Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation recently announced the first recipients of federal money for EV charging stations from the Infrastructure Bill (aka Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or NEVI). In the announcement, they included rough locations, funding amounts, and who the recipient was. In this article, I’m going to take a deeper look at who’s getting the funding and what it means for the industry and EV drivers.
Some Quick Background
Before we get to who’s getting the funding, let’s quickly review what the NEVI program is, so that those just tuning in can know what’s going on.
In a nutshell, the NEVI program was created in late 2021 to provide billions of dollars for EV charging stations in the United States. Over five years, states are supposed to start with basic coverage of interstate highways, followed by other major roads, and then other charging corridors.
For this first round of funding (Year 1), the states are supposed to use the money to:
- Leave no gaps longer than 50 miles between chargers
- Provide at least 4 CCS plugs per station
- Have enough power for all four plugs to provide 150 kW simultaneously
- Meet other design requirements (ex. credit card readers), some set by the feds and others set by the state governments.
It’s worth noting that most states have asked for exceptions to all of the above, and they’re allowed to by law. In some places, there just isn’t electrical infrastructure to put in charging stations. A good example of this is I-70 in Utah between Green River and Salina, the country’s longest stretch of interstate highway without services (over 100 miles!).
Like most government programs, companies wanting to get NEVI funding and install stations have to compete. The applicant with the lowest bid who can actually do the job wins. So, Pennsylvania’s announcement is who won those bids (assuming anybody else put in a bid, because sometimes only one company bids).
The stations are positioned along nearly all of the state’s interstate highways, with the notable exception of I-70 from the famous town of Breezewood down to Maryland. But, this stretch of road is only a couple dozen miles, and thus doesn’t need a charging station.
Tesla’s Setting Up In Breezewood (Again?) & Other Locations
Speaking of Breezewood, Tesla was the award winner. This may seem a little weird to drivers who know Tesla already has 20 supercharging stalls across two locations in Breezewood, and perhaps even more weird to people who know it’s an unincorporated community with a population under 200. Why on earth would Tesla need even more charging stalls in Breezewood?
But, if you’ve been there or seen the famous “capitalism bad” social media photos constantly showing the heavy concentration of generic fast food and gasoline businesses in the place, you know there’s something special about Breezewood. It’s the only gap in the U.S. interstate highway system, due to a federal law that didn’t allow a federally-funded highway to force people to get on a toll road, which interfered with federal funding for an interchange with the Turnpike. So, I-70 traffic has to get off the highway for a couple of blocks before getting back on.
This unusual situation attracted highway-oriented businesses, because they had an audience that wouldn’t mostly speed by on the highway. The law has since changed, and Pennsylvania could use federal highway funds to connect the Turnpike and 70, but all of the businesses keep successfully lobbying to keep things they way they are (and not release the captive audience). This ends up being a very good place to put in EV chargers, because people have to slow down to a stop anyway.
Keep in mind that Tesla winning the bid doesn’t mean they can just build a normal Supercharger station and ignore the rules. They’re almost definitely going to use Magic Dock technology to provide stations that both CCS and Tesla cars can charge at least 150 kW from, and these will have to be open to the general public driving all car brands.
Tesla won the bid at a total of 11 other locations around Pennsylvania, so this win-win situation will repeat itself all around the state.
Pilot & Flying J
Another name that comes up a lot in the NEVI awards is Pilot Truck Stops, which also owns Flying J. They’re getting funding for three EV charging stations.
Their stations could end up being Pilot or Flying J branded, but they’ve also been involved in a partnership with EVgo and GM. It’s possible that these stations end up being EVgo and/or Ultium branded and show up on the EVgo app. They could also surprise us and come up with their own brand, partner with someone else like ChargePoint, or do something else entirely, but my money’s on them continuing to work with EVgo for simplicity.
Electrify America shows up on the list of bid winners three times, and that’s important on its own. They’ll be partnering with Sheetz convenience stores for these three stations. These stations will almost certainly be the new generation stations that are proving to be a lot more reliable (but still not perfect).
But, Electrify America shows up several more times in a behind-the-scenes way. TA Operating, also known as TravelCenters of America, has a big partnership agreement with Electrify Commercial, EA’s business-to-business arm. Electrify America is going to install the stations and put them on the Electrify America app, but they’ll be owned by TA. We’re already seeing a number of other stations like this on Electrify America’s app, and we’ll see more in the coming years as other partnerships come to fruition.
These TA stations, like Pilot, could end up being something else, but it’s very unlikely that they’re not going to use the NEVI funding to offset or expand the existing partnership between TA and EA.
Another way Electrify America could end up being the overall winner in Pennsylvania is through Love’s Truck Stops. Like TA, Love’s has a partnership going with Electrify America, and Love’s (under their own name) won bids for four locations in Pennsylvania. But, this collaboration was only for normal Electrify America stations, owned by EA, and not for company-owned Electrify Commercial stations. So, Love’s could end up giving their love to someone else!
Looking through the documents, Blink and ChargePoint also show up under their own names, but only once. But, given the way these companies operate (selling stations to property owners, mostly), they’re likely to install at least some of the other stations. Francis Energy, popular (and expensive) in Oklahoma and expanding into New Mexico, won the bid for three locations.
Convenience stores, like truck stops, show up several times under their own names. Sheetz shows up under their own name five times (and that’s in addition to the times they’re playing host for other companies like Tesla, Electrify America, and Francis). Wawa (convenience stores) shows up four times on its own, and several times playing host to other charging providers. BP shows up twice, and several independent and small chains show up at least once.
So, there’s quite a bit of variety and interplay between all of the different people who won bids!
Featured image: screenshot from Pennsylvania’s interactive NEVI website.
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