While Gov. Ron DeSantis says he can’t afford a Tesla, he’s all in on adding electric-vehicle charging stations to the state’s highways.
On Friday, DeSantis announced the state will spend $8.6 million from a legal settlement with Volkswagen to add 34 fast-charging stations along Interstate 95, Interstate 4, Interstate 75, Interstate 275 and Interstate 295.
“This comes as Floridians and Americans continue to purchase more and more electric vehicles,” DeSantis said while at the Turkey Lake Service Plaza in Orlando. “Electrical vehicle purchasing in Florida has increased 10-fold in the last nine years. And we expect that trend to continue.”
In all, the state awarded 27 contracts to set up the 34 stations. ChargePoint, a California-based company, and 7-Eleven each got seven contracts to set up stations. Canadian energy storage company eCamion got five contracts. EVgo, with the largest network of fast charging stations in the U.S., got three. Florida Power & Light won two. One each went to OBE Power, Orlando Utilities Commission and Truck Stop 75.
Project selection was based on the proximity of stations to highways and amenities and the importance of hurricane evacuation routes, according to the governor’s office.
DeSantis defended his efforts to reopen the economy when he was asked about approving projects that would benefit owners of Tesla vehicles — with a starting price of $33,690 on the company website — during a time of high unemployment because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to put people back to work,” DeSantis replied. “And yes, look, I can’t afford a Tesla either. But it’s something that as these things become more affordable and more widely available, having that infrastructure there, I think will be really, really positive.”
Amid the massive job losses and business shutdowns caused by the pandemic, the state has put an emphasis on speeding up road projects as a way to keep money flowing and to take advantage of reductions in traffic.
Friday’s announcement came just over a month after DeSantis signed into law a directive (SB 7018) for the Public Service Commission to develop electric-vehicle charging stations along state highways, with the planning done in conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Most of the fast-charging station work will initially be in Central Florida and South Florida, where more electric vehicles are on the road.
“As we get more into this, you know, we’re going to expand across I-10, more into the Panhandle,” DeSantis said.
Money for the charging stations, which are expected to be operational in “weeks,” is coming from $166 million that Florida received as its share of a $14.7 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice over emissions violations.
A total of about $25 million of the state’s share is supposed to go for charging stations.
Last year, the state announced the expansion of privately run charging stations at Florida Turnpike service plazas. DeSantis said the work has been delayed by the pandemic but should be completed within 60 days.
The majority of the state’s share of the settlement is headed to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection initiative intended to voluntarily remove older buses from the roads.