The Biden administration has proposed a new program entitled the National Electric Vehicle Charging Network. Think of the EV charging plan as being similar to the Interstate highway program that began in the 1950s, which transformed how Americans traveled and how goods got delivered. That program has repaid its initial investment 100 times over by unlocking increases in interstate commerce that have powered America’s economic growth for the past 70 years.
The $5 billion allocated to the program will be used to provide a minimum of 4 fast chargers every 50 miles along major transportation corridors. To be eligible for funding, those chargers will be required to serve the needs of all drivers regardless what electric car they are driving. They must not require a membership or service fee to use the charging network and they must provide clear information about the cost of charging up front.
The purpose is to make sure chargers function the same in every state and are easy to find, use, and pay for no matter who operates them. It is expected to bring reliable EV charging to rural, disadvantaged, and hard to reach locations while instilling public confidence in charging.
There is a corollary to this charging program for public highways that will provide $2.5 billion to build Level 2 EV chargers in disadvantaged or underserved communities, so the EV revolution can apply to all Americans, not just those who can afford single family homes and drive the latest electric offering from Mercedes, Cadillac, or BMW.
If finalized as drafted, the rule would apply to chargers funded by the federal infrastructure law signed last November. “To support the transition to electric vehicles, we must build a national charging network that makes finding a charge as easy as filling up at a gas station,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press statement reported by CNN. He added that the new policy would send “a market signal” to companies that build charging stations that they should offer a standard facility that can accommodate all models of electric and zero emissions vehicles, according to the New York Times.
What’s Said & What Isn’t Said
CleanTechnica readers, being uncommonly astute as they are, will immediately notice there are some things the new plan from the Biden administration doesn’t talk about. America already has the fastest and most robust system of DC fast chargers of any country in the world — the Tesla Supercharger network that currently has more than 13,000 EV chargers at 1,278 locations. It uses seamless plug and charge technology and its chargers have a well deserved reputation for reliability.
As we reported back in March, Tesla has signaled that it is willing to make some of them available to non-Tesla drivers, especially if that will get some of those federal dollars flowing its way. But Tesla has painted itself into a corner here. Its customers won’t like waiting for a Lucid Air or Kia EV6 to finish charging before they can access a Supercharger. Tesla thought the feds would still pay them if some of those Superchargers were reserved for Tesla drivers. Apparently Uncle Sam put the kibosh on that idea.
There are also no details in the announcement about the specs for those DC fast chargers. A 50 kW unit qualifies as a fast charger, but it is already an antique ready for the Smithsonian by today’s standards. The norm now is 150 kW and there are more and more 300 kW, 350 kW, and higher chargers coming available.
The Takeaway On EV Charging
The Interstate highway system put America in motion, but it was a federal requirement to build rest areas along the way that really put long distance driving all across America into high gear. This latest mandate could have a similar effect for electric car drivers. If you know there is a fast charger available within the next 50 miles, range anxiety all but disappears. After that, charging speed becomes the focus, not the ability to charge.
But the myths about electric cars continue to circulate. The comments to the New York Times article are filled with inaccurate statements about how hydrogen is better for transportation than batteries, the millions of EV batteries being dumped into landfills, and the horrible pollution associated with mining lithium, nickel, and cobalt. And these are New York Times readers who one presumes have an active intelligence and are reasonably well informed.
The EV revolution still has a long way to go before people stop buying cars with internal combustion engines. The Biden plan will be an important piece of the puzzle with its focus on making EV charging as simple and convenient as buying a tank of gasoline. It is certainly a step in the right direction, one that will move America closer to taming the massive emissions from the transportation sector.
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