Dothan Utilities installs EV chargers as part of AMEA initiative

February 24, 2021

by Ethan Howland
February 24, 2021

Dothan Utilities has installed two DC fast chargers in what is seen as a step in adapting to the growing numbers of electric vehicles on U.S. roads.

“We’ve got to be ready,” said Chris Phillips, Dothan Utilities assistant director for electric operations.

There are few electric vehicles in Dothan, a city of about 75,000 in southeast Alabama, according to Phillips.

However, Dothan is close to beaches in Florida and the utility expects travelers from other areas will take advantage of the new charging stations, which can provide an electric vehicle about 100 miles of range in an hour.

The ChargePoint chargers will put Dothan on the electric vehicle map and draw visitors to the town as they pass through the region, according to Phillips.

While waiting for their cars to charge up, visitors can grab something to eat and enjoy downtown Dothan, Phillips said. The chargers may boost Dothan’s efforts to revitalize its downtown, he said.

The effort comes as some states and the federal government are taking steps to spur the adoption of electric vehicles.

General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, in late January said it aims to sell only emissions-free light-duty cars and trucks by 2035. GM is working with EVgo Services, an electric vehicle charging station company, to add 2,700 fast chargers by the end of 2025. The fast chargers will be powered by renewable energy.

The Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA) is trying to get ahead of the electric vehicle trend.

“We saw the writing on the wall,” said Arthur Bishop, AMEA manager of transmission and distribution technology support. “EVs are coming, and faster than we thought. When you see a trend that is definitely going to happen, you want to embrace it.”

AMEA, which supplies power to its 11 members, including Dothan Utilities, started its EV Charging Initiative two years ago. The initiative provides funding to its members to pay for charging infrastructure and electric vehicles.

Through the initiative, AMEA members have installed two DC fast chargers and 9 Level 2 chargers, according to Bishop. They are preparing to add another fast charger and five more Level 2 chargers, he said.

It’s unlikely Dothan Utilities would have installed its chargers without the roughly $265,000 in funding it received through the initiative, according to Phillips.

Besides the charges, the utility is preparing to use the funding to help buy two electric vehicles, one for the utility and one for the city, Phillips said.

As part of the electric vehicle initiative, AMEA is meeting with its members to discuss electric vehicles, according to Bishop.

Alabama doesn’t have many electric vehicles but is surrounded by states like Tennessee and Georgia that do, Bishop said.

When travelers with electric vehicles come through Alabama, they determine their routes based on where charging stations are located, Bishop said.

AMEA has three chargers at its headquarters in Montgomery.

Utility members are also exploring options for buying electric vehicles, Bishop said.

Besides the AMEA initiative, the authority’s members can apply for electric vehicle-related grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, according to Lisa Miller, AMEA communications and economic development manager.

The ADECA funding comes from Volkswagen’s agreement to pay nearly $15 billion to settle allegations the car company installed software in its diesel vehicles to evade emission standards. Alabama received $25.5 million in the settlement.

The state provided grants to replace diesel buses and recently started a funding process for charging infrastructure to be built on key highway corridors. Several AMEA members are eligible for the charging infrastructure funding, according to Bishop, who is on a board that advises ADECA on electric vehicles.

Established in 1981, AMEA is a coalition of public power utilities that provide power to the Alabama cities of Alexander City, Dothan, Fairhope, Foley, LaFayette, Lanett, Luverne, Opelika, Piedmont, Sylacauga, and Tuskegee.