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The DOT’s spending program will get the U.S. closer to a goal of 500,000 charging stations by 2030, built mainly along the interstate highway system.
It may not be quite as momentous as the creation of the U.S. interstate highway system by President Eisenhower in the 1950s, but the ambition is similar: the Department of Transportation wants to see half a million EV charging ports in operation across the United States by the end of this decade. The intention is to use the interstate highway system as the “spine” of the network. When fully implemented, the goal is for EV owners to be able to find at least one charging port within 50 miles anywhere in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
To get there, a new government agency called the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation—bringing together, as its name indicates, the DOT and the Department of Energy—plans to distribute $5 billion to the states over five years, plus another $2.5 billion in “discretionary” grants to come later. The creation of the joint office was first announced in December 2021, and the funds will come from the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, established by the bipartisan infrastructure act signed into law by President Biden in November.
For starters, $615 million will be available during fiscal 2022, with states required to submit an EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan by August 1 and get it approved before they can start using the funds. That approval is targeted to come by September 30, DOT officials said. The new Joint Office will provide technical support to states to smooth the process as they plot out their plans.
All that money is to build charging infrastructure for battery-electric vehicles only—not for hydrogen or other alternative-energy vehicles, the DOT clarified. The DOT also said it expects many of the states to look to the private sector to build and maintain the charging stations.
The goal is to make electric vehicle charging accessible to all Americans and to alleviate the range anxiety that is still holding many Americans back from purchasing their first EV. “Even with the newer higher range EVs going 200, 300, 400 miles, range anxiety is an issue,” DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged in a conversation with Car and Driver on Wednesday. “It’s sometimes the top barrier to somebody acquiring an electric vehicle that could already stand to save them and their family a lot of gas money.”
Over the past six years, 40 states have already created designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, much of which follows the interstate highway system, and that will be “the spine of the new national EV charging network,” the DOT said. Below as an example is the state of planning in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Once these corridors are filled in, states will be asked to plan more “community based” charging that could reach more rural and underserved areas away from major highway systems.
The government agency released a state-by-state list showing how it intends to distribute that initial $615 million in fiscal 2022. California can expect $56.7 million; Texas, $60.3 million; while Kansas gets $5.8 million and Wyoming gets $3.9 million.
The feds want to emphasize that getting the charging stations from domestic suppliers is a priority in this program. For instance, the DOT noted, President Biden met this week with a charging station manufacturer, Tritium, that plans to break ground on a facility in Tennessee with six production lines producing 30,000 DC fast chargers per year. Bigger names are also getting in on the process—the White House said Siemens will expand its U.S. operations and plans to produce a million EV charging units by 2025. The DOT also said it intends for 40 percent of the funding to “flow” to underserved and rural areas to make sure they get their fair share of charging stations, without giving details. Back to that 50-mile required distance: a DOT official said during a media call on Wednesday that in some remote areas, a distance of 60 or more miles between chargers might be permitted on logistical grounds.
This spending program is certainly ambitious—and paying for hundreds of thousands of charging stations won’t be every taxpayer’s cup of tea—but at least the plan appears to be on a scale that will make a difference. If successful, this program should make it a lot easier to contemplate owning an electric vehicle in the coming years.