On December 14th, the Biden administration unveiled a new EV Charging Action Plan. As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law it will boost America’s efforts in deploying charging stations across the country and speed up the adoption of EVs – both crucial to tackling greenhouse emissions and reducing America’s carbon footprint. President Biden is banking on greater accessibility, as well as the proposed tax credit of up to $12,500 per EV in his Build Back Better proposal, to convert ICE drivers. This will surely bring even more wind in the sails of EV charging businesses throughout 2022.
The EV Charging Action Plan outlines the steps federal agencies are taking to support developing and deploying chargers across the country. The Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT) will establish a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation focused on deploying EV infrastructure. It will rely on industry experts, manufacturers and other stakeholders to ensure a solid national network that is all encompassing.
Of the $7.5 billion allocated in the plan, $5 billion will go into The EV charging program to provide funding to strategically deploy EV chargers and establish an interconnected network.
The available funds may be used to pay for the acquisition, installation, operation and maintenance of EV charging infrastructure and to facilitate data collection, access and reliability. The federal share of the costs of the projects funded under this program will be 80%.
The remaining $2.5 billion will be handed out via The Charging and Fueling infrastructure program in the form of competitive grants focused on putting charging stations in rural areas and disadvantaged communities. The infrastructure bill also allocates $3 billion in competitive grants to expand the United States’ battery manufacturing capabilities and battery recycling facilities.
3 key points after analysing the EV Charging Action Plan
Largest ever US investment in charging
President Biden initially sought $15 billion from Congress for EV charging stations, which was subsequently cut in half. The administration, however, is still set on its initial plan to deploy 500,000 charging stations across the country even with reduced funding. While $7.5 billion represents a historic investment in the future of EVs, it means that rather than installing level 3 chargers that can charge a car’s battery in 15-30 minutes, with half the budget it will most likely have to implement a larger number of level 2 chargers which are significantly cheaper and slower.
Nevertheless, this law is pivotal in propelling the industry forward and is a shining example of public actions complementing the efforts of the private industry. It will strengthen domestic supply chains, support jobs across the country, encourage further private investment in EV charging and make EVs cheaper for the average American.
Network roll-out guidance for cities and states
By February 11th, Biden’s administration aims to publish guidance for states and cities on how to strategically deploy EV charging stations to build a national charging network. Many factors will determine the success of a national EV charging roll-out, but in our opinion, organized and efficient implementation on a state level is critical.
Public charging is a crucial part of the transition to a mainstream EV market and the most visible component of the charging ecosystem. Cities will face challenges in navigating issues such as how many chargers, type of charging and required policies are needed.
If city governments conduct a baseline EV charging assessment, design infrastructure plans to reach EV targets, consult stakeholders to identify gaps and opportunities, develop policies to fill those gaps and finally reassess while optimizing the budget under the infrastructure bill, we believe it’ll succeed. We have seen that the development of similar Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans in Europe has proven to be a very successful approach to create test-beds and bring up pilot projects up to scale.
Furthermore, these guidelines should also ensure the interoperability of the charging infrastructure through regulations and guidelines, provide technical and safety requirements for installation and operation, and pricing regulations.
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A new office for facilitating funding and grant application
An organization that is well managed, understands its purpose and uses its staff efficiently is one that can distribute available funds equitably. We see this issue in Europe, where funds are made available, but smaller local authorities do not have the capacity to apply. The way charging stations are distributed now is neither equitable nor convenient for lower income communities. If the US wants to include the needs of disadvantaged and rural communities and ensure smart connections to the grid, increased technical support must be provided by the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.
AMPECO dived into the proposal and has put forward the following suggestions:
- The role of demand response
Smart charging and energy management are key to optimizing the grids and ensuring the balance between power demand and supply. Too much simultaneous charging could threaten grid stability, requiring expensive new infrastructure. AMPECO’s smart charging solutions help make optimal use of the existing grid, avoiding expensive upgrades while charging more EVs faster and at scale. The charging speed can adapt to the grid’s available capacity to prevent congestion and overload.
- Funding for multi-unit residential charging
Undoubtedly, the US needs to increase the amount of public charging infrastructure to help drive EV sales. Naturally, many consumers compare EV charging to refueling at a gas station and in the case of long distance travel replicating this model makes sense. Having high-power DC fast chargers is important to achieving mainstream EV adoption, but what about supporting the daily driving needs of Americans?
We believe that setting aside funding for level 1 and level 2 chargers in multi-unit dwellings, especially in low income communities, would be beneficial for EV adoption and the best return on taxpayer funds for long-period (7+ hours) charging use cases. Roughly one million chargers are expected to be needed at multi-unit buildings by 2030. Unfortunately, the power supply and electrical panels in many apartment buildings cannot support charging multiple EVs with level 2 chargers. To avoid expensive grid upgrades, level 1 smart outlets could be deployed instead. As the overwhelming majority of charging takes place at home, a smart outlet would be the most cost-effective solution that provides enough range for an average driver’s daily needs.
- EV charging corridors to ensure US-wide adequate coverage
The EV Charging Action Plan provides $2.5 billion for EV charging corridors through a competitive grant program that will support innovative approaches and ensure charging deployment includes rural charging and increased charging in disadvantaged communities. Such targeted legislation should improve processes more specifically with regards to: facilitating permit-granting processes, increasing public-private investment and improving synergies between energy- and transport-related projects. While the EV charging corridors funding should target high-power DC chargers, such deliverables will certainly have positive spill-over effects in other use-cases of charging.
The costs and benefits should be shared across all stakeholders
The costs to deploy national charging infrastructure are substantial, but so are the benefits and opportunities. The authorities have developed the tools and mechanisms to enable stakeholders’ involvement in the deployment of charging infrastructure but the costs and benefits should be shared across all stakeholders. Electric power utilities, private charge point operators, automakers, and property owners each have significant roles in developing a nationwide charging infrastructure network.
We at AMPECO look forward to engaging with authorities and contributing to the ongoing stakeholder consultation by the DoE and DoT.