President Biden announced this week the approval of a $900 million investment to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across 34 states and Puerto Rico.
“The great American road trip is going to be fully electrified. Whether you're driving coast to coast along the I-10, or on I-75 here in Michigan, charging stations will be up and as easy to find as gas stations are now," he said Wednesday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The funding comes as part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law passed last November—$7.5 billion of which is allocated for expanding access to EV chargers.
“Unlocking this type of funding is an enormous step in getting the charging network out, which is something we absolutely need if we’re going to get full-scale deployment and adoption [of electric vehicles],” Nico Larco, director of Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, tells Gillian Flaccus and Matthew Brown of the Associated Press. “We don’t have the capacity now to power anywhere near the fleet that we need.”
In 2020, the transportation sector was the largest contributor to U.S. emissions, producing about 27 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases. That year, light-duty vehicles accounted for more than half of transportation emissions, while medium and heavy-duty trucks contributed 26 percent of the total.
To mitigate driving’s effect on the climate, Biden set a goal last summer, aiming to have EVs make up half of all new vehicle sales by 2030. California, for its part, said it will ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035—and other states are following suit. Currently, though, only about 6 percent of the country’s new car sales are electric, per the New York Times’ Zach Montague and Coral Davenport.
Concern about a lack of local charging stations is one of the top three reasons car shoppers avoid electric vehicles, according to a July survey by Autolist. Across the country, just under 47,000 EV charging stations are available for public use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Biden aims to increase that number to 500,000 by 2030.
With the new funding comes a proposed requirement that states install a charging station every 50 miles along major highways. Rural states have expressed concern that they won’t be able to provide that many, though some states have already received exemptions to this rule, reports the AP. To help build these stations, another $2.5 billion in discretionary grants is available to rural areas, urban cores and economically disadvantaged communities, the AP writes.
“It’s like the U.S. Postal Service. You need to be able to send mail everywhere, including places that are rural,” Jeremy Michalek, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Vehicle Electrification Group, tells the AP. “Even if that charger that’s in that rural area isn’t used as much every day, we still need the infrastructure to supply them... We have gas stations that are used less in rural areas than they would be in a big city, but we need them for the demand.”