Washington Watch: Biden rolls ahead with spending on interstate EV charging network

The Biden administration is starting to spend the $5 billion over five years from the bipartisan infrastructure law aimed at expanding electric vehicle charging, primarily on the nation’s highways and interstates.

There is also a program meant to bring more EV TSLA, -0.50% charging to rural areas, a newly formed collaboration between the transportation and energy departments.

Related: Bipartisan efforts mount to expand EV infrastructure in rural America

Biden has set a goal of a national network of 500,000 public charging stations in place by 2030, and administration officials say over 100,000 exist already. Private companies will need to fill in the gaps if EV charging is to become as readily available as pumping gas.

Curbing “range anxiety” — the distance a vehicle might travel on a single charge — is an important aspect behind greater EV adoption, auto experts say. Many EV owners now save that car for short trips to run errands and use other transportation for distance traveling.

“Americans need to know that they can purchase an electric vehicle and find convenient charging stations when they are using Interstates and other major highways,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said. “The new EV formula program will provide states with the resources they need to provide their residents with reliable access to an EV charging station as they travel.”

Read: Amazon and its fleet EV alliance caution GM, Toyota and others they’ll shop elsewhere if battery life, sedan demand not met

Still, tackling emissions from this sector is a vital aspect of the president’s aim to halve total U.S. emissions by the end of the decade and flip to net-zero emissions by 2050.

In 2019, the latest year for complete data, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor to the U.S. total, EPA stats show.

Read: Here’s a smart way to invest in the clean-energy transition right now (and not just EVs, solar and wind)

The White House has an aspirational goal of 50% of all new cars sold in the U.S. by 2030 to produce zero emissions.

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The plans announced Thursday are expected to build on Alternative Fuel Corridors that nearly every state has designated over the past six years of this program. 

To access the funds, states must submit an EV infrastructure plan by Aug. 1 to the DOT-DOE’s Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, and plans will be approved by Sept. 30. The federal government pays for 80% of projects under the program.

Read: Even a majority on the political right in the U.S. is now sweating climate change, poll finds

Officials said the funding will be consistent with the administration’s environmental justice guidelines, which call for 40% of the benefits from federal clean energy and climate investments flow to disadvantaged communities.

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The infrastructure law also has a separate $2.5 billion grant program for other projects to deploy charging and other alternative vehicle fuels.

The crux of the administration’s push for EVs — namely, the incentives that can sweeten purchases for consumers — remain tied up in the stalled Build Back Better bill. Biden has expressed interest in breaking out EV and other climate-change initiatives from that broader spending bill.

Read: A ‘Made in America’ EV tax credit — what car buyers need to know if Biden can advance a sliced-and-diced Build Back Better bill

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