Four Fast Charging Stations Every 50 Miles – US Unveils EV Infrastructure Plan

Enlarge / A charging station from Electrify America.

Electrify America

In about five years, a common complaint about electric vehicles — range anxiety — will be a thing of the past across much of the US.

Starting this year, the federal government will begin distributing $5 billion to states over five years to build a nationwide network of fast-charging stations. the to plan initially focuses on the Interstate Highway System and directs states to build a charging station every 50 miles. These stations must be able to charge at least four electric vehicles at the same time with 150 kW.

Once states complete the interstate charging network, they can apply for grants to fill gaps elsewhere. The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, a new agency created to help transportation and energy departments manage the program, will allow exceptions to the 50-mile requirement on a case-by-case basis, such as when there is no grid connection in is available nearby.

Funding for the first interstate portion of the program will be allocated using a formula that mimics how federal highway grants are distributed. Beginning in fiscal 2022, $615 million will be allocated to build charging stations and $300 million to establish the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. Ten percent of the annual funding goes into closing gaps in the network.

After the launch of the first $5 billion program, an additional $2.5 billion in discretionary grants will be available to build chargers in rural and underserved areas.

As part of their plans submitted to the federal government, states must ensure that charging stations are reliable — at least one charger per station must work more than 97 percent of the time — and that they will limit their impact on the power grid. States are also being instructed to design stations so that they can be easily expanded and upgraded as demand and charging rates increase. The new program also encourages states to place chargers near travel centers, convenience stores, visitor centers or restaurants.

In order to receive recognition for their interstate expansion, states must install chargers that use the combined charging system, also known as CCS. With the exception of the Nissan Leaf, most EV models sold in the United States can use this type of connector. Although Teslas have their own type of plug, the company is reportedly planning to offer an adapter that will allow at least part of its North American fleet to use CCS fast chargers. (It already offers this adapter in South Korea.)

The new program also prioritizes domestic production of chargers, which has prompted some manufacturers to start establishing operations in the US. Tritium, an Australian company that supplies some fast chargers to ChargePoint, announced earlier this week that it will build a factory in Tennessee capable of making 30,000 DC fast chargers a year. Siemens also plans to expand its US presence to manufacture up to 1 million chargers per year by 2025.

One area where the new program currently falls short is how people will pay for charging. Most non-Tesla EV owners have a number of apps on their phones (or keychains on their keychains) to give them access to various charging networks. It’s less than convenient.

“We’re looking at it closely,” said Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg told car and driver. “Part of this program will be a common standard. Of course, if we use taxpayers’ money to help private actors build charging stations, we must ensure that the citizen benefits. There can be any number of network benefits through loyalty programs. That’s fine,” he said, “but we have to make sure that … everyone can benefit from it.”

A credit card reader at each charging station seems like a decent solution, although some networks already support the ISO 15118 standard, also known as “plug and charge”. Drivers using compatible vehicles can simply plug in and coordinate the charger and vehicle to handle both authentication and payment.

Buttigieg also said the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will begin providing guidance for the placement and design of chargers to make it easier for vehicles to tow trailers.

The new program represents a significant down payment on President Joe Biden’s pledge to create a network of 500,000 charging stations across the United States by 2030. If this plan comes to fruition, it should help accelerate the country’s transition to electric vehicles while reducing carbon emissions from transport.

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