States to receive federal cash for EV chargers this year
By Arianna Skibell | 01/21/2022 06:50 AM EST
CLIMATEWIRE | States can expect to see federal money for electric vehicle infrastructure as early as midyear, administration officials said yesterday.
President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package enacted last year allotted $7.5 billion for a national network of 500,000 EV charging stations. A joint office between the Transportation Department and Department of Energy was established to oversee the rollout.
In their first joint appearance since the new office was established, officials from DOT and DOE outlined their progress for electrifying the transportation sector by midcentury and eliminating the largest single source of planet-warming emissions in the country.
“We’ve got to make sure that every American can get an electric vehicle and can get wherever they want to go in that electric vehicle, whether it’s plugging in at their local grocery store or going on a cross-country road trip,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at a conference organized by the National EV Charging Initiative, an advocacy group.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Transportation at DOE Michael Berube and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg also spoke at the conference.
The officials said the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will issue guidance to states next month on how to implement the new funding with an eye toward accessibility, affordability and equity. The initiative includes $5 billion in formula funding and $2.5 billion in competitive grants.
In the next six to eight months, states will put together their own EV charging deployment plans, Berube said.
“We will have 50 state plans covering the entire country that lays out the next five years of EV charging,” he said. “That in and of itself will go a huge way.”
Trottenberg said she expects to start rolling out the funding to states in the next few months.
“Our goal is to try and move as expeditiously as we can on getting some of those funds out the door while making sure they’re going to be spent in a way that’s achieving all the goals,” she said.
A major goal of the administration is ensuring low-income areas and communities of color have equal access to EV charging and affordable electric vehicles.
“Climate change is the existential crisis in front of us,” Berube said. “But we have to also remember that along the way of addressing that, we have to be continuing to improve the air quality, especially in those communities that have taken the brunt of transportation-related [pollution].”
The officials said one way to address environmental justice is by ensuring that half of the $2.5 billion in competitive grants is allocated to projects that private investors may not view as profitable. Private investment is seen as a crucial element in meeting the administration’s decarbonization goals.
“Private-sector investment, separate from the federal dollars, will be critical,” Berube said. “This is a huge down payment, a huge start, but we anticipate significant ongoing private investment and, quite honestly, opportunities in many different places across the ecosystem.”
The administrators said they also plan to hire scores of new staff with transportation and energy expertise.
“The two agencies will be looking at folks together who can bring an incredibly well-rounded set of skills to what is truly an interdisciplinary challenge,” Trottenberg said.
DOE in particular is looking to hire 1,000 new staff members, Granholm said.
The funding comes as the administration is trying to throw its weight behind economywide decarbonization. Biden this week said he does not think his ambitious $1.7 trillion climate and spending bill can make it across the finish line in one piece given the opposition from two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Biden said he hopes breaking up the bill and jettisoning key elements like the child tax credit will ensure that other measures, including the climate provisions, can be passed.
While the president last year set a goal that half of all new automobile sales will be electric vehicles by decade’s end, car companies say they need tax incentives to boost affordability and sales.
Biden’s imperiled reconciliation bill includes generous tax incentives for EVs, but Manchin has said he cannot support those measures in their current form, making their future uncertain (Climatewire, Dec. 16, 2021).