many electric-vehicle advocates argue that a lack of highly visible public chargers makes people leery about buying an electric car, even if they would rarely need them in real life.

It’s not certain how many public chargers the $4.5 million will produce. During public input about how to spend the money, some argued that it would be more effective subsidizing chargers at private businesses or at apartment complexes, places where they are less likely to be installed than at single-family homes.

Some of the money is likely to go toward signage and

As for the money to replace older diesel vehicles, $9.3 million will be available to towns and school districts while the remaining $6.2 million will go to state agencies. Most municipalities and agencies will have to pay a 20 percent match.

The Office of Strategic Initiatives, which is overseeing the Mitigation Plan, estimates that 4,300 municipal vehicles and 160 state vehicles could qualify for replacement under the program, although there isn’t enough money to replace all of them.

The first solicitation will focus on replacing aging school buses, either with newer, cleaner diesel buses or with buses that use other fuels such as propane, or diesel-electric hybrid or even full electric buses.

The OSI says about 50 percent of the approximately 2,500 school buses in the state are diesel powered, and more than 500 would potentially qualify for replacement or re-powering.