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Two Minnesota organizations, including a Native-led nonprofit, have been awarded $1.67 million each in federal dollars to make electric vehicles (EVs) more accessible to underserved communities.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced the grants on her swing through the Twin Cities on Friday, spotlighting President Joe Biden's administration's Investing in America agenda. Transportation is the country's biggest polluter, Granholm said, adding that she's "impatient" to reach the administration's goal of 500,000 EV charging stations across the country by 2030.

"We want all, all Americans to have access to clean transportation," Granholm said in remarks at the St. Paul offices of the American Lung Association.

Fossil-fuel-based transportation is a major source of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases driving the climate crisis. The burden of other pollutants in the exhaust, such as fine particulate matter, is heavier for nonwhite and low-income communities in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

The association, a grant recipient, will direct the money to various partners including EV Spot Network and Evie Carshare, entities owned by the city of St. Paul that have deployed car-sharing EVs and charging stations in low-income areas across Minneapolis and St. Paul. The grant will fund 10 additional EV charging hubs containing 40 Level 2 charging ports on St. Paul's diverse East Side, including along the Gold Line bus rapid transit route. Neighborhood leaders will help determine the best locations for all the chargers.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, on hand for the event, praised the effort. He said the popular car-share program "felt like a moonshot" when they first started talking about it a few years ago. It has grown to 2,500 trips a week, he said.

Likewise, the grant to Native Sun Community Power Development, a Minneapolis-based Native-led nonprofit, will allow it to expand into Wisconsin and Michigan and install at least 15 new charging stations in tribal communities, including DC fast-chargers.

The new grant follows $6.67 million the Energy Department awarded Native Sun in 2021 for an Upper Midwest Inter-Tribal EV Charging Community Network to serve various tribal communities, including the Red Lake Band of Chippewa in Minnesota and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas.

During an interview, Native Sun executive director Robert Blake said the price of used Nissan Leaf EVs has come down and become affordable. This is a situation where "if you build it they will come," Blake said.

"We are going to lead this transition," Blake said.

Earlier Friday, Granholm joined Gov. Tim Walz and other leaders in a ribbon-cutting at the Cummins manufacturing campus in Fridley. The plant has started producing large hydrogen electrolyzers for the hydrogen fuel cells that power steel makers, utilities and vehicles. It's the company's first U.S. electrolyzer production facility; Biden visited it in April.

The equipment uses electricity to generate hydrogen by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen gas is stored for use in hydrogen fuel cells to make electricity for a range of uses.

Granholm told the group gathered at Cummins — business leaders, employees, officials, lawmakers and media — that the Energy Department has been working on the technology for decades. The agency is trying to make it more competitive by bringing down the cost of clean hydrogen 80% in a decade, to $1 per kilogram.

"We believe at the Department of Energy that clean hydrogen is the Swiss army knife of zero-carbon technologies," Granholm said.

Cummins spokesman Jon Mills said his company hasn't received federal money for the Fridley electrolyzer production, but that the 2022 federal Inflation Reduction Act has incentives to drive the purchase of U.S.-based green hydrogen.

The act "was a reason we did this," Mills said.

Out on the production floor, manufacturing leader Shaun Crudup said he's worked at Cummins for years and is excited about the change.

"We're really doing something pretty big here," Crudup said.