White House details plan to make a 'truly national system' of EV charging stations

·Washington Correspondent
·4 min read

The newly enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law sets aside $7.5 billion to supercharge America’s effort to build more EV charging stations. On Thursday, administration officials offered more detail on what that network might look like in the years ahead, noting that it will first focus on adding charging stations to the existing interstate highway system.

The various state plans “when stitched together will make a truly national system,” a senior administration official told reporters upon making the announcement.

The White House hopes the money will be a key step towards President Joe Biden’s ambitious goal of having 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country by 2030. But details so far have been limited with Biden promising “a true national network of charging stations for electric vehicles” before he signed the law last November.

Two-thirds of the money, $5 billion, will go towards a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, which is tasked with sending money to states to install charging stations. The remainder, $2.5 billion, will go towards a grant program that officials promise more detail on later in the year.

For now, the focus is on main roadways. In developing their plans for NEVI money in the coming years, states will be required to focus on designated alternative fuel corridors that largely track with the existing interstate highway system.

But don’t expect new charging stations in the immediate future: state proposals aren’t due until Aug. 1 with an approval and funding process to follow.

“We are modernizing America’s national highway system for drivers in cities large and small, towns and rural communities, to take advantage of the benefits of driving electric,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

‘A national charging network’

Administration officials offered new program guidance for the states and some new tidbits of what you might see on a roadway in the future. States will be required to have chargers less than 50 miles apart in most instances with a focus on the direct current stations that would be able charge at least four cars simultaneously.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a news conference in the parking garage at Union Station in front of new EV charging stations in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a news conference in the parking garage at Union Station in front of new EV charging stations in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Federal money will cover 80% of the costs, with private or state funds making up the remaining 20%. States are expected to partner with private businesses both to manufacture and then maintain the new stations. The charging stations are also set to use standard charging systems, meaning they would work with all electric vehicles, including Tesla (TSLA), which offers various adapters.

But charging stations could become yet another front between the Biden administration and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has shown his displeasure with Biden often over the last year. Biden has lavished attention on legacy automaker CEOs like Ford (F) CEO Jim Farley and General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra while ignoring Tesla. Musk has noticed and loudly pointed out the discrepancy.

On Tuesday, for the first time, Biden acknowledged the automaker, citing it as the country's largest electric vehicle manufacturer.

Musk has already been critical of the charging station efforts. "Do we need support for gas stations? We don't," Musk said during an appearance at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit last year. "There's no need for support for a charging network. I would delete it. Delete."

Newly installed car chargers at a Tesla Super Charging station are shown in Carlsbad, California, U.S. September 14, 2018.        REUTERS/Mike Blake
Tesla car chargers in Carlsbad, California. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Currently, Biden officials say the private sector has built around 100,000 charging stations in the United States, many of which are mapped online. They declined to specify exactly how far they expect this money to get the country towards the 500,000 goal.

“This is just the start ... We are going to make a significant downpayment as part of this $7.5 billion and we are continuing to work with Congress on providing technical assistance on Build Back Better," an official said, referring to the massive bill currently stalled in Congress.

During a recent Yahoo Finance interview, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg added that provisions could also help the Biden administration's other ambitious EV goal: making half of the cars sold in the U.S. electric by 2030.

"The partnerships that we have and the conversations we're having with industry and the automakers already working very quickly and effectively in this direction give me a very great degree of confidence that we're going to achieve this goal,” Buttigieg said Monday.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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