The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) included significant new funding to support and incentivize the buildout of America’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure—$7.5 billion for formula and competitive grants. The implementation of these programs, and their success in leveraging private sector investment, will determine whether the Biden administration meets its goal of installing 500,000 chargers nationwide by 2030. This blog provides an overview of the EV charging infrastructure programs in the law, a status update on the guidelines and process for implementing the grants, and early highlights from state plans to leverage these investments.
EV Charging Provisions in the IIJA
The IIJA includes two primary grant programs dedicated to electric vehicle charging:
- $5 billion in formula funding: The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula (NEVI) program provides formula funding to all 50 states, D.C., and territories to support the installation of publicly accessible charging infrastructure and establish an interconnected network for data collection, access, and reliability. IIJA also requires DOT to set aside 10% of funds for discretionary grants to states or localities to strategically fill in gaps in the national network.
- $2.5 billion in competitive grant funding: The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants (also known as the Corridor and Community grants) provide competitive grants to states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and other public-sector entities to support the installation of publicly accessible charging infrastructure—or stations for alternative fuels such as hydrogen or natural gas. IIJA requires at least 50% of these funds to be designated for a community grant program prioritizing rural and low- and moderate-income communities with a low ratio of private parking spaces. The competitive grant program must be established by November 2022, and more information will be made available later this year.
Both programs prioritize charging infrastructure along the National Alternative Fuels Corridor, a network of designated highways nominated by states with signage to highlight routes with available charging stations open to the public and easily accessible. Both grant programs also have an 80% federal cost share, meaning states must provide 20% of project costs.
NEVI Program Guidelines
The Federal Highway Administration released preliminary guidance for the NEVI program in February for states developing their grant action plans, followed by proposed rules in June that are currently open for public comment.
Specifically, NEVI funds may be used for acquiring and installing infrastructure, community outreach, operating costs for up to five years, traffic control devices and signs associated with implementation, data sharing, mapping, and analysis. The new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available at DriveElectric.gov.
The administration’s NEVI guidance and draft rules raise six key considerations in using program funds:
- User experience and reliability: Under the Administration’s proposal, EV charging infrastructure systems would be interoperable across EV brands, EV supply equipment, EV service providers, and the grid. EV stations should display real-time electricity prices and availability, and accept non-membership contactless payment. Plans must deploy chargers with 24-hour access to power on a reliable network and achieve 97% reliability—meaning stations should have usable chargers almost all the time. Finally, stations should have at least four DC Fast Chargers (also known as level 3 chargers), the fastest category of charger, which can generally provide a full charge in about half an hour.
- Strategic and efficient location: Initially, states must prioritize deploying chargers along Alternative Fuel Corridors. After a state has met its corridor requirements, it has more flexibility in siting new stations. The guidelines instruct states to deploy chargers near interstate highways with a maximum distance of 50 miles apart along designated corridors. States should also consider proximity to highway travel centers, small businesses with publicly available restrooms, lighting, and seating.
- Equity: State plans should advance the administration’s Justice40 Initiative, targeting at least 40% of funding to benefit disadvantaged communities—though the guidance notes that this does not mean 40% of charging infrastructure will be in disadvantaged communities. Projects should prioritize these areas, fill in existing gaps of service, and engage stakeholders from these communities, including those on tribal lands.
- Labor and workforce: States are encouraged to consider a proactive workforce training initiative—working with community organizations, and with a focus on diversity and equity, including apprenticeships and entry-level training programs.
- Private investment: Programs should encourage private investment through cost-share requirements or rebates. States should also consult the relevant private sector entities in developing their plans to identify market opportunities and challenges.
- Data and cybersecurity: Guidance instructs states to collect and share data on charging station use, cost, reliability, and maintenance to inform program evaluation. State plans should also include strategies and tools to protect against malicious code. DOT outlined network connectivity requirements to allow for remote monitoring and control to help address cybersecurity concerns.
State Action Plans
IIJA stipulates, and the NEVI guidelines further instruct, states to develop plans with the purpose of serving an interconnected, standardized, and national EV charging system that is convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable. State plans must include information on interstate coordination, coordination with utilities, public engagement, labor and workforce considerations, cybersecurity, and equity. If states neglect to submit or implement plans, DOT has the authority to claw back funds or transfer them to local governments.
In advance of states’ August 1st deadline to submit their NEVI action plans, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation has been meeting with states to answer questions and offer feedback. According to Rachel Nealer, Deputy Director for Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, some of the most common questions have been about advancing equity and exceptions from requirements. For example, states have inquired about allowances for charging stations to be a bit farther than 50 miles apart if they are near underserved neighborhoods.
While states vary in completing and releasing their plans, Texas and Oregon have made public indications of how they intend to use their grant dollars, providing some insight into how state DOTs are developing their NEVI plans.