Electric vehicles (EVs) give the United States a chance to get off its dependence on foreign oil and cut back significantly on air pollution. However, to make EVs a practical option for most motorists requires a significant investment in infrastructure–which car companies seem unwilling to make.

To help bring EVs to fruition on U.S. roadways, the Department of Energy (DoE) is investing $4 million to build electric highway corridors throughout Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. The DoE selected Rocky Mountain Power to develop 1,500 miles of electric corridors along Interstate 15, I-80, I-70, and I-84. Rocky Mountain Power will use the grant to develop smart mobility programs to encourage electric car-sharing, and advance the use of electric bikes and buses to create an emission-free community.

“Our goal is to have enough charging stations to help electric vehicles go from Disneyland to Yellowstone and everywhere in between,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power president and CEO.

The grant hopes to double the number of EVs in the region in the next 10 years to more than 50,000. This increase in EVs would mean an annual reduction of 251 million pounds of CO2 emissions and 24.9 million gallons of gasoline.

“Vehicles contribute about half of the emissions during winter inversions,” said Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “Therefore, replacing our fleet with low- or no-emission vehicles is a critical strategy to clean our air. This electric vehicle initiative is an important step toward that goal.”

With the grant Rocky Mountain Power plans to build DC fast chargers every 100 miles along the highway corridors and AC level 2 chargers in every major community in the region; offer incentives for employers to install charging stations at their places of work; help businesses purchase 200 EVs and more than 13,800 electric rental vehicles; evaluate the impact of the charging stations on the electric grid; and build community partnerships to develop smart mobility programs to use technology, collect data, and develop best practices to meet long-term transportation plans.

This map indicates planned electric highway corridors, as well as communities that will receive charging stations. (Image: Rocky Mountain Power)

“More electric vehicles on the road means fewer emissions in the air,” said Utah State Rep. V. Lowry Snow. “These incentives will mean more chargers and less range anxiety for motorists who want to purchase an electric vehicle.”

The work will take place over the next several years and requires collaboration across multiple states, government agencies, and organizations, including the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development, the Idaho National Laboratory, the Utah State University Center for Sustainable Electrified Transportation, the University of Utah, and Utah Clean Cities Coalition.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs