Local governments cash in on federally subsidized EVs

The demand for electric vehicles continues to crater, leading Tesla, Ford, GM and VW to dramatically cut back production lines. Ford alone estimates a loss of $4.5 billion on electric vehicles in 2023.

Despite the unpopularity of EVs among consumers, they’re just catching on in one sector, as taxpayer funding finally starts trickling down to local governments, two years after Congress passed the Infrastructure and Investment Act.

Some Minnesota counties aren’t wasting any time in cashing in on the good deal they get on EVs under the legislation’s Carbon Reduction Program, according to the Fairmont Sentinel.

“They’re estimating the truck cost will be a little over $76,000 for each county. The CRP grant will be about 80 percent so that will make the local cot to each county about $15,000,” [Martin County Engineer Kevin] Peyman said.

The desire to have the truck used by the highway department was expressed by Peyman but he said he’s okay with other uses, too.

“It would just be hard to not get a vehicle for $15,000 when we have the opportunity,” Peyman said.

Under the program, Minnesota will disperse nearly $21 million annually to be distributed by MnDOT for a variety of purported carbon reduction efforts.

The purpose of the program is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from on-road highway sources.

To use the Carbon Reduction Program funds, Minnesota must ask for, select and obligate eligible projects. This requires teamwork, coordination and cooperation at all levels of government.

Unfortunately, that teamwork evidently took some time to materialize. Faced with losing 35 percent of the federal allotment for the first two years of CRP, MnDOT blew much of it on sprucing up ten pedestrian bridges.

…the overall intent was to obligate the funds to eligible projects to avoid a lapse in CRP funding…

The lax list of qualifying projects for local governments to seek funding includes snow fencing, LED lighting in parking ramps and roundabouts, which are “eligible without emissions reduction demonstration.”

But Martin County, along with five neighboring counties, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a new e-truck at a cut rate cost with federal tax dollars. At the same time, county commissioners acknowledged there may still be a price to be paid, given a lack of charging stations and other drawbacks of electric vehicles.

[Martin County Commissioner Jaime] Bleess asked how and where the vehicle will be charged and how much it will cost to set that up.

Peyman said a “slow charge” regular outlet will be included. He said in theory they will charge the vehicle every night and a question of where to keep the vehicle still remains.

He acknowledged that there are some limitations to it, but again reiterated that the grant helps with the cost, as opposed to if the county were purchasing one on its own. Peyman also said the county won’t be billed until after the truck is ordered and delivered, which could be a year yet.

Such a deal, not so much for taxpayers, but rather for the auto manufacturers facing a challenge in moving e-vehicles off the lot.