What’s in the White House’s plan to expand the electric car charging network: NPR

Vice President Harris charges an electric vehicle during a tour of the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George County, Maryland. There she highlighted investments in electric vehicles.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

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Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Vice President Harris charges an electric vehicle during a tour of the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George County, Maryland. There she highlighted investments in electric vehicles.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

For electric vehicle owners who yearn for the freedom of the open road, range anxiety has been a constant source of concern.

The Biden administration is hoping to change that, announcing this week a multi-billion dollar plan to strengthen the nation’s electric vehicle charging system – a step experts say is vital to reducing America’s carbon footprint and improving the accessibility and convenience of non-traditional vehicles.

The White House has pledged $ 7.5 billion from a bipartisan infrastructure law to improve and expand the nation’s charging network. The plan would create new public chargers for both local travel and longer distance travel.

The announcement follows pledges from some of the country’s most popular automotive brands, including General Motors, Volvo and Lexus, to expand their range of electric vehicles.

A big hurdle in buying an electric vehicle, said Vice President Harris in describing the White House’s plan, is figuring out where and how to charge it.

“Well, when we install public chargers in rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods, we make it easier for people to switch to electricity. It’s that simple,” Harris said.

President Biden hopes that greater accessibility to charging stations – along with other incentives like a proposed tax credit of up to $ 12,500 in his Build Back Better proposal – will push drivers into the market for a new vehicle towards an electric option more respectful of the environment.

There will be a new joint office to support the development of the charging network

The plan provides $ 5 billion for states to expand their charging networks, especially in rural and urban neighborhoods that have historically been underserved in the green vehicle market.

Additional competitive grants of $ 2.5 billion are also included for communities to “ensure the deployment of chargers meets government priorities, such as supporting rural recharging, improving local air quality and increasing access to electric vehicle charging in underprivileged communities, ”the White House said in a statement.

The administration said that no later than February 11 it would issue guidelines for states and cities to “strategically deploy electric vehicle charging stations to create a nationwide network along the road network of our country”.

“These guidelines will look at where we already have electric vehicle charging and where we need it – or will need it – more. It will focus on the needs of disadvantaged and rural communities, catalyze new private investment in electric vehicle charging and ensure that we are intelligently connecting to our electricity grid, ”according to the plan.

By May 13 at the latest, the Ministry of Transport will issue guidelines for national grid chargers “to make sure they work, are safe and are accessible to all.”

Pete Buttigieg, who oversees the transport department, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm this week signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint energy and transport office to support the development of the charging network.

“We are embarking on a transformational path to modernize the way we get […] in this country, ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to choose electric vehicles and spend less at the pump while making our air cleaner, ”Granholm said in a joint statement.

Towards an electric future

While building the infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight, Timothy Johnson, professor and chair of the Energy and Environment program at Duke University, highlighted how quickly the United States has been able to adapt to the growing need for service stations between the 1920s and 1930s, building a whole new area from a worn out starting point.

“We went from virtually nothing in 1920 to a few hundred thousand pumps in the 1930s,” he said. “We have an electrical infrastructure, so adding chargers isn’t a big deal. We’ve done it before, we can do it again, and I think under easier conditions this time around.”

Despite progress in increasing the number of chargers, not all chargers are created equal. While the $ 7.5 billion plan is a historic investment in the future of electric cars, the figure is half of what the administration initially offered for the same number of chargers.

This means that rather than installing Level 3 operating chargers which can almost completely replenish a car’s battery in 15 to 45 minutes, the administration will likely implement more Level 2 chargers – like those typically found in homes and office buildings – which can take up to 20 hours to power one.

Level 2 chargers are priced at a few thousand dollars, while level 3 chargers are 50-100 times more expensive, according to The edge.

Yet the plan has been hailed by environmental activists as a victory in the fight against climate change.

“The Biden administration’s electric vehicle charging action plan brings us closer to a much needed national charging network,” said Simon Horowitz, partner, Environment America Global Warming Solutions. “Transportation is currently the number one source of global warming emissions in the United States, with vehicle pollution fueling the climate crisis on a daily basis. It is essential that we drastically reduce our pollution to protect our planet. “

The infrastructure bill also concerns electric vehicle batteries

Industry experts have expressed concerns about the rate at which car batteries are produced as well as their impact on the environment.

The Infrastructure Bill, under which the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Program is funded, allocates $ 3 billion in competitive grants to accelerate the development of a battery supply chain in North America. It also includes an additional $ 3 billion in grants to expand battery manufacturing capabilities in the United States as well as establish battery recycling facilities.

The announcement of the charging network is accompanied by an additional effort, set by Executive Decree, which sets a target for half of all new cars sold by 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles.

Recent changes in the market suggest that, while ambitious, the country is in a better position to meet this target than in the past, as a number of barriers to owning electric cars – such as a lack of charging stations – have fallen.

“The more normal this looks, the more people will be willing to buy an electric vehicle,” said Johnson, a professor at Duke University.

According to a June Pew Research Center survey, only 7% of Americans reported owning an electric vehicle, but almost 40% said they were very or somewhat likely to seriously consider purchasing an electric vehicle for their next car.

And for those drivers concerned about the price of electric cars relative to their gasoline-powered counterparts, Johnson said that as the cost of producing lithium batteries continues to drop, America is approaching a “threshold. magic cost “for electric vehicles, where the price gap between gasoline and electric vehicles will narrow.

Data analysis by Kelley Blue Book shows that the average cost of an electric vehicle fell by 10.8% from 2020 to 2021, while the average cost of a traditional motor vehicle increased by 2.2% over the same period.

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