Local electric car owners express frustration over lack of EV infrastructure in Louisiana

Updated: Sep. 14, 2017 at 5:53 PM CDT
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Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As of May, there were about 940 electric cars (or EVs) in Louisiana, according to Ann Shaneyfelt, the executive director of Louisiana Clean Fuels.

We talked to some local EV owners at an event the organization was hosting in downtown Baton Rouge Thursday to raise awareness about the benefits of electric cars. The EV owners we spoke with say they're pleased with their electric cars but are frustrated with the lack of charging stations in the city and across the state.

Jim Waid leases an all-electric 2016 Nissan Leaf and lives in Walker. He works at home, so he says during the week mainly uses his car to drive his son to and from school in Baton Rouge. On the weekends, he also uses the electric car to drive his family around.

Waid says the best part about owning an electric car is the economic value and its environmental impact. The $400 he used to spend on gas every month for his old vehicle pays for the lease payments on his Nissan Leaf. And charging the car at home only adds about $10-$20 a month to his electric bill.

His vehicle has a range of about 120 miles in on a full battery. But certain variables like driving speed and A/C use can lower that number. The range of the car is Waid's least favorite part. So, for longer trips, his family takes his wife's car which is gas powered.

Katrice Roman lives and works in Baton Rouge and owns an electric 2105 BMW i3. Her car is slightly different because it has an electric battery and gas-powered generator that extends the range of the vehicle. The battery alone has a range of about 50-80 miles and the generator adds an additional range of about 80-100 miles.

So, for long drives, like to New Orleans, she fills up the generator's two-gallon gas tank. The generator charges the battery as she is driving. And for even longer trips, BMW offers a mobility plan in which they'll let her use a gas-powered vehicle.

Roman likes the fact her vehicle has low emissions but is frustrated with the lack of parking with electric charge stations in Baton Rouge. She says while there are some charging stations downtown, most of the parking spots are taken up by non-electric vehicles. Waid said he has the same problem when he takes his family downtown on the weekends.

There are currently ten charging stations in downtown Baton Rouge. The EV parking spots contain two charging ports and are located on Lafayette Street by the old state capitol, in the Third Street parking garage, Louisiana Avenue, on Main Street by the Main Street Market, and on Lafayette Street by IBM.

Electric vehicles can be charged with a standard wall outlet, known as a Level 1 charger, and take up to 10-12 hours to fully charge the car battery. Owners can buy a faster charger that uses a 2-10 outlet. Those take about 2-4 hours to fully charge the car battery and can cost upwards of $400-$700.

More powerful Level 3 chargers can fully charge an EV car battery in less than an hour. However, there are currently no Level 3 charging stations in Louisiana. Secretary of Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Dr. Chuck Brown told a group of owners at the event that he hopes to bring some to Louisiana through a settlement with Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice.

As part of the settlement, Volkswagen is investing $2.5 million to building fast charging stations in the U.S., according to Dr. Brown. He says he has put Louisiana on the list to receive money to build the fast charge stations from Volkswagen.

During the event, Dr. Brown also spoke to electric car owners about the lack of electric car infrastructure in Louisiana.  The LDEQ secretary said he will propose adding an electric vehicle to his department's fleet to his fellow board members. He also said he will encourage other state agencies to add at least one electric vehicle to their fleet and add charging stations to parking garages.

Electric car drivers can use a variety of apps and websites such as https://www.afdc.energy.gov/locator/stations/ to find nearby charging stations.

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