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Biden awards $623 million in grants to build out electric vehicle charging network

By MATTHEW DALY
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is awarding $623 million in grants to states, local governments and tribes to help build an electric vehicle charging network across the nation. Grants announced Thursday will fund 47 EV charging stations and related projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including 7,500 EV charging ports, officials said.

“America led the arrival of the automotive era, and now we have a chance to lead the world in the EV revolution — securing jobs, savings and benefits for Americans in the process,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The new funding “will help ensure that EV chargers are accessible, reliable and convenient for American drivers, while creating jobs in charger manufacturing, installation and maintenance for American workers.”

Congress approved $7.5 billion in the 2021 infrastructure law to meet President Joe Biden’s goal to build a national network of 500,000 publicly available chargers by 2030. The charging ports are a key part of Biden’s effort to encourage drivers to move away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks that contribute to global warming.

But progress on the network has been slow. Ohio and New York are the only states that have opened charging stations under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. Several other states, including Pennsylvania and Maine, have broken ground on federally funded projects and are expected to open stations early this year. A total of 28 states, plus Puerto Rico, have either awarded contracts to build chargers or have accepted bids to do so.

Since Biden took office in 2021, EV sales have more than quadrupled and reached more than 1 million last year. The number of publicly available charging ports has grown by nearly 70% to 168,426, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said.

That number is about one-third of the way to Biden’s goal, with six years remaining.

“We are on an accelerating trajectory to meet and exceed the president’s goal to hit 500,000 chargers and build that nationwide backbone,” Zaidi told reporters Wednesday.

Hours after the announcement, the Republican-controlled House approved a measure that would block a Biden administration policy that temporarily waives some domestic content requirements for federally funded EV chargers. Supporters said their vote would keep China out of the supply chain for EV chargers, a politically potent idea that is supported by lawmakers in both parties.

“If we’re going to spend $5 billion of taxpayer money to build electric vehicle charging stations for the United States, it should be made by Americans in America using American products,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who introduced the resolution last year.

The Senate approved the measure, 50-48, in November, despite a veto threat from the White House. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, along with independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, joined Republicans to approve the measure. Sinema caucuses with Democrats. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, voted against.

The House approved the measure, 209-198, on Thursday, sending it to Biden.

Democrats called the resolution misguided, noting that the waiver expires July 1. The waiver was needed to give American manufacturers time to develop domestic content such as steel and iron used in chargers, they said.

GOP Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the waiver “undercuts American investments and risks empowering foreign nations” such as China.

“It’s not better for the climate, as China is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases around the world. And it’s certainly not better for American competitiveness or national security,” Graves said.

The debate highlights a challenge Biden faces between more clean energy and increased reliance on China, which dominates the EV battery market. Widespread availability of chargers is crucial to meet another Biden administration goal: ensuring that EVs make up half of all new car sales by 2030. Along with cost, “range anxiety” about a lack of available charging stations is a key impediment to buying an EV. About 80% of respondents cited concerns about a lack of charging stations as a reason not to purchase an electric vehicle, according to an April survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Seven in 10 respondents said they would not purchase an EV because it takes too long to charge and the battery technology isn’t ready.

Buttigieg and other administration officials brushed those concerns aside and said the future of auto travel is electric.

“We’re at a moment now where the electric vehicle revolution isn’t coming. It is very much here,” Buttigieg told reporters. EV sales now represent about 9% of all passenger vehicle sales, Buttigieg said — a huge increase since Biden took office. He cited a new study showing that EVs cost just 4% more than gasoline-powered cars.

“There’s been a really remarkable drop in the prices that consumers face for EVs. And we believe we are fast approaching the period when EVs, on average, will be cheaper than internal combustion vehicles,” Buttigieg said.

The grants announced Thursday include $311 million to 36 “community” projects, including two Native American Tribes in Alaska and Arizona. The projects will boost EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure in urban and rural communities, including at high-use locations such as schools, parks, libraries and apartