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Kansas City to install EV chargers on streetlight poles

Kansas City plans to bolster its electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure with chargers built into light poles along its streets, providing an option for drivers without access to charging stations at home.

The Kansas City Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) is working with several partners, including Evergy, to install 50 chargers along the city’s existing infrastructure. The project, funded through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, has been in the works for more than three years and is heading into its pilot stage later this year.

Wendy Marine, senior project manager for Evergy, said the project would allow more Kansas City drivers to use EVs without worrying about finding a charging station. Evergy has already installed more than 1,000 stations throughout its service area.

“One of the things we know from that experience is that people need to feel confident that they can drive an electric vehicle,” Marine told The Missouri Times. “Drivers need to know that they’re everywhere — where they live, work, and play — and feel comfortable driving an electric vehicle. We want to make sure these are in very public areas where people can easily access them.”

The chargers will provide about 22 miles of range per hour of charging, according to Marine, and match local charging stations’ rates of around $1.50 per hour. 

The coalition is surveying the city’s infrastructure to prepare for the installations, seeking to decide on 50 locations across the city. Marine said the groups were modeling best practices for the rollout and gathering community feedback as it prepares for its next steps. 

“There’s been a lot of engagement among the partners to evaluate where the existing charging stations are and where we anticipate the need,” she said. “We’re looking at neighborhoods and traffic patterns and retail locations to try and get this right. They’re reaching out to neighborhoods to get their feedback and working to narrow the list to 50 site locations.”

While pole-mounted EV chargers have gained popularity in Europe, only a handful of cities in California, Massachusetts, and Oregon have networks in place in the U.S. Marine said the project would provide data for other communities seeking to install accessible networks while bolstering Kansas City’s economy and clean energy initiatives. 

“There are a lot of things to think about: The infrastructure that’s in place now, accessibility, how much the installation will cost,” Marine said. “This is a holistic project that we’re all seeking to learn from.”

About 80 percent of EV charging occurs at home, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a barrier for homeowners and renters who may not have access to garages or stations wherever they keep their vehicles. 

This isn’t the first EV advancement facilitated by Kansas City and Evergy this year: Evergy sponsored two zero-emissions buses for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in April, an ongoing investment for the city. Kansas City is also the manufacturing home of Ford’s new electric F-150 and E-Transit vans

Missouri’s electric cooperatives are leading the push for EV infrastructure in rural communities, be it personal transportation or the state’s first electric school bus

Missouri is also expected to receive $99 million over the next five years to expand its EV charging network as part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in addition to the opportunity to vie for an additional $2.5 billion in grant funding.