In a plan released late last week, the federal government laid out the details for a $5 billion investment in public electric vehicle charging infrastructure over the next five years.
The money was set aside in the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed in November, and the funding is part of the Biden administration’s wider goals to increase EV adoption. Biden has pledged to have the US reach 500,000 public charging stations by 2030, and that over half the vehicles in the country will be electric or plug-in hybrids by then. This funding could be the first step to reaching those goals, and the details in the plan released last week lay out how the money will be spent.
“It’s the single largest investment in charging infrastructure in the United States,” says Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, a policy and data research firm that focuses on climate issues. “It’s a big deal, in a nutshell.”
What’s the plan?
In short, the federal government will provide $5 billion over the next five years for states to install and maintain public EV charging stations, with an additional $2.5 billion add-on for rural and underserved communities. The money will be distributed to states and must be used for chargers along certain routes, mostly on interstate highways.
The administration’s goal is to install charging stations at least every 50 miles along these roads, and each of the stations will house at least four fast chargers that can supply 150 kW of power, making them similar to Tesla superchargers.
These kinds of chargers aren’t cheap, which is why this type of investment is so important, Nigro explains. Adding a charging station for an EV in a house that can charge a car overnight might cost around $500. While building costs are site-specific, a single charger that’s capable of supplying 150 to 300 kW of power might cost between $150,000 and $200,000, Nigro says.
States will draw up their plans for roughly where they plan to install stations, and submit them to the federal government by August 1, which will approve them by the end of September. Then the states can start spending.
What about social equity issues?
After designated highways are covered, additional money can be used to install chargers in public places, such as gas stations and malls. And after the $5 billion gets spent, there’s the additional $2.5 billion that can be designated for rural and underserved areas. This add-on funding is important for the administration’s equity goals, Nigro explains.
“There’s a long history of big infrastructure projects not benefiting disadvantaged communities, but really hurting them,” Nigro says. Historically, the government frequently razed communities of color when building the federal highway system.
In his first few weeks in office, Biden pledged that 40 percent of benefits from climate and clean energy investments would go towards disadvantaged communities. This plan makes explicit mention of that program, called the Justice40 Initiative. States will have to include in their funding requests how their plans will follow the guidance and benefit disadvantaged communities.
Ultimately, the level of EV adoption the Biden administration is aiming for will require much more funding, Nigro says. It will take about $40 billion for public charging alone to reach 100 percent EV sales by 2035, according to recent work by Atlas. That will likely come from a variety of places, including federal and state governments, but also private companies such as utilities, third-party charging companies, and automakers.
The new funding should help spur other governments and companies to keep investing in EV charging, Nigro says. “This plan is about building a backbone.”