Close this search box.
Close this search box.

The important part of Biden's plan to reduce climate change involves having charging stations for electric vehicles, but only 4 states have them

Only four states have opened public EV charging stations funded by the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program.

Liam Sawyer bought a red Ford Mustang Mach-E and went camping within a day of purchasing it.

Sawyer, who purchased the electric SUV because he finds the technology interesting and the range sufficient, planned ahead to find convenient charging stations for his trip from Indianapolis to Allegheny National Forest in western Pennsylvania.

During his journey, Sawyer stopped at a new public charging station at the Pilot Travel Center along Interstate 70 outside Columbus, Ohio. The station, which opened in London, Ohio, in December with four chargers, can power an EV in about half an hour while drivers buy food and drinks and use amenities.

The first charge cost Sawyer, a 32-year-old civil engineer, about $20.

The Ohio charging station was made possible by the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program within the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law in November 2021. Only four states — Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Hawaii — have opened stations funded by the program more than two years later.

Biden, a Democrat, aims to create a national network of 500,000 publicly available chargers by 2030. Accessible charging ports are crucial to his effort to persuade drivers to shift from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones in order to address global warming.

The Biden administration recently announced new automobile emissions standards that officials described as the most ambitious plan ever to reduce planet-warming pollution from passenger vehicles. Achieving these standards would require a significant increase in sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

Last year, EV sales reached a record 1.19 million in the U.S. and accounted for 7.6% of the total U.S. vehicle market, up from 5.8% in 2022.

The largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. comes from transportation emissions.

The Biden administration states that the federal charging program is on track. Several states, including Maine, Vermont and Colorado, are expected to open public charging stations later this year, while more than a dozen others have awarded contracts for projects or broken ground.

“We are building this national framework from scratch, partnering with states to set plans, and we want to make sure we are taking appropriate care to set this program up correctly,″ Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in an interview.

“The first two years were about getting the rules right, getting the plans in place,” Bhatt said. “And now what you’re going to see is this year being about the chargers coming online.”

As part of the national charging station rollout, the Biden administration awarded $623 million in grants to states, local governments and tribes in January. The grants will fund 47 EV charging stations and related projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including 7,500 charging ports.

Additionally, Walmart and other private companies have committed to building an affordable fast-charging network for EVs. The federal program is also expected to spur other projects.

Gabe Klein, who is the director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which manages the federal charging program, said that they are dedicated to ensuring that all Americans can charge their electric vehicles at their residences, workplaces, stores, recreational areas, and places of worship.

However, even some of the government's own experts believe that having 500,000 public chargers will not be sufficient to achieve Biden's ambitious climate objectives. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the Department of Energy estimated last year that the U.S. will require 1.2 million public chargers by 2030, a substantial increase from the current 175,000 public charging ports as measured by the Alternative Fuels Data Center, a division of the Energy Department.

The presence of charging stations is crucial in convincing Americans to purchase electric vehicles.

Concerns regarding the limited driving range and the cost are still hindering factors. A 2023 survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago revealed that about 80% of respondents cited worries about the lack of charging stations as a reason for not investing in an electric vehicle.

Seventy percent of individuals stated that they would not buy an electric vehicle due to the lengthy charging time and unprepared battery technology.

In specific regions of the country, particularly rural areas distant from major cities, there are definite concerns about driving range anxiety. Bhatt mentioned that it will take longer to address these issues, akin to the time it took to establish cellphone coverage in these areas.

The administration aims to have chargers every 50 miles (80 kilometers) along U.S. interstates. However, other major charging networks offered by Tesla, EVgo, and Electrify America prioritize locations such as shopping centers, gas stations, and grocery stores. Nonetheless, many Americans perceive the largest gap in long-distance travel.

As Biden emphasizes clean energy as part of his reelection campaign, it is noteworthy that Ohio, a swing state led by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, was among the earlier participants in the federal charging initiative.

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, expressed the desire for Ohioan drivers to have access to electric vehicle technology. He made this statement during the grand opening of the Ohio station in December.

The charging station's organizational structure was supported by a state Department of Transportation program called DriveOhio. After the federal program contributed 80% of the estimated $500,000 to $750,000 cost, including buildout, operation, and maintenance for five years, a public-private partnership authority assisted in providing the necessary funds for the project.

Preeti Choudhary, the executive director of DriveOhio, mentioned that she does not believe the progress is slow, rather, she sees the deployment of these small-scale construction projects as quite rapid given the significant scale. Urgent deployment is crucial as there is a growing number of EV drivers who need support while traveling across the state or country.

Loren McDonald, an independent analyst tracking the buildout, stated that meeting federal requirements and operational standards is a challenge for states with little experience in implementing this type of infrastructure.

"The states are progressing at different paces," he said. "It could take about 18 months on average for many of these stations to become available."

Projects can be delayed for months to years due to issues with permits, approvals, electrical upgrades, and equipment. The latter can be expensive. In California, the state with the most electric cars, its Public Utilities Commission could spend $50 billion through 2035 just to meet demand there.

Sawyer, who was charging his Mustang as semi-trucks lined up at rows of gas pumps nearby, said he plans to mainly charge his car at home overnight, but he values the public stations for his occasional road trips. He doesn't mind the half-hour charging time.

"Having 20 to 30 minutes to relax, have lunch isn't so bad if you're not in a hurry," he said. "If you have the luxury of time, it's worth it."

"I definitely think the infrastructure needs to improve more, right?" he said. "And faster charging will come."

Daly reported from Washington. St. John reported from Detroit.

Stay informed about Colorado Politics by signing up for our weekly newsletter, The Spot.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments