Electric vehicles offer a wide range of potential benefits. They can be charged with clean and low-cost electricity from renewable sources, instead of depending on fuel deliveries, which are often from remote locations. EVs can also help eliminate the direct emissions associated with transportation, improving air quality in cities. Poor air quality has been linked with health issues such as lung and heart disease.
Unfortunately, there is a major factor that limits the EV adoption: the lack of charging infrastructure. In many cases, individuals and businesses decide not to purchase EVs due to the fear of depleting their batteries with no charging stations nearby. At the same time, commercial building owners have a lower incentive to invest in fast chargers, since the number of EVs in circulation is relatively small. With widespread access to fast chargers, recharging an EV could become as simple as refueling a traditional car.
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The Biden-Harris Administration is aware that EV adoption is slowed down by the lack of charging infrastructure, and they have responded with the Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan. With a total investment of $7.5 billion, the US government plans to kick-start the deployment of 500,000 fast chargers across the nation. This would make EV charging as quick and easy as going to the closest gas station.
Biden Harris EV Charging Action Plan: Key Facts
Installing 500,000 EV charging stations is a major challenge, both technically and financially. According to an NPR article, each DC fast charger requires an initial investment of around $30,000 – $140,000 plus labor, and the total cost of half a million units could reach $40 billion. The US currently has around 100,000 public chargers, but they have several limitations:
- There are multiple configurations and plug types, and this causes compatibility issues. EV owners must only find a charging station, it must also be compatible with their specific car model.
- Many of the existing chargers are Level 1 or Level 2 units, which need several hours to fully charge an EV. The speed and convenience of a gas station can only be achieved with DC fast chargers, also known as Level 3 chargers. Depending on the EV model, up to 80% charge can be achieved in as little as 15-20 minutes.
The Biden-Harris Administration wants to develop and standardize EV charging infrastructure, and two major investments have been announced. A $5 billion fund will be provided for states who submit EV charging infrastructure plans by late summer, and a $2.5 billion grant fund has been announced for key corridors and their surrounding communities.
The cost of deploying 500,000 DC fast chargers is much higher than $7.5 billion, but the funds announced so far can be used to demonstrate that the concept is viable. At this point, private investment can take over, and achieve widespread access to EV charging.
Improving Access to EV Charging Stations
The Biden-Harris Administration has set an ambitious goal of increasing the EV market share to 50% of total vehicle sales by 2030. They have also announced the creation of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which will enhance collaboration between the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT).
Compatibility is critical when deploying a large number of EV chargers. For this reason, the US government is focusing on non-proprietary units that can be used by multiple car brands. Standards and technical guidance for cities will be developed and published over time. However, the EV Charging Action Plan fact sheet has stated that the charging stations being funded should have at least four charging plugs each.
The Biden-Harris Administration is prioritizing speed, reliability and convenience. They plan to deploy EV charging stations along the interstate highway system, and key highway sections are being developed as alternative fuel corridors.