More than four years after New Hampshire announced that it would use $4.6 million from the “dieselgate” settlement to build public electric-vehicle charging stations, a contract has finally been signed to build one.
The contract, announced Thursday, would install charging stations at the Errol General Store in Errol, near Umbagog Lake on the Maine border, well north of the White Mountains. This location is at the intersection of state routes 16 and 26, two of the main travel corridors in the North Country, and fills the gap in a charging desert. The closest public charging stations in New Hampshire are in Gorham to the south or Colebrook to the west, both at least an hour’s drive away, or in Rangeley, Maine.
The Errol General Store, a well-known landmark in the region, burned down in July 2021, but is being rebuilt.
It was not clear Thursday if the project would involved Level 3 chargers, which can “fill up” an electric vehicle’s battery in as little as 15 minutes, or Level 2 chargers, which can take several hours. Installing Level 3 chargers often involves expensive upgrades to the local power grid.
The contract must be approved by the Executive Council. “Contracts for additional charging sites across the state will be submitted to the Executive Council in the coming months as they are finalized with the selected recipients,” Gov. Sununu’s office said in a press release.
The money for the stations will come from the N.H. Volkswagen Mitigation Trust, made up of funds paid by Volkswagen as settlement for an emissions-rigging scandal. A request for proposals to use this money drew bids for EV charging infrastructure at 35 sites in 25 towns and cities.
The announcement will be welcome news to electric-vehicle supporters, who have long complained that New Hampshire is a laggard in public EV charging compared to all the states around us. A 2019 presentation by Eversource called New Hampshire the “missing link” in fast charging stations, and the situation has not changed much since then.
As the use of electric vehicles grows, public charging is seen as an increasingly important lure for tourists as well as making EVs possible for people who can’t charge at home, such as apartment-house dwellers.
This is the second time the state has sought to use the “Dieselgate” money for EV chargers, but the first set of specifications were so restrictive than nobody bid on them.
The VW scandal involved the carmaker rigging its diesel cars to cheat on air pollution tests. The settlement was $15 billion, of which about $31 million came to New Hampshire. The state spent half on buying new diesel vehicles by state and local governments.