Joe Biden’s administration has unveiled $623m in funding to boost the number of electric vehicle charging points in the US, amid concerns that the transition to zero-carbon transportation isn’t keeping pace with goals to tackle the climate crisis.
The funding will be distributed in grants for dozens of programs across 22 states, such as EV chargers for apartment blocks in New Jersey, rapid chargers in Oregon and hydrogen fuel chargers for freight trucks in Texas. In all, it’s expected the money, drawn from the bipartisan infrastructure law, will add 7,500 chargers to the US total.
“We are building the charging network to win the EV race,” said Pete Buttigieg, the US transportation secretary.
“The electric vehicle revolution isn’t coming, it is here. I take very personally the importance of the fact that America led the world in the automotive revolution. Now we are in the midst of a second automotive revolution, it’s critical America do so once more.”
There are about 170,000 electric vehicle chargers in the US, a huge leap from a network that was barely visible prior to Biden taking office, and the White House has set a goal for 500,000 chargers to help support the shift away from gasoline and diesel cars.
“The US is taking the lead globally on electric vehicles,” said Ali Zaidi, a climate adviser to Biden who said the US is on a trajectory to “meet and exceed” the administration’s charger goal. “We will continue to see this buildout over the coming years and decades until we’ve achieved a fully net zero transportation sector,” he added.
Electric vehicle sales are growing in the US, with more than 1m new EVs sold for the first time last year, accounting for 9% of all vehicle sales. But the rate of this increase has slowed somewhat and companies such as Ford, General Motors and even Tesla have scaled back their EV ambitions in recent months.
American drivers are confronted by an expanding range of EVs that still are mostly more expensive than gasoline equivalents, meaning they aren’t accessible to many buyers – research has found people who purchase EVs have a median household income of $186,000.
Surveys have shown that around a third of potential EV buyers also discount the purchase due to a lack of charging infrastructure, even though most car journeys in the US total three miles or less. Even if the Biden goal of 500,000 chargers is met, this is still far less than the amount needed to support even a moderate transition away from polluting vehicles, with estimates that 28m chargers, or more, will be needed by 2030.
“In the United States, the rate of EV adoption is growing at a rate that is almost double that of charger installation growth rates,” Brent Gruber, executive director of JD Power’s electric vehicle practice, said last year. “The construction of new charging stations is not keeping up with the demand.”
Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency announced nearly $1bn in grants to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric and lower-emitting vehicles. The EPA will disburse funds to 280 school districts serving 7 million children across the country. Charging infrastructure has also been a challenge for efforts to phase out diesel buses.