Charge ahead!

On June 5, the head of the Federal Highway Administration, Shailen Bhatt, was called before the Senate to explain a striking statistic: three years after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021, only 7 EV charging sites have been deployed from a $7.5 billion fund created for that purpose.

“That is pathetic,” Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon asserted. “That is a vast administrative failure. Something is terribly wrong and it needs to be fixed.”

There’s no denying that we need to expand our EV charging infrastructure, fast. Electric vehicle sales are growing as EVs continue to get better and cheaper—Bloomberg recently reported that several EV models with 300-mile battery ranges now cost less than the average U.S. gas car. And thanks to aggressive new federal and state regulations, EV adoption is expected to explode over the next decade.

But while making EV chargers as ubiquitous as gas stations may seem straightforward, the reality is a bit more complicated. According to Nick Nigro of Atlas Public Policy, some delay is to be expected. Many states had no prior experience deploying charging stations, and are working to navigate federal restrictions on how and where they can be built. “We are building a national EV charging network from scratch, and we want to get it right,” a spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration said.

Still, after three years, many are growing concerned. By August 2022, all 50 states had submitted their required applications to receive their share of the federal funding. But as of this month, only 34 states have taken the next key step of issuing “solicitations” to industrial contractors to build the stations. Of those, only 27 have awarded contracts, and only 8 have actually broken ground on projects.

The remaining 16 states—including Montana, Louisiana, and Florida—are sitting on millions of federal dollars for EV chargers with no immediate plans to put them to use.

Many Biden Administration officials are hopeful that the dam will break this year. The Highway Administration says the deployment program is “hitting its stride” in 2024, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says she expects at least 1,000 chargers to be online by the end of the year.

But the clock is ticking. Any station that is not up and running by inauguration day in 2025 may never be built at all. It’s crucial, therefore, that every state fast-tracks their deployment of EV charging stations under this program NOW, and that the federal government steps up to help them do so.

Let’s make sure that happens.