Biden’s EV Charging Plan Draws Skepticism From Some States

A charging station every 50 miles won’t work in desolate areas, while ratepayer-funded chargers are not the answer.

June 15, 2022

Desolate EV Charging Station

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Biden Administration is moving full-steam ahead on its electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure plan, which includes fast EV-charging stations every 50 miles along major highways, but some states in the Western U.S. argue that plan doesn’t make sense for extreme rural areas, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico and Colorado are skeptical of the rules that would enable them to receive a portion of the $5 billion in federal funding Biden has promised to states to build a national EV-charging network. The states say it would be nearly impossible and at best difficult to run a series of chargers along desolate stretches of highway.

“There are plenty of places in Montana and other states here out West where it’s well more than 50 miles between gas stations,” Rob Stapley, an official with the Montana Department of Transportation, told the Journal. “Even if there’s an exit, or a place for people to pull off, the other big question is: Is there anything on the electrical grid at a location or even anywhere close to make that viable?”

The states are planning to ask for waivers on the every-50-miles rule, as well as the requirement of EV chargers being no more than one mile off the highway, reports the Journal. The Federal Highway Administration said that rural state may be granted exceptions “to reflect their unique characteristics.”

Wyoming is looking into offering roadside assistance instead of chargers, with stranded motorists calling for a charging boost.

“We do respect the fact that nobody wants to run out of fuel, and we don’t want you to run out of fuel or electricity either,” Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told the Journal.

Rest stops are not an option for EV chargers, as Congress prohibited commercial activity at these locations years ago so that private businesses have a level playing field with public entities. NACS, among other industries, pushed against fast chargers at rest stops during last year’s infrastructure-bill debates because they would stifle private investment in EV charging.

“You can’t really have businesses develop at exits if you have them at rest stops,” Doug Kantor, NACS’ general counsel, told the Journal.

Many utilities push for ratepayer-funded chargers to get EV charging infrastructure built faster, but “This artificially hides the costs of charging and stunts the development of a competitive private market,” wrote Paige Anderson, NACS’ director of government relations, in a recent op-ed in the Journal.

“When private-sector companies install chargers with a chance to make money on selling electricity, they are incentivized to keep those chargers working—and to make them as fast as possible so that they can serve more customers. But we have fewer of those private-sector chargers because of the utility installations that undercut the nascent market,” she continued.

“Public efforts should be geared toward spurring private investment and a competitive market that allows businesses to try to profit from selling electricity. Such a market has worked to build a robust infrastructure for selling traditional fuels with driver-friendly amenities such as coffee, food, clean restrooms and even the occasional chicken statue,” wrote Anderson.

NACS is a founding member of the Charge Ahead Partnership, a coalition of businesses, associations and individuals who share the same goal of creating a competitive EV charging market nationwide.

“Through this coalition, our industry will have a voice in creating a level playing field for everyone who wants to get into this emerging industry,” said Anderson. “We are able to advocate for change in the current policies and system with the goal to incentivize the private industry to invest in EV charging equipment and infrastructure.”

The Charge Ahead Partnership is free to join. By joining, members will be kept informed about this issue and will learn how they can help the cause.

“The Charge Ahead Partnership represents the businesses and entrepreneurs that are willing to risk their own money to get into the EV charging marketplace,” said Jay Smith, executive director of Charge Ahead Partnership. “Giving handouts to public utilities in Ohio not only hurts everyday people through higher power bills, it will discourage private investment in EV charging and actually slow the growth of the EV charging network.”