The Biden-Harris Administration yesterday announced its new standards as well as major progress for a “convenient, reliable, and made-in-America” national network of EV chargers. This network is part of a larger effort to accelerate the adoption of EVs, and the Administration says the buildout should catalyze a manufacturing boom.
Introducing infrastructure so “the great American road trip can be electrified” has an ancillary effect: the steps involved will help President Biden’s ambitious goals to confront the climate crisis. To do so, 500,000 new units within a national network of EV chargers will be added along US highways and in communities. Such a charging system will convince more auto consumer to purchase EVs, which the Administration wants to see comprise at least 50% of new car sales by 2030.
Advancing an industrial strategy to continue to buildout the domestic EV and EV charging industry is part-and-parcel of the Administration’s push to create good-paying manufacturing and installation jobs. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $7.5 billion in EV charging, $10 billion in clean transportation, and over $7 billion in EV battery components, critical minerals, and materials. It functions as a complement to the Inflation Reduction Act, which supports advanced batteries and new and expanded tax credits for purchases of EVs.
Such support is already producing results. The record federal investment has influenced EV sales, which have tripled. The number of publicly available charging ports has grown by at least 40% since Biden took office. There are now more than three million EVs on the road and over 130,000 public chargers across the country.
In the White House press release, Tesla was included in a list of companies such as General Motors, EVgo, Pilot, Hertz, and bp, which are committing to expanding their national network of EV chargers in the next two years — using private funds to supplement federal dollars and “putting the nation’s EV charging goals even closer within reach.”
Could Tesla’s inclusion in the agreement to open part of its US charging network to rival EVs turn the all-electric car company into the “universal filling station of the EV era,” as some analysts have projected? Or will it reduce the alluring Tesla Effect?
Tesla Opens up its Charger Network, Solidifying Brand Appeal
Currently in the US, only Tesla drivers can access the automaker’s network of 7,500 fast-charging stations. (Early last year the company announced that it was opening up its Superchargers to non-Teslas at select Superchargers in France and Norway.)
— Tesla Charging (@TeslaCharging) January 31, 2022
US Superchargers are located along major highway routes, some public parking lots, tourist gathering spots, hotels, and the like — making driving a Tesla stress-free from range anxiety. Most stops at a Supercharger infuse add up to 200 miles of range after just 15 minutes of charging.
By the end of 2024, at least 3,500 new and existing Superchargers will be open to non-Teslas “to expand freedom of travel for all EVs,” the White House said. The change serves as foil to the last two years, in which periodic and fraught tension has erupted between CEO Elon Musk and the Biden administration.
Tesla originally led the way to all-electric transportation by forging its own path, and, yet, now it seems as if the field of competitors has the potential to catch Tesla. Perks like V2G and low-ish priced EV catalog choices suddenly seem appealing to a whole new automotive consumer base. Occasionally, pundits have framed Musk’s influence as making “a name for himself and Tesla by breaking the rules.” Tesla’s move to free up Superchargers is hardly avant-garde; instead, it’s an explicit nod to the necessities involved with government grants toward transportation electrification.
In the same way that legacy automakers are reinventing themselves with the plunge into EV sales after years of poo-pooing them as a flash-in-the-pan, so, too, has Tesla acquiesced to playing nice-nice with the Biden Administration. With a little distance, we may come to see this as a brilliant Tesla marketing move. It diffuses some of Musk’s 2022 antics and resuscitates Tesla as one of the Good Guys who are making EVs appealing to new demographic groups. Perhaps a whole slew of new Tesla owners will feel warmth toward the all-electric car company — to the point that they’ll drive their new Tesla into a Supercharging stop and look around at the non-Teslas with slight smiles on their faces.
100,000 More Public Charging Stations & Other Winners
Yes, the Supercharger expansion is a real plus for existing and future EV drivers who want security in longer term travel. But this was just one of several new White House announcements on initiatives that will collectively add more than 100,000 public charging stations to the current 130,000 chargers in place today across the US. The additional chargers will be sited along major highways and in rural and hard-to-reach locations.
The benefits don’t stop there. With the network of EV chargers growing with the assistance of the recent federal funds, Electrify America, ChargePoint, and EVGo will boost their rollout of chargers, which will have to meet certain standards to receive a share of $5 billion in EV charging grants.
The US government also issued final requirements for domestic manufacturing of those chargers. Buy America compliant chargers purchased through the NEVI program must be assembled in the US and be fully compliant with Build America, Buy America requirements for manufactured products by July 1, 2024. That standard will support investments in the supply chain consistent with an aggressive expansion of domestic manufacturing.
The Office of Management and Budget’s new Made in America Office is working with agency experts, labor, and industry to implement industrial strategy by incentivizing greater US manufacturing in key sectors. Such efforts also mean that green jobs will be on the rise, as trained electricians will need to provide installation and maintenance of the charging stations. These are high-paying jobs with lots of need due to standards that require all chargers to work at least 97% of the time.
The other federal actions include:
- The Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Department of Energy, finalized new standards that will ensure everyone can use the network – no matter what car you drive or which state you charge in. The standards also require strong workforce standards.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) outlined its final plan for compliance with the Build America, Buy America Act for federally funded EV chargers. The plan requires that, effective immediately, final assembly and all manufacturing processes for any iron or steel charger enclosures or housing occur in the US. By July 2024, at least 55% of the cost of all components will need to be manufactured domestically as well.
- The new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation released a notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity for its Ride and Drive Electric research and development program. This program will advance the goal of building a national network of EV chargers by supporting EV charging reliability, resiliency, equity, and workforce development.
- The Department of Energy announced $7.4 million in funding for 7 projects to develop innovative medium-and heavy-duty EV charging and hydrogen corridor infrastructure plans serving millions of people across 23 states.
- FHWA announced details for its soon-to-launch Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) discretionary grant program. The program will make available more than $2.5 billion over five years – including $700 million in funding through the first round of funding available to states, localities, Tribes, territories, and public authorities – to deploy publicly accessible charging and alternative fueling infrastructure in communities across the country, including at schools, grocery stores, parks, libraries, apartment complexes, and everywhere else people in the US live and work.
Enhancing Charging So It Is a Predictable & Reliable Experience
The federal government wants to ensure that there are consistent plug types, power levels, and a minimum number of chargers capable of supporting drivers’ fast charging needs. They acknowledge that it is important for consumers to be working when drivers need them to, so the feds are requiring a 97% uptime reliability requirement.
Moreover, for drivers to be able to easily find a charger when they need to, the feds plan to provide publicly accessible data on locations, price, availability, and accessibility through mapping applications, deleting onerous multiple apps and accounts to charge. Instead, a single method of identification will work across all chargers.
In sum, chargers will need to support drivers’ needs well into the future, by requiring compatibility with forward-looking capabilities like Plug and Charge.
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