Biden Administration Plans to Construct an Alternative Fuel Corridor Across the Country
Environment Policy Brief #137 | By: Jacob Morton | February 25, 2022
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Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced its plan to spend $5 billion to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations along the nation’s highways. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package includes $7.5 billion allocated to building “a sprawling network of EV charging stations across the country,” and to “facilitate data collection, access, and reliability.” Biden’s plan intends to spend the first $5 billion over a span of five years, by providing funding directly to states that submit their own plans for developing their portion of what the administration calls an “Alternative Fuel Corridor,” that would connect forty states along interstate highways across the country.
Each state would have to submit its plans by August 1, 2022, on how the money would be used to create its section of the Alternative Fuel Corridor with EV charging stations and other EV infrastructure. The plans will be required to meet Federal Highway Administration guidelines, and the agency will approve eligible plans by September 30, 2022. The White House recently unveiled a new agency, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, to oversee this effort.
The US Department of Transportation has released a state-by-state disbursement plan that shows the largest funding levels going to Texas, California and Florida — the three most populous states, but also says 40 percent of the funding will be directed to underserved and rural areas.
This initial $5 billion will be divided and allocated to states through the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, which will also distribute the remaining $2.5 billion in available funding through discretionary grants later on. Funding from those grants will be eligible for installing EV stations along the Alternative Fuels Corridor, as well as for general community EV charging infrastructure, with the intent of creating access to EV charging stations in rural and underserved areas. The details of this grant program will be announced later this year.
The funds provided to states can only be used for battery-electric vehicles, not hydrogen or other alternative energy vehicles, and states can team up with private enterprises to build and maintain the stations. However, it will be up to the states to decide what kind of chargers to install. There are two types of EV chargers, DC fast chargers, which can charge a car to mostly full in 20-30 minutes, and L2 chargers, which can take hours. Typically, DC fast chargers cost around $100,000, compared to around $6,000 for a L2, according to Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, a senior resident fellow at the think tank, Third Way.
Hughes-Cromwick says that states will have to find the right balance between the faster, more expensive chargers and the slower, cheaper ones, but explains that generally, DC fast chargers are meant to be installed along highway corridors and at rest stops, while L2 chargers make more sense for homes, workplaces, restaurants and shopping centers, where people have time to step away from their vehicle. Additionally, she notes that while a L2 costs only $6,000, but charges much slower, “you can still put a lot of plugs in.”
According to the Department of Energy, there are currently around 45,000 publicly available charging stations across the United States. Biden’s plan seeks to build half a million more – five times the current number – by 2030. The goal is for owners of electric vehicles to be able to find a charging port anywhere within 50 miles of their location across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
According to Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, this funding will place America in a position to “lead the electric vehicle revolution.” Buttigieg says, “This is about making sure everybody can get in on the EV revolution, it’s already happening, but we have to make sure that it’s made in America; that everyone benefits from cities to rural areas.” To this end, the White House has been pushing for charging stations to be built domestically.
President Biden also has touted an Australian company called Tritium that is set to build a manufacturing facility in Tennessee that will produce up to 30,000 DC fast chargers each year and create 500 local jobs. According to forecasts from consulting firm Alix Partners, roughly 24% of new vehicles sold worldwide are likely to be fully electric by 2030, and the US sits behind Europe and China as the world’s third-largest market for EVs. “China has been leading the race up to now, but this is about to change,” says Biden. The President also argues that the program could save an average driver up to $1,000 each year on fuel costs when they switch to an electric vehicle.
The transportation sector accounts for one third of all US greenhouse gas pollution, and the Biden administration has pledged that half the vehicles sold in the US will be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2030. However, Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, says, “We’re not going to go electric fast enough if we don’t have the ability to eliminate range anxiety for people and to be able to have them plug in wherever they live, wherever they work, wherever they want to head.” Granholm proclaims the infrastructure developed with these funds will allow “drivers across America to save money and go the distance, from coast to coast.”
Reports show that electric vehicles made up less than 3% of new auto sales last year, and while that number is expected to increase within the next decade, Deputy Federal Highway Administrator, Stephanie Pollack, says, “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.” However, the administration also recognizes that the cost of an electric vehicle is a significant roadblock for many consumers.
Secretary Granholm says, “This is exactly why the president has pushed, as part of the Build Back Better agenda, to have tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, both new and used ones.” Granholm argues that while part of the equation for a successful transition to EVs is to eliminate range anxiety in consumers, we also must “focus on areas where we haven’t seen a big uptake in electric vehicles. Maybe they are in urban areas. It might be poor communities.” Unfortunately, the Build Back Better Act remains stalled in the Senate because Senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia oppose providing a tax credit for vehicles made by union workers.
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According to Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president of political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, “The Administration’s announcement demonstrates that clean energy investments deliver for America.” Gore says, “Building out a national network of charging stations will mean less pollution, more jobs and cleaner cars. It will also allow more Americans to skip paying at the pump by making electric vehicles a practical choice for more working families.” Additionally, the White House expects this funding to catalyze more investment from businesses, utilities, and state and local governments.
Some supporters of the new program, however, feel the administration may have to be more ambitious. Connor Morgan, a spokesperson for the Zero Emission Transportation Association, says the number of charging stations actually required, “[is] going to depend on consumer behavior.” Morgan explains that “Instead of driving until the tank is empty and then stopping to fill up, EV drivers need to think about refueling whenever they’re parked and close to an available charger.” He says Biden’s infrastructure funding will help make those chargers more accessible.
Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, also notes that officials must ensure access to charging stations is equitable. A 2019 study by the Department of Energy found that 80% of electric vehicle owners have chargers in their homes, but for those who live in apartment buildings or multi-unit housing, that option may not be available. Becker says that Biden’s plan for more charging stations “will allow them to enter the EV revolution.”
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- Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA): The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) is the first industry-backed coalition of its kind advocating for 100% of vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric vehicles. ZETA brings together industry, advocates, and nongovernmental organizations whose values and strategic interests are fulfilled by meeting the 2030 goal of every vehicle sold being an EV.
- Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org): For more than 50 years the Environmental Defense Fund has been using science and different perspectives to make the environment safer and healthier for us all. EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys, and policy experts work in 28 countries, alongside hundreds of partners, to fight climate change and protect people and the planet.
- Center for Biological Diversity (biologicaldiversity.org): Reducing transportation emissions is one of the most vital steps in fighting the climate emergency, and solutions to the transportation problem are already available. Our nation needs to shift away from fossil fuel-powered vehicle dependence and toward zero emissions in all transport sectors. The Center for Biological Diversity wages innovative legal and grassroots campaigns, including the Safe Climate Transport Campaign, to protect people, wildlife and ecosystems from climate change and the dirty and dangerous fossil fuel industry. They work to eliminate greenhouse pollution and speed the just transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
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Kasper, K. (2022, February 10). Biden administration green lights funds for Nationwide Electric Vehicle Charging Network. https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2022/02/10/biden-administration-green-lights-funds-nationwide-electric-vehicle-charging-network/
Martin, G. (2022, February 11). Biden administration backs $5B network of electric vehicle charging stations. Review-Journal. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/biden-administration-backs-5b-network-of-electric-vehicle-charging-stations-2527429/
Newburger, E. (2022, February 10). White House rolls out $5 billion funding plan to States for Electric Vehicle Chargers. CNBC. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/10/biden-rolls-out-5-billion-to-states-for-electric-vehicle-chargers.html
Nilsen, E. (2021, November 23). How Biden’s infrastructure funding could push more Americans into the Electric Vehicle ‘revolution’. CNN. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/23/politics/biden-electric-vehicle-chargers-climate/index.html