Ralph Tharp has submitted a grant application seeking $500,000 to plan and design a network of electric car recharging stations on interstates in Kentucky.
The application with several local endorsements was submitted this week to the U.S. Department of Energy, and federal officials could make a decision by September, says Tharp, executive director of the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation.
If approved, the money would not be used to purchase equipment or build recharging stations.
In the grant application, Tharp argues against “conventional wisdom” that big cities are best suited to develop the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Kentucky is the nation’s third largest manufacturer of automobiles and automotive parts and has the third lowest average retail price for electricity, Tharp said.
“If you want to move north or south across the United States you have to go through Kentucky,” he said. “We can be a cornerstone state for travel by electric vehicles.”
He envisions a network of recharging stations at rest areas, restaurants and tourist attractions on Interstates 64, 75, 71 and 65.
Such a plan would be the first project east of the Rocky Mountains. Oregon, Washington and California created a similar system stretching more than 1,300 miles on Interstate 5 from Seattle to southern California with recharging stations every 40 to 60 miles.
Named the Kentucky Electric Highway, Tharp said the plan would attract businesses that manufacture parts of electric cars and make Kentucky a leader in electric vehicle industry.
“This is a win-win for everyone,” he said. “Frankfort has a predominant business in auto parts. I think this could help attract more progressive investors.”
The recharging network would also promote the use of electric vehicles and offer environmental benefits, Tharp said.
He asked for $500,000, the maximum amount that could be awarded, and the minimum is $250,000. If the Kentucky application is approved, a task force would be formed to design and plan the recharging station network.
The task force would submit regular reports to the U.S. Department of Energy, which would reimburse members for travel expenses and meeting space rental costs.
If less than $500,000 were awarded the plan would have to be scaled back, Tharp said.
The planning will take a year and address a number of questions such as where the recharging stations would be located, what kind of equipment would be used, who would own the system, what rate would be charged and other issues, he said.
A dozen local governments, utilities and automotive manufacturers submitted letters backing the project including:
>Louisville Gas and Electric
>Frankfort Plant Board
>City of Frankfort
>Franklin County Fiscal Court
>Louisville Metro Government
>Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government
>Ford Motor Company
>Crossroads Ford Dealerships
>Bob Hook Ford Dealerships
Tharp says he expects to receive additional letters of support and is optimistic that the grant application will be approved.
“I would be surprised if it was passed over,” he said.