Funding approved for states to build car charging network

By GILLIAN FLACCUS and MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday it has approved ambitious plans by 34 states and Puerto Rico to create a national electric vehicle charging network as the United States begins its transition away from gasoline transportation.

Approval of the plans means $900 million can start flowing to states, which are tasked with using money from President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure law to train the network of chargers across the country . Building a reliable and convenient network is key to driving adoption of the technology, which is itself key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The announcement came the same day Biden visited the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to tout the new law that includes tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Concretely, this means that residents of some of these states could see more charging stations start to appear along major travel corridors as early as next summer. Biden aims to eventually install 500,000 chargers across America and build a network of fast-charging stations along 53,000 miles of highways from coast to coast.

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“Unlocking this kind of funding is a huge step in getting the charging network in place, which we absolutely need if we’re going to get widespread deployment and adoption” of electric vehicles, said Nico Larco, director of Urbanism Next Center. at the University of Oregon. “We currently do not have the capacity to supply the fleet that we need.”

Federal officials said they will continue to review plans not approved in this round with the goal of approving all state EV roadmaps by Sept. 30.

Biden’s Infrastructure Act provides $5 billion over five years for the electric vehicle charging network.

Funding announced Wednesday is specifically aimed at installing the most powerful chargers along “alternative fuel corridors” – the major highways that connect the states – in a bid to eliminate “range anxiety” that prevents many people to buy electric vehicles or use them for long journeys. Under the proposed guidelines, states would be required to install at least one four-port fast-charging station every 50 miles on these corridors and ensure they are within one mile of a ramp. exit.

Some states have received exemptions in rural areas for the 50-mile requirement, according to approval letters.

Additional discretionary grants of $2.5 billion are also available to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure in economically disadvantaged communities, rural areas and urban cores. And Biden’s recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes $3 billion to boost EV adoption and charging accessibility in underprivileged communities.

Industry analysts said the federal investment was a huge boon, but it alone was not enough to meet projected demand.

“It’s important to see this funding as something that will hopefully kick-start further private sector funding,” said Jessika Trancik, a professor at the Institute for Data, Systems and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“What the government can do is encourage more private sector funding and advance this transition to electric vehicles … where there may not be as much private sector investment,” he said. she declared.

Rural states have expressed serious concerns about the proposed federal requirements that come with the money, including the requirement for every 50 miles.

State transportation officials from Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota joined last month in urging the Biden administration to relax requirements.

Electric vehicles make up 0.1% of vehicle registrations in Wyoming, and state Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner told federal officials it would be “irresponsible and illogical” to spend on electric vehicles now. requirements that include four charging ports at stations every 50 miles.

It will be more than 20 years before there is enough electric vehicle adoption in Wyoming to worry about lines at a four-port station, Reiner said. So instead of just focusing on major highway corridors, Reiner said, federal money should also be used in areas away from highways that attract many tourists, such as Yellowstone National Park.

“Most of our electric vehicles will be tourist traffic,” Reiner said Wednesday. “The idea is that if you’re a nice lady from Iowa with an electric car and you want to go to Yellowstone, we want to take you there. … We want to make sure those stations are in areas populated so that there is a greater chance of success.

Wyoming requested exceptions to the mileage requirement for 11 sections of freeway. Federal officials have yet to respond, Reiner said, and the state’s plan is still pending.

The Federal Highway Administration will review these concerns and determine final guidelines now that the public comment period has ended. Federal authorities are also considering a waiver of the “Buy America” provision of the infrastructure agreement.

Officials in Nevada, for example, have expressed concern that they will not be able to acquire charging stations that comply with US provisions and therefore will not be able to start building their part of the network.

Experts who have followed the evolution of electric vehicle adoption in the United States say it is important to have charging stations everywhere.

“It’s like the US Postal Service. You need to be able to send mail anywhere, including rural areas,” said Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the university’s vehicle electrification group.

“Even though this charger that is in this rural area is not used as much every day, we still need the infrastructure to supply them. We have filling stations that are less used in rural areas than they wouldn’t be in a big city, but we need them for demand.

Electric vehicle owners welcomed the news and said they currently need to take extra precautions if they want to take their electric vehicle on a long trip.

Bob Palrud of Spokane, Wash., says the small number of chargers in some rural areas in the West means he has to plan his travel routes carefully to avoid running out of power. Palrud drives three times a year with his wife, Judy, to their cabin in Sheridan, Wyoming, and twice they ran out of power so badly in southeastern Montana that his vehicle automatically shut down some functions to save energy.

“What people worry about the most is range,” said Palrud, a semi-retired house painter who was at a charging center just off Interstate-90 in Montana on Wednesday on the way back to Spokane. “I’m sitting there doing mental calculations on what kind of lineup I’m going to get.”

When traveling to see family in Minnesota, Palrud said he travels hundreds of miles to avoid northern Montana, where there is no major highway and few charging options. .

“It would be better to have more but it’s not a deal killer,” he said. “I could cut a few hundred miles and that would be awesome.”

Brown reported from Billings, Montana.

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