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US Plan To Add 500,000 EV Chargers In All 50 States Gets Final Approval

The Biden administration announced this week that EV charger plans from all 50 states have been received and approved.

Does America need more EV chargers? Yes, it does. Will it get them? Yes, it will, thanks to an ambitious program first put forward by President Biden earlier this year to add 500,000 EV chargers along US highways and byways. Funding for the plan, which could cost up to $5 billion over several years, was approved concurrently with the Inflation Reduction Act this summer.

According to the Associated Press, all 50 states received final approval this week to begin construction of the first nationwide network of EV charging stations. When complete, there will be at least one DC fast charger every 50 miles along America’s interstate highways as part of the Biden administration’s plan to promote widespread adoption of zero-emission cars.

The Transportation Department said it just approved EV charger plans from the last set of 17 states, triggering the release of $1.5 billion in federal funds to all jurisdictions nationwide to install or upgrade chargers along 75,000 miles of highway from coast to coast. Plans for the other 33 states and the District of Columbia were approved earlier this month.

By year’s end, drivers could start seeing expansions and upgrades to existing highway EV stations in states such as California, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Construction of new EV charging locations could begin by next spring.

“America led the original automotive revolution in the last century, and … we’re poised to lead in the 21st century with electric vehicles,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He said the plans will “help ensure that Americans in every part of the country — from the largest cities to the most rural communities — can be positioned to unlock the savings and benefits of electric vehicles.”

The approval is a major step toward building widespread acceptance and use of electric vehicles among consumers, who often express hesitancy over EVs’ shorter range and limited availability of public chargers. President Biden has set a goal that 50% of new U.S. car sales be electric by 2030, and his administration touts new tax credits next year of up to $7,500 as making electric vehicles accessible for everyday Americans.

EV chargers

EVgo DC fast charger at Gilroy, California.

Still, the five-year plans could face a bumpy road ahead for a highway EV network, with states citing risks such as a lack of electricity grid capacity, supply chain shortages, and equity concerns. While Texas, California, and Florida say their grids should be able to handle increased capacity of a million or more EVs, other states aren’t so sure.

“Capacity will become a concern in future years as charging infrastructure and EVs become more ubiquitous,” New Mexico said in its plan. Vermont wrote that “Unmanaged or unplanned for EV charging could cause utilities to incur significant costs to maintain grid reliability and create challenges for grid operators” and that some locations “may also necessitate intensive grid upgrades and buildout.”

Mississippi cited potential shortages of EV charging station equipment, which it said “may cause significant setbacks” in construction. Several states also expressed concern that they would not be able to acquire charging stations that meet the American-made provisions. “It may delay implementation by several years,” New Jersey officials wrote. However, as we have reported recently, one of the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act has been to spur companies like Tritium and ABB to build new EV charger factories in the US. Let’s hope all that hand wringing is just that.

Under the Transportation Department requirements, states must focus first on more expensive fast chargers that typically cost $40,000 to $100,000 to install along highway routes rather than keying in on neighborhoods and communities with Level 2 chargers that are cheaper but take a few hours to provide a full charge.

Currently, electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles at home 80% of the time, typically at single-family houses. But that is likely to change as the less affluent who don’t have a garage where they can install a charging station buy EVs. That’s where on-street charging companies like Connected Kerb will become important. If there is a demand, ways will be found to meet it. That’s how business works.

Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an additional $2.5 billion for local grants to fill remaining gaps in the charging network in rural areas and in disadvantaged communities, which are less likely to own the most expensive electric vehicles or have charging stations readily available near them. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) said last Tuesday that it will begin taking applications for that money later this year.

Featured image courtesy of ABB.

 
 
 
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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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