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Electrifying the transportation sector — the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions — while also decarbonizing the power sector is a key tenet of the United States’ long-term emission reduction goals. To do so requires building out a vast electric vehicle charging infrastructure nationwide. Installations of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), the technology and infrastructure to charge an EV, will be needed across residential, workplace, commercial and industrial settings to facilitate a broad-based conversion to clean fuel throughout the transportation sector and to support the U.S.’s long-term emission-reduction goals.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act include billions of dollars in formula and competitive grants, tax incentives and financing capital for EV infrastructure; this once-in-a-generation investment provides a down payment toward the deployment of this necessary infrastructure and the future of clean transportation in the U.S.

U.S. Investment in EV Charging Infrastructure to Date

At present, roughly 80% of personal electric vehicle charging happens at home and approximately two-thirds of U.S. households have a garage or carport suited to charging an electric vehicle. Workplaces are the second most common EV charging location for personal vehicles. Substantially expanding publicly accessible charging will be key to opening the market for EV owners who cannot charge at home or work and to facilitate longer distance trips (generally about 8% of annual miles driven in passenger vehicles are on trips longer than 100 miles).

The scale of new EV charging infrastructure required to meet U.S. climate policy commitments is significant: a 2021 analysis by Atlas Public Policy estimated that $87 billion would need to be invested over the next 10 years, including $39 billion in publicly accessible charging. Furthermore, this estimate accounts only for the infrastructure needed to fuel passenger vehicles — billions more will be required to serve the energy needs of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles as they electrify.

To date, local and state governments have provided the groundwork for EV deployment by creating EV charging planning tools, directing discretional federal settlements like the Volkswagen Settlement fund toward EV charging, authorizing electric utilities to deploy infrastructure, authoring EV and infrastructure roadmaps, and investing funds in developing infrastructure.

EV Charging Initiatives Under New Climate Legislation

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act add significant federal funding and new programs to expand EV infrastructure and to spur adoption of programs already begun by local and state leaders.

EV charging investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law encompasses the largest U.S. investment in EV charging infrastructure to date, including:

  • The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program ($5 billion): A new U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) formula grant program that provides funds to states for EV charging infrastructure, prioritizing charger installations along highways and transportation corridors.
  • Grants for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure ($2.5 billion): A new USDOT competitive grant program for states, tribes and local governments that supports strategic deployment of publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure along transportation corridors and in communities.
  • The Carbon Reduction Program ($6.4 billion): A new USDOT formula program supporting projects that reduce transportation sector emissions, including EV charging and electrification of ports, heavy-duty vehicles, public transit and multimodal options. Requires development of state carbon reduction strategies in consultation with select metropolitan planning organizations, with 65% of funds within a state sub-apportioned to areas based on population size.
  • The Clean School Bus Program ($5 billion): A new competitive grant EPA program that provides funding to replace diesel school bus fleets with electric and low-emission ones, for which EVSE costs are also eligible.

In September 2022, the U.S. Joint Office of Energy and Transportation announced that the administration had approved Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plans for all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. This means jurisdictions can access funds for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 allocated under the NEVI formula program. In March 2023, the Federal Highway Administration released the first Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure discretionary grant program.

Projects funded under NEVI and other federal funding programs for EV charging infrastructure must meet minimum standards for distance between charging stations and other requirements to help create a uniform charging experience across the country. The Joint Office has released final guidelines setting these interoperability requirements across vehicle and charger types, and improving the user experience by, for example, ensuring easy payment options.

USDOT has also released guidance for the new Carbon Reduction Program. This guidance clarified eligible project types and priorities (such as prioritizing road safety and equity) as well as federal fund stacking and flexibility. The guidance also elaborated on the planning process and necessary components for the state carbon reduction strategy plans, which are due November 15, 2023.

EV charging investments in the Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act’s Alternative Fueling Property Credit reinstitutes the U.S. Code 30C tax credit for the installation of equipment supporting alternative fuel vehicles, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Credits for EV chargers are restricted to projects in low-income urban and rural areas. This tax credit can be utilized by tax-exempt entities (like local governments and school districts) via direct payment by the IRS and is in place through 2032.

  • For individuals, 30C provides the lesser of up to $1,000 or 30% of the installation cost for new EV chargers.
  • For commercial entities at non-private residences, 30C provides the lesser of up to $100,000 or 30% of the installation cost for new EV chargers.

Additional funding programs created by the Inflation Reduction Act — including the Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles Program ($1 Billion) and Grants to Reduce Air Pollution at Ports Program ($3 billion) — provide direct funding through the EPA for vehicle replacement, for which EVSE costs are also eligible.

Finally, the Inflation Reduction Act contains a number of provisions with broad discretion for projects which reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, including EV charging infrastructure deployment. EV infrastructure projects may qualify for funding under these programs:

Next Steps for Advancing EV Charging Infrastructure

State and local governments have an important role to play in implementing federal EVSE programs, as noted in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook (page 137) released by the White House. These actions include:

