Illinois’ EV coordinator acknowledges battery disposal ‘a problem’

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(The Center Square) – With a new electric vehicle rebate program set to open Wednesday in Illinois, some have questioned the taxpayer cost of the growing industry.

During last week’s Senate Executive Appointments Committee, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Electric Vehicle Coordinator Megha Lakhchaura said $12 million in taxpayer funding will be available in rebates beginning Nov. 1. For the first round that ended costing taxpayers $20 million, she assured the focus was first on low income applicants.

“Last year, we had up to 4,800 rebates that we handed out, 530 were low income applicants,” Lakhchaura said. “And we didn’t give out a single rebate until we gave out the low income applicants.”

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, questioned the taxpayer expense for an industry expecting natural growth.

“It’s a phenomenal industry, a phenomenal technology, phenomenal vehicles and if the growth is just going to continue, maybe we should reallocate our limited resources in better ways,” Plummer said.

Analysis done by The Center Square of the state’s first round of rebates found of nearly 4,900 vehicles, nearly 300 were luxury models costing up to $125,000.

Lakhchaura was approved by the Senate last week to be the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s electrical vehicle coordinator, getting paid $180,000 a year.

Plummer also said there are “free-rider concerns” for wear and tear on roads from EVs that combustion vehicle drivers have to cover in taxes at the gas pump.

Before being approved, Lakhchaura told Senators the state is actively working to get $148 million of federal taxpayer funds to build charging stations across the state.

“So the idea is to spend, like to cost effectively use the current money that we have to deploy as many charging stations as we possibly can so that it takes range anxiety out of people and they feel more comfortable buying electric vehicles,” Lakhchaura said.

Gov. J.B. Pritkzer has made a goal of having 1 million EVs on Illinois roads by 2030. Lakhchaura said that goal is attainable, but told state Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, there’s still a question of how to dispose of depleted batteries.

“But at the moment, there’s really no solution for what we do with these batteries,” McClure said.

“It’s a problem that the world is facing in how to grapple with it and it’s going to grow in enormities,” Lakhchaura said.

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