In a recent piece, I detailed the requirements the federal government put on states for the upcoming EV infrastructure build-out. It’s a great plan, and will go a long way toward getting EV charging infrastructure closer to where it needs to be. However, as I pointed out in that piece, there are some shortcomings. Fortunately, a lot of the planning is up to states, so there’s still a lot of opportunity to get this damn near perfect! So, I’m writing a short guide for state transportation and energy officials to consider when drafting their plans for the EV charging infrastructure build-out. They key is to go above and beyond.
State Officials’ Hands Are Tied, But Not Much
Before I get into what state officials should do to go above and beyond, I want to talk about the limitations the federal government has put on the funds. Before they can basically pick wherever they want for stations, they do have to at least meet these requirements on interstate highways:
- Gaps of no more than 50 miles between chargers, and chargers within a mile of the interstate
- At least four 150 kW or higher rate chargers, with CCS connectors
- Ability to simultaneously charge four vehicles at that rate or greater
- Exceptions are available for any of these on a case-by-case basis (unavailability of electricity, etc.)
The good news? Nearly every EV driver would agree that these requirements are a good minimum. Doing this doesn’t get in the way of building a great EV charging network in your state. So, while your hands are tied, these requirements won’t cause problems unless you think of them as a finish line and not a starting point that you should go above and beyond.
First, Check Out My Old Plan
Last year, I wrote a plan for federal officials to consider. Much of that, including the map of charging station sites I came up with in every state and most US territories, still applies. I’d suggest starting there and figuring out what things from that plan apply to your state and situation. I came up with rough sites, and you’ll need to add your local knowledge to make it better.
The map is embedded below, but you can look at a larger full-screen view here.
First, Go Above & Beyond on Interstates
Thanks to Dieselgate funds and Electrify America, many states which haven’t put much funding or effort into building charging infrastructure are already most of the way to meeting the federal government’s minimum requirements. If that’s your state, I’d recommend not letting that fool you into thinking your state doesn’t need much in the way of interstate infrastructure. If only 10% of vehicles on the road became EVs, having 4 stalls every 50 miles would be hopelessly and hilariously inadequate. The fact is, as the guy in Home Alone says, “You’re gonna have to do better than that!”
If you’ve already got stations every 50 miles, put more in at exits between cities and towns. Put some at the bottoms of big climbs and at rest areas. Then, put more stalls whenever possible. Or, at least have things pre-wired to add more stalls without too much trouble in the future. There’s probably no way that you can make your state ready for 50% EV adoption with what you’ll get from the feds, but you need to give this the best start you possibly can.
You also shouldn’t be too quick to ask for exceptions when there’s a difficult rural stretch. For example, it would be tough to put stations along I-70 in Utah because there aren’t any towns for a lot of it. Keep in mind that the federal guidelines allow spending on energy production and battery storage where it would help build stations. Set up a solar farm in difficult rural stretches to get at least some stalls up. Going above and beyond like this will make EV drivers a lot more confident.
Second, Consider Treating US Highways The Same As USDOT Treats Interstates
If there’s a place for DOT’s minimums, it’s probably on the US highways instead of the interstate highways. The US highways serve many small towns and rural areas, and they often have lower speed limits and traffic numbers than the interstate highways. On these roads, you should have at least 4 stalls every 50 miles. This helps make sure most or all of your state gets equitable access to the EV charging network.
Include Level 2 & Medium-Speed EV Charging At Destinations
Once you’ve got long-distance travel taken care of, don’t keep putting in the biggest stations and deplete your annual funds too quickly. Many EV drivers in cities and at rural places where they’ll spend a lot of time won’t benefit from the highest charging speeds. Instead, consider getting funding to build more Level 2 (280-240 volt) stations and DC fast charging stations that put out 50-75 kW. Grocery stores, Ride-share lots at airports, tourist attractions, and hotels are all great places for slower charging and let you get more bang for your bucks, and allow you to go above and beyond.
Data Is Important, Signs Are Not
Don’t waste money putting up more than small EV charging signs at interstate exits. The fact is, EV drivers can’t rely on signs to get around and won’t be able to do that for a long time. They need to use apps and infotainment systems to plan trips, so that’s where the real action is.
It’s a good idea to work with EV charging vendors and make sure they’re integrated with popular EV trip planning software and the infotainment systems in vehicles. That way, drivers can see ahead that a station is full and decide to charge at another nearby station that has extra stalls open. If your stations can’t do this, you’ll have a bunch of extra stalls going unused in some places and long lines at others when that was entirely avoidable.
Contact Us At CleanTechnica!
We’ve got a number of very knowledgeable EV drivers and other experts here. Be sure to reach out to us if you need help coming up with your state plan for EV charging stations. We also have enthusiastic readers in your state. We’d love to help your state get on the right track and make sure you come up with a top-notch plan that keeps your state on the map!
Featured image: A screenshot from my map of possible EV charging station sites.