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Kansas Trails The National Average In Preparing For The Move To Electric Cars

An electric vehicle is plugged in at a public charging station in Lenexa, Kansas.
Brian_Grimmett
/
Kansas News Service
An electric vehicle is plugged in at a public charging station in Lenexa, Kansas.

Kansas scores well for the number of charging stations it has in the eastern part of the state, but not so much when it comes to tax incentives and planning for a move away from the internal combustion engine.

The electrification of cars and small trucks is on the horizon, but the state of Kansas is doing the bare minimum to be prepared.

A new state scorecard from the advocacy group the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranks the state 29th, with a score of 15.5 out of 100.

Only five states scored at least half of the available points.

“This means that all states can improve their policies,” said Bryan Howard, the scorecard’s lead author.

He said the scorecard is intended to help identify the most promising policies related to EVs and EV-charging infrastructure.

The rankings evaluated states based on actions taken to promote and support the use of electric vehicles. That included how much charging infrastructure exists, what kind of financial incentives or tax breaks are available and whether or not a state has set any goals for better outfitting itself for cars that need to plug in.

Kansas scored poorly in almost every category.

The few highlights for Kansas include the number of publicly available charging stations, although most are found in the more populated eastern part of the state.

The state also received points because Evergy, the state’s largest electric utility, offers special rates for EV owners who charge up at times when the demand for electricity is lowest.

The report suggests that Kansas and other low-scoring states could start to improve scores by setting some goals.

“You know the state’s that have kind of established that North star,” Nick Voris, manager of electrification products and services at Evergy, said. “They act differently than those that don’t.”

As a company that would make more money from the electrification of transportation, Evergy backs several of the policies recommended in the report.

State legislators are currently considering one of those recommendations — a bill that would allow businesses to charge customers for using EV charging stations the same way gas stations sell fuel.

Right now that would be considered selling electricity, and any company that sells it would be regulated like a public utility.

“This is a critical step in setting up a robust and competitive marketplace for electric vehicle charging services,” said Justin Wilson, of electric vehicle charging company.

Mark Augustine is the president of several 24/7 Travel Stores in Kansas. He told a Kansas House committee considering the bill that he’d like to be able to charge people’s cars up just like he sells them gasoline. He already has some federal funding lined up to help him purchase the equipment.

“But I need the regulatory side of this energy source to catch up to offer this service,” he said.

The state is also working on using $2.3 million dollars from the federal settlement of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal to help expand EV charging infrastructure into more rural parts of the state. The money has not been made available yet, but when it is, it will improve the state’s score.

Moves like General Motors pledging to make all cars and SUVs electric by 2035 and President Biden calling for the complete electrification of federal fleet vehicles indicate that the push for better state support for electric vehicles will only increase over the next decade.

But the report says Kansas just isn’t quite ready … yet.

“I’m not sure we're at the point yet where the state is pushing that, ‘Yes, we need to do this,’” said Tami Alexander, program coordinator for Central Kansas Clean Cities Coalition. “But we’re getting there.”

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment, energy and natural resources for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter@briangrimmettor email him at grimmett (at) kmuw (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to.
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