More electric vehicle charging stations could start cropping up around Wisconsin if the Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers approve a bill that would change how such stations are regulated.
The bill, introduced in the state Senate last fall, would exempt EV charging stations from being regulated as utilities, paving the way for more private businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, big-box stores, amusement parks and gas stations to own and operate chargers.
The bill would allow private businesses to charge customers based on the amount of electricity they use — similar to being charged for gas by the gallon — rather than by how long they use the charger. The state currently only allows regulated utilities to charge EV station customers this way.
“While we want to expand offerings at our stores to meet needs of our guests in Wisconsin, the inability to charge by kilowatt-hour has reduced our production,” Jenny Malcore, a government relations analyst with Kwik Trip convenience stores, said at a Dec. 19 public hearing of the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology on the bill.
The change would allow more businesses to open EV stations, but it would also allow the state to collect more than $78 million in federal funding to help pay for EV charging stations and infrastructure. But the funds, which would come from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, are set to expire if the state doesn’t enact the bill by March 31.
The bill has received bipartisan support, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu told the Wisconsin State Journal there’s hope that it can move through and be approved by the Legislature in the coming months.
“There’s been a lot of input on this bill, and we hope in the end that it’s bipartisan. We want to get this thing passed and signed into law,” Republican Sen. Howard Marklein said at the hearing, noting the authors were open to possible tweaks to the bill. “The goal here is to get this thing passed.”
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to use the NEVI federal funds to develop EV charging stations at more than 60 locations along major corridors around the state. The federal funds will pay for about 80% of the project, DOT Secretary Craig Thompson told Wisconsin Public Radio in November.
The bill would also impose a 3-cent per kilowatt-hour tax on electricity sold at EV charging stations, similar to the state’s gas tax. The state Department of Revenue estimated that this would produce $3.1 million in excise tax revenue for fiscal year 2025.
State and local governments wouldn’t be allowed to sell electricity at EV charging stations under the new proposal — so the DOT won’t own any of the dozens of new stations it plans to help develop — but they could lease property to private businesses to use for that purpose.
Expanding EV charging stations will help commuters as well as boost tourism in the state, officials said, especially in rural communities.
“This bill will create new opportunities for nontraditional places of business to support EV drivers. In many cases, hotels, amusement parks, movie theaters or shopping complexes will look to install charging stations,” said Nate Boettcher, the president and CEO of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services and the board chair of the Midwest regional charging network Charge EV.
The utility has already installed three charging stations at two wineries in Pierce County.
“As the saying goes, we want EV drivers, especially those from across the border, to visit our local establishments and have another reason to stay a little longer and spend their money in Wisconsin,” Boettcher said.
“This EV tourism has become a way for us to attract additional revenue into our rural communities,” he said. “Combined with newly installed fiber optic internet that allows for public hotspots, we are finally giving these rural businesses a chance to compete for the amenities that were missing just a couple of years earlier.”