New Mexico prepares for increased power grid demands as more electric vehicles hit the road
Electric vehicles could soon prove a widespread alternative to fossil fuel-driven cars and trucks in New Mexico, but could present a challenge to the state's power grid as drivers seek to charge up their vehicles.
A charging network, funded through a federal grant program, would first focus on interstate highways between major cities in New Mexico like Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces
It will support a growing electric transportation sector in New Mexico which ranked 34th in the nation for registered electric vehicles (EVs) with 2,620, per a report from automotive analytics group CoPilot, but was expected to grow by 164 percent annually in the coming years, state officials said.
An average electric vehicle uses about 400 kilowatt hours a month, per a report from renewable energy group EnergySage.
That's almost half of the roughly 900 kilowatt hours an average home uses monthly, read a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
New Mexicans voiced concern for how the charging stations would be powered and the cost to drivers, said Mary Jane Parks, a solar energy innovator fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy working with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) on EVs.
She shared the statewide apprehensions during an an Aug. 25 meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s interim Water and Natural Resources Committee.
Parks said the PRC and NMDOT’s public hearings held this summer throughout New Mexico in its six transportation districts helped the agencies understand where EV charging was needed and where interest was high.
Plans were submitted by New Mexico’s three main utility providers Public Service Company New Mexico (PNM), Xcel Energy and El Paso Electric and were approved by the PRC, Parks said, as to how the charging network would be powered and offerings for home chargers.
She said New Mexico’s market growth in zero-emission vehicles like EVs was following a national trend as more Americans become concerns with pollution and government programs make electrification more affordable.
Parks said the DOE expects utilities will not see any challenges in providing power to electric vehicle chargers in the “short term.”
“In the short term, they feel utilities we be able to meet the demand of electric vehicles with their current supply resources,” she said. “It’s the medium- to long-term planning in order to meet an expanding demand of electric vehicles, more energy sources coming online to meet this extensive growth in electricity.”
New Mexico Rep. Tara Lujan (D-48) said she was also worried for how the power load would be met as electric vehicles grew in use in the coming years, increasing demands of New Mexico’s grid.
“We’re in a critical time right now,” she said. “It was said to us that we’re really behind on planning.”
Electric vehicle charging to focus on urban centers, interstates
Charging stations will first appear near urban centers and areas of high EV use, said Program Director Paul Montoya, with the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
Rural areas like southeast New Mexico would be targeted next, he said, installing charging stations on roads and highways would be focused on next in heavily trafficked areas like U.S. Highway 285 known for dense oilfield traffic in and out of the Permian Basin.
“To look at electrifying all regions, public and private throughout the state of New Mexico, and to make sure we’re addressing the equity as far as EV infrastructure for all of our citizens in the state,” Montoya said.
The funding came from a combination of state funds and a $38 million grant the State announced in July via the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law last year by President Joe Biden.
The Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden in August, Montoya said, could also unlock federal funding through incentives for electric vehicle development New Mexico could use to further its program.
New Mexico was the first state to join the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan, in submitting its plan Aug. 1.
The plan was intended to see charging stations every 50 along interstates in the state.
New Mexico has three interstate roads: I-10 connecting Las Cruces to east to west with Arizona via Lordsburg, I-25 traveling north to south from Colorado, through Santa Fe and Albuquerque to Las Cruces, and I-40 heading east and west from Arizona, again through Albuquerque to New Mexico’s eastern border with Texas.
That’s about 1,000 interstate lane miles, combined with 404 miles of state highways and 729 U.S. highway miles.
The “alternative fuel corridor” on these roads would entail about 42 charging stations, Montoya said.
For its lack of interstate roads, the southeast corner of the state along with other rural areas weren’t included, Montoya said, in planning the first stage of New Mexico EV charging network.
Montoya said the charging stations could also create jobs in low-income communities along the network.
“We are hoping to be as efficient as we could with these funds to that we can now utilize any remaining funds that we have to look at all four corners of our state for EV infrastructure,” he said.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.