  • Leveraging federal investment: Begin implementation of approved Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plans under the NEVI formula grant program. Local governments and states will need to collaborate on execution of these plans due to their respective scopes of authority. Because federal funds alone are insufficient to cover all necessary infrastructure, state and local governments can supplement with local funding or financing by addressing the particular needs and characteristics of their constituent communities. Stakeholders may identify whether other local and state matching funds exist to further leverage these federal funds.
  • Creating a central node for coordination: Establish an EV coordinator and coordinate across relevant state and local agencies, including but not limited to state departments of transportation, state departments of energy and environment and state public utility commissions. For targeted sector charging infrastructure, including at ports and public transit authorities, stakeholders may choose to work in existing, or establish new, working groups of the relevant state and local authorities.
  • Making use of technical assistance: Identify technical assistance options, engage with key federal partners and monitor for implementation updates. These may include the newly created Joint Office of Energy and Transportation and State Energy Offices. State and local transportation offices may choose to engage through a joint memorandum of understanding between the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), USDOT and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Building a supportive policy environment: State and local governments play a key role in driving momentum for transportation electrification through existing transportation, buildings and land use planning authorities. States can adopt advanced vehicle standards, institute permitting policies and create equitable EV infrastructure plans. This may include moving towards EVSE supportive building codes and reviewing permitting requirements for EV charging stations. 
  • Engaging with electric utilities and at public utility commissions: Electric utilities are key to supporting the development of integrated approaches to charging, renewable energy and storage. They must also be engaged in developing solutions for vehicle-to-everything applications where there is a two-way energy flow between a vehicle and a building, the grid or other loads to enhance infrastructure resilience. This may include updates to Integrated Resource Plans and Distribution System Plans, evaluation of new and existing programs for EV charging rate design, make ready investments and beneficial electrification plans.
  • Consulting with Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs): MPOs can help identify projects and strategies to reduce transportation-sector carbon emissions which are eligible for funding from the $6.4 billion Carbon Reduction Program. These Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds may include alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure, as well as broader sectoral policies including multi-use mobility and select transit investments. The list of eligible projects crosses many state and local authorities, and ongoing coordination across these entities should be built into program implementation plans. The federal share for this new formula program is generally around 80% and may be combined with other USDOT funding.
  • Centering communities in planning and decisions: Due to their strong relationships with communities, local governments are well positioned to demystify transportation electrification and encourage the new partnerships that it requires. 
  • Building a community engagement plan: State and local governments should proactively include community engagement plans in local and federal implementations of these laws, particularly for overburdened communities along freight corridors.

Overcoming Implementation Challenges

State and local actors have a central role to play in navigating the challenges of transportation electrification and distributing the benefits of federal funding equitably. Publicly accessible charging is the focus of federal, state and local funds. These programs are commonly broken out by corridor charging (along highways and transportation corridors) and community charging (at frequently visited or ideal sites, including grocery stores and public parking facilities).

Building a robust and equitable charging network will require significant upfront investments in EVSE. Due to the nature of EV technology and network economics, EV adoption and charger deployment are considered a classic “chicken-and-egg” problem. As such, underutilization is expected in early years, especially in rural and marginalized communities with low EV densities. Likewise, charging technology is rapidly evolving, so early adopters risk investing in infrastructure that soon becomes obsolete. These cost and investment risks can be mitigated through subsidies using state or utility funds to lower the upfront costs to early adopters, as well as temporarily lifting utility demand charges and other rate-based approaches.

Utility regulators must also play a critical role in the EV transition by designing charging rate structures that meet disparate policy goals and balance the interests of all ratepayers — including EV drivers, those with gasoline-powered vehicles and non-drivers. For example, there is a strong societal interest in promoting managed charging at off-peak times through time-differentiated electricity rates; this would encourage EV charging in ways that align with renewable electricity generation and reduce system-wide electricity costs. At the same time, it is critical that electricity rates ensure EV charging is affordable to all EV owners, including those who may be limited to charging at public sites or who have inflexible driving and charging schedules. Utilities and system planners will need to work with EVSE developers, fleets and local governments to identify optimal grid locations where new EV chargers can be installed at the lowest additional cost to the system.

When designing policies and subsidies for EV charging, decision-makers should consider trade-offs between investments in private electric vehicles and investments that promote a wider transition toward sustainable transportation, which will require a shift to more shared and non-motorized travel.

Equity Considerations

The legacies of environmental and structural racism in the U.S. have meant low-income, rural and communities of color carry a disproportionate health burden from transportation pollution — especially from freight and truck traffic. Therefore, electrifying the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sector is critical alongside increasing accessibility to electric passenger vehicles and infrastructure.

Low-income households account for just 14% of plug-in electric vehicle purchases while Hispanic and African American households comprise 10% and 2%, respectively. Bridging the EV gap could bring substantial health and financial benefits to these and other underrepresented communities. The immense investments embedded in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for EVSE adoption present an unprecedented opportunity to address past harms in the transportation sector. Decision-makers must prioritize equity in the implementation process by directing funds where they will generate the greatest health impacts and increase access to electrified transportation for all Americans.

Ensuring the transition to electric vehicles includes low-income, rural and historically underserved communities, as well as communities of color, will require local EV charging infrastructure plans and state NEVI implementation activities to:

  • Address EV “charging deserts,” which are sparse or non-existent charging coverages in low-income, rural and other marginalized communities. A recent study found an overall high level of interest in EVs across ethnic and racial demographics but noted that limited availability of publicly accessible charging is a primary barrier to EV adoption.
  • Design EV infrastructure strategies that provide chargers for residents in multifamily units or for those who only have access to street parking. 
  • Provide technical assistance to disadvantaged communities to unlock funding and support through the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program. This first-of-its-kind competitive grant, created by the Inflation Reduction Act, is administered by the Federal Highway Administration for transportation equity and environmental justice initiatives and can be used for EV charging infrastructure.  charging infrastructure.  
  • Provide accessible EV charging for vehicle owners with disabilities that address mobility and communication challenges, including parking space availability, location and size dimensions, and unimpeded routes to chargers as well as accessible user interface and software features.
  • Intentionally engage with underserved communities early and throughout the planning and implementation processes to respond to community needs and challenges.

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