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Biden Plan To Add 500,000 Electric Car Chargers Is Light On Details

The Biden Administration says it will install a half million EV chargers, but offers few details.

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the administration is planning to add a half million EV chargers from sea to shining sea. But in a press appearance that featured a Chevy Bolt and an electric bus, Harris seemed to have no idea how EV charging works and offered few details about the program. She did say that many of those chargers would be designated for rural and underserved communities, as well as urban dwellers who park on the street. Perhaps we should send the Vice President a link to the video we posted earlier today that explains about the various types of chargers and how simple charging really is?

According to NBC News, Harris said rolling out a reliable network of electric vehicle chargers would address pollution that disproportionality affects poor communities while also keeping the US economically competitive, “Sales are driven by consumer demand. The auto industry is clearly moving toward electric. We need to make the shift faster and make sure it is driven by the United States,” she said. How many will be Level 2 chargers? How many Level 3? Hopefully none will be Level 1.

Harris was fascinated by a Ford E-Transit, an all-electric passenger van, and wondered at the sight of a charging station doing its work in silence. “There’s no sound or fumes. … How do I know it’s actually working?” Harris asked. A local official assured her that a blinking green light would indicate the car was done charging.

The administration’s 5-page plan for accelerating that shift offered few details on where new charging stations will go, who will build them, or how they will be funded, NBC reports. The administration asked for $15 billion for 500,000 chargers earlier this year, but the amount was cut in half while the goal remained the same.

$5 billion will be distributed to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to install charging stations. The remaining $2.5 billion will be parceled out through competitive grants that focus on putting charging stations in rural areas, improving air quality, and targeting disadvantaged communities, the White House said.

As part of the strategy, both the Energy and Transportation departments will create a joint office focused on building out a national charging network. The White House says it will be a “one stop shop” for EV charging resources. The administration also plans to solicit information from US manufacturers of electric vehicle chargers about how to expand the industry domestically, issue guidance to states and cities on developing charging networks, and take suggestions for new “alternative fuel corridors,” which are designated stretches of highways equipped to allow travelers to use alternative fuels like electricity.

Range Anxiety Rears Its Ugly Head

NBC says survey after survey finds one of the biggest impediments to widespread adoption of electric vehicles is “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of battery power before there’s a convenient place to recharge the vehicle. “When we ask people what is the biggest barrier for them to buy an electric car, the answer is almost always figuring out where and how to charge it,” Harris said, particularly those who live in apartments and condos where they don’t have easy access to a charger.

We wonder if anyone in the administration is aware of on-street charging plans like those from Connected Kerb in the UK, which is planning to install tens of thousands of curbside charging stations? Access to charging can be an issue in cities, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle, particularly when every streetlight could potentially have one or two charging cables installed.

The Takeaway

Charging infrastructure is an important part of the EV revolution, but putting chargers everywhere will not calm the fears of many potential EV buyers. They have to work, and they have to be easy to use, which means paying for a charging session has to be simple and painless. They have to show up in charger locator apps. And they have to be in safe areas where people don’t have to worry about getting mugged while their cars are charging.

The plan announced today doesn’t seem to offer many market incentives or inducements for making charging a simple, seamless process. Adding another layer of bureaucracy hardly seems necessary in order to expand the number of EV chargers available to American drivers.

But most of all, the plan does nothing to educate consumers about electric cars. Not everyone needs 400 miles of range, and few people understand about charging at home overnight while their car is sitting idle. Everyone wants a car that recharges in 10 minutes, but that is only because it’s what they are used to down at the local Gas ‘N’ Go. More needs to be done to dispel old habits. More chargers sounds wonderful, but if half of them seldom get used or are broken, we have to wonder if Americans will get good value for their money.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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