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The Infrastructure Bill’s $7.5B For EV Charging Stations Can Do A LOT

In a recent story CleanTechnica shared, we revealed some of the specific amounts the latest version of an infrastructure bill would spend on various climate and clean transport initiatives. While small in comparison to the other big ticket items, it allocates $7.5 billion for the construction of new charging stations. This is half of what President Biden wanted (for 500,000 stations), but is still about $7.5 billion more than I was expecting to ever get through the U.S. Senate. In other words, half is better than nothing.

But, even though the original budget got slashed, that still leaves enough money for 250,000 EV charging stations. While the bill hasn’t gotten through the Senate yet, its chances seem pretty good as of this writing, so I wanted to take a look at what $7.5 billion could buy. It turns out that it could make a huge difference!

What Are Charging Stations Going For These Days?

Getting any company to tell you what they’re paying per station is like pulling teeth. In some cases, a charging company doesn’t want us to know how little they’re spending because the competition might figure out how to replicate their secret sauce or something. I mean, if Plankton manages to get ahold of a Crabby Patty, he might put Mr. Crabs out of business, right?

(You can tell that I’m a mom now, because I’m too old to have watched Sponge Bob as a child.)

In other cases, they don’t want us to know how much they spent because the amounts spent were rather embarrassing and maybe even wasteful. Realistically, though, building out a national charging network is a game basically everyone but Tesla didn’t know how to play, even as recently as two years ago. There’s no reason to expect to know how to cook a Crabby Patty on the day Mr. Crabs hires you.

What I have been able to figure out is roughly what Electrify America spent. Going through their documents, I saw that they allocated $250M for the first two “cycles” of their plan on infrastructure. For the third cycle, they spent a little less. Adding up the planned spending on the first three cycles, and then dividing it by the number of stalls they plan on having complete by the end of 2021 allowed me to get an idea of what each stall and station costs.

On average, Electrify America’s cost per stall is about $215,000, with a total of about $860,000 for a 4-stall station. I know that some stations cost more because they have 350 kW stalls, and some cost less, because they don’t offer those speeds, but this does give us a good average for a good DCFC station.

For slower stations in the 50 kW range (no, not phased plasma rifles — sorry Terminator fans), I’ve heard that each stall costs $30-50k. Just to be safe and overestimate, let’s go with $50,000 for each of those.

If anyone has better numbers for any of this, feel free to chime in somewhere in the comments. If Elon is reading this, knowing what Tesla pays per stall would be cool, too.

How I’d Spend It

Long-Distance Travel Stations

I’ve already spent a lot of time figuring out a rough plan for how many stations are needed for long-distance travel. Or, at least what it would take to get started on that big project. In this article, I lay it all out, including a cool map of approximate locations where the stations should go.

The map and the article is a little outdated, as I had planned to expand charging for all EVs, and didn’t consider Tesla’s stations at the time (because nobody else could use them, but that’s changing this year). From there, I filled in the gaps between current CCS/CHAdeMO stations (at the time), and suggested that each station get all three common types of U.S. plugs (Tesla, CCS, and CHAdeMO). So, if you look at the map and notice any of this, that’s why.

Anyhoo, let’s look at what it would cost just to put in those stations on the map.

On the map there are 448 stations along Interstate Highway corridors, and each of those would need 4 stalls like an Electrify America station. I also included 1447 rural stations along U.S. and state highways, which all should have 2 stalls to support lower traffic volumes that are going at lower speeds. Obviously, more stalls will be needed as the EV transition continues, but that would put stations in many places where they’ve never been installed before, allowing a great number of rural routes to open up so people can at least consider an EV.

The cost for the 4-stall Interstate stations would be about $385.3 million, while the rural stations would be $622.2 million. This comes out pretty close to $1 billion, leaving about $6.5 billion for urban 50 kW stations and L2 stations.

Urban Stations

The next thing to fund is 50 kW stations for people who are traveling shorter distances and have some time to burn. Places like grocery stores, big box stores, shopping malls, airport rideshare lots, and restaurants would be great places to put these. Not only does this keep people from needing to use the stations meant for travelers, but it also considers that people won’t be in a hurry to get to the next place because they’ll have something to do in most cases, so we can get more bang for the taxpayer’s buck by providing medium speeds at these locations.

If we put in 100,000 of these stations in cities (putting at least one in small cities, and dozens in larger metro areas), we could provide a lot of redundancy and charging capacity for local driving. I haven’t made a map for these, but this decision needs to mostly be made at the local level so they go to the best places based on local knowledge.

This would take the bulk of the funds, totaling to about $5 billion.

Level 2 Stations

So far, I’ve spent about $6 billion in my imagination on level 3 charging, and put a pretty good dent into the charging needs for travelers and people driving more than expected on a given day.

This leaves $1.5 billion to take care of all the people who can’t install their own home charging station, but a Level 2 station can be put in for a lot cheaper than a DC Fast Charge (DCFC) station. In some cases, a station can be put in for around $1,000 while more complicated installs could run five times that, especially for a commercial connected station in a parking lot. Just to be safe, let’s divide that $1.5 billion by $7,000 per station to make sure install costs are well covered and the people putting them in are paid a decent wage (electrician apprentices and untrained shovel operators included).

That means that 214,285 stations can be put in at workplaces, apartment complexes (or a nearby business willing to let people park there at night), and airport rideshare lots.

Does this cover all of the expected charging needs for the United States in the coming years? Definitely not. It does help put a big dent in the problem, though, and erase many of the excuses people give for not buying an EV, while doing a lot for people who aren’t well off enough to put in a home charger.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

 
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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba

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