The Biden administration recently announced a Ride and Drive Electric funding opportunity worth $51 million. This initiative is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and aims to expedite the electrification of the nation’s transportation sector. Furthermore, this move aims to encourage private sector investments in clean transportation.
Additionally, the administration has launched the National Charging Experience Consortium to provide swift solutions on the ground to actually get people where they’re going. The consortium is designed to ensure a convenient, reliable, equitable, and easy-to-use charging experience for all Americans. To lead the consortium, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (Joint Office), funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), has appointed DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The Joint Office, under the supervision of the DOE and the Department of Transportation (DOT), was created with the intention of establishing a national electric vehicle charging network.
The network’s goal is to ignite public confidence in EV adoption and address charging gaps in rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach areas. These announcements endorse President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. They aim to develop the American economy from the bottom up and middle out by rebuilding our country’s infrastructure, creating well-paying jobs, and establishing a clean energy economy that will combat climate change and enhance community resiliency.
“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are developing a robust and reliable EV charging network that is accessible in all communities and easy to use for all riders and drivers,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Rapidly modernizing and electrifying key parts of our transportation sector is how we’ll meet consumer needs and achieve widespread electrification.”
What is “Ride and Drive”?
The White House also said that electrification of America’s transportation sector is a crucial step towards mitigating greenhouse gas pollution and climate change. This move will benefit all Americans by improving health outcomes, reducing fuel and maintenance costs, and strengthening energy security. Currently, there are over 3 million EVs on the road. However, federal investments are necessary to achieve President Biden’s objective of creating a national network of 500,000 public EV charging ports. These investments will enable even more Americans to switch to electric vehicles.
The Ride and Drive Electric funding opportunity will advance this mission by:
- Enhancing EV charging resilience
- Providing equitable access and opportunity in electrification through community-driven models for EV charging deployment and workforce development
- Improving EV charging performance and reliability
This funding will provide support for the validation and testing of charging equipment to enhance its reliability. Additionally, it will promote new business models for fleet-based services and electrified shared mobility. The funding will also create new job opportunities and training resources for underserved communities.
The press release also noted that all applicants must adhere to the President’s Justice40 Initiative. To align with this initiative, all applicants must specify the benefits that disadvantaged communities will receive through the Ride and Drive Electric funding opportunity.
To learn more about the Ride and Drive Electric funding opportunity, please refer to the official announcement. Concept papers can be submitted until June 16, 2023. Only eligible concept paper submitters will have the opportunity to submit a full application by July 28, 2023.
The ChargeX Consortium
The ChargeX Consortium will be led by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The consortium aims to develop swift solutions that ensure an easy and reliable charging experience for all Americans. ChargeX’s primary goal is to help the EV industry achieve first-time plug-in success every time a customer uses public charging infrastructure.
To address usability and accessibility issues, ChargeX will work collaboratively with organizations representing various sections of the EV charging industry. The consortium has received commitments from almost 30 companies and organizations working towards the deployment of a dependable national charging network.
The ChargeX Consortium serves as a complement to the minimum standards established by the Federal Highway Administration Title 23-funded EV charging infrastructure projects. It also complements the Ride and Drive Electric funding opportunity.
What’s Great About This Announcement
The reliability of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in the United States has been a major issue for drivers. One of the biggest problems is with public charging stations, which are often plagued by unreliability and outages. This has been especially true for two of the largest EV charging networks in the country, Electrify America and ChargePoint.
In a recent study conducted by J.D. Power, it was found that at least 1 in 5 attempts to charge an EV at one of these stations failed. This is due to a variety of factors, including poor maintenance and outdated technology. Additionally, many of these stations lack sufficient uptime requirements or reporting obligations, leading to further issues with reliability.
Unlike CCS and J1772 operators, Tesla’s networks (for both Supercharging and Level 2) have shown to be more reliable, but even they aren’t perfect.
To improve the reliability of EV charging infrastructure in the United States, private sector investment is needed as well as better standards for uptime requirements and reporting obligations for public charging stations. Additionally, more research needs to be done on how best to maintain these stations so that they can remain reliable for drivers in the future.
Getting there is going to require that some feet be held to the fire. Customers who can vote with their dollars are the best equipped to do this in a free market system, but at present, it’s not uncommon to find that there’s only one girl in town, especially along interstate highways. Often, that’s Electrify America, but alternative stops to charge in small towns are sometimes offered by other providers.
Getting these providers, who presently operate a short-range monopoly along America’s roads, to provide better service is going to require a lot of cooperation both in government and in industry, along with the customers and voters who hold these entities accountable. The administration’s plan to use the Infrastructure Bill to create more accountability in an industry plagued with too little of it is a great answer to this short-to-medium term problem.
Once we get to the point where there are multiple stations at almost every town along the interstates and two-lane highways, normal accountability should come back into play. But, until we get there, these sorts of alternative mechanisms will be essential.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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