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Most discussions of electric vehicles involve the chicken and the egg analogy: Which needs to come first, the vehicles or the charging stations?

Given the forecast for electric vehicle (EV) growth and millions in funding available for building charging stations throughout the state, I think looking at the issue through the lens of Kevin Costner’s character in the movie “Field of Dreams” is more applicable: “If you build it, they will come.”

EVs make up just over 2 percent of passenger vehicles sold in the U.S., with the figure exceeding the 2 percent mark for the first time in July 2018. In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy reported the nation passed the benchmark of 1 million plug-in EVs sold.

EVs will continue to make up a larger percentage of our transportation mix in the future, with nearly every major automaker pledging to add more EVs to its lineup, with some pledging to go all-electric in the near future.

To revisit the analogies, the chickens are here, more are coming and soon, more than $6 million will be available to spend on building the support system they need to thrive.

After nearly a year of public meetings, listening sessions and gathering public comments, the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee in October 2018 submitted its plan to the trust, which includes 15 percent — roughly $6.15 million — of the state’s $40.1 million in VW funding being allocated to EV infrastructure, the maximum amount allowable. According to the draft plan, “more favorable comments were received for funding light-duty electric infrastructure than any other.”

The committee is set to meet Thursday in Indianapolis to approve a packet for solicitations, the first round of which is expected to be released for applications in February.

How can this opportunity help support local jobs, industry, the local economy and our labor unions? What could it mean for partnerships with utilities, universities and business leaders? How can the public, private and nonprofit sectors work together to maximize the benefits? Do local ordinances need to be adopted? What roles do transit agencies and commuter rail play? How will our first responders and mechanics be trained to meet the increased demand?

The funding is there to support programs that answer these questions and more is on the way.

VW has another settlement-imposed EV charging program in the works, dubbed Electrify America. The $2 billion program aims to create a network for fast-charging EV stations across the U.S. over the next decade. IDEM has said it plans to coordinate with Electrify America to reduce or remove any duplicate efforts for charging station placement through the state’s VW plan.

The time is now to create a unified plan for the future of EV charging infrastructure to meet our environmental, public health and economic needs. South Shore Clean Cities will continue our educational outreach and networking efforts with Northern Indiana municipal planning organizations and our members, partners and stakeholders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to help support the creation of unified vision for the EV future.

The chicken and egg discussion regarding EVs is outdated and the time to build is now. Let’s ensure plans are in place to help provide the best environmental, health and financial legacy for future generations possible while the funds are available.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.