Biden administration approves $900 million for states to build national electric car charging networks

The Biden administration on Wednesday said 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 serious transition away from gas-powered transportation.

The approval of the plan means that $900 million can start flowing to the states, which have been tasked with using money from President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure law to form a network of chargers. nationwide. Building a reliable and convenient network is critical to driving greater adoption of the technology, which in itself is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The announcement was made on the same day Biden visits the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to offer The new law includes tax incentives when buying electric vehicles.

In practical terms, that means residents in some of those states could see more charging stations start to spring up along major tourist corridors as early as next summer. Biden has the ultimate goal of installing 500,000 chargers across the United States and building a network of fast-charging stations across 53,000 miles of coast-to-coast highway.

“Unlocking this type of funding is an important step in harnessing the charging network, which is something we really need if we want to deploy and apply it,” said Nico Larco, Director of the Center for Urbanism Next. comprehensive use”. at the University of Oregon. “We don’t currently have the capacity to power anywhere near the fleet that we need.”

Federal officials said they will continue to review plans that haven’t been approved in this round with the goal of approving all states’ EV roadmaps by September 30.

Biden’s infrastructure law provides 5 billion dollars in 5 years for electric vehicle charging network.

The funding announced Wednesday is specifically for the installation of the most powerful chargers along “alternative fuel corridors” – major highways connecting the states – with the goal of eliminating “range concerns”. vi” keeps many people from buying electric vehicles or using them on long road trips. . Under the proposed guidance, 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 the ramp.

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

An additional $2.5 billion in discretionary funding is also available to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure in economically disadvantaged communities, rural areas, and urban centers. And Biden’s recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes $3 billion to promote electric vehicle adoption and charging accessibility in disadvantaged communities.

Industry analysts say the federal investment is a big hit but alone is not enough to meet projected demand.

“It is important to see this funding as something that can drive more private sector funding,” said Jessika Trancik, a professor at the Institute of Data, Systems and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. again.

“What the government can do is encourage more capital from the private sector and accelerate this shift towards electric vehicles… where there may not be much private sector investment,” she said.

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

State transportation officials in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota joined last month to urge the Biden administration to ease the 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 irrational” to spend it now. The claims include four charging ports at stations every 50 miles.

Reiner says it will be more than 20 years before there’s enough EV use in Wyoming to worry about routes at a four-gate terminal. So instead of just focusing on major highway corridors, Reiner said, federal money should also be spent in areas away from states that attract a lot of tourists, such as National Parks Yellowstone family.

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

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

The Federal Highway Administration will review those concerns and determine final guidelines once the public comment period has ended. Federal officials are also considering waiving the “Buy America” ​​provision of the infrastructure deal.

For example, officials in Nevada have expressed concern that they will not be able to obtain charging stations that meet regulations set forth by the US and therefore will not be able to begin building their portion of the network.

Experts who have watched the growth of electric vehicle adoption in the US say it’s important to have charging stations everywhere.

“It looks like United States Postal Service. Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the school’s Vehicle Electrification Group, says you need to be able to send mail anywhere, including rural places.

“Even if chargers in that rural area don’t get much daily use, we still need the infrastructure to supply them.. We have gas stations that are used less in rural areas. villages than in big cities, but we need them for our needs. “

Electric vehicle owners have praised the news and said they must now take extra precautions if they want to ride an EV on a long trip.

Bob Palrud of Spokane, Washington, said the small number of chargers in some rural areas of the West meant he had to carefully map out his travel routes to avoid running out of power. Palrud travels three times a year with his wife, Judy, to their cabin in Sheridan, Wyoming, and twice they noticed so much electricity traveling through southeastern Montana that his car automatically turned off certain functions. to save electricity.

“What people are most worried about is range,” said Palrud, a semi-retired home painter who works at a toll collection off Interstate-90 in Montana Wednesday on his way back to the city. about Spokane. “I sit there and calculate the range I’m going to get.”

While visiting family in Minnesota, Palrud said he traveled hundreds of miles to avoid northern Montana, which has no major interstates and few charging options.

“It would have been better if there were more but it’s not a killer,” he said. “I can chop a few hundred miles and that’s great.”

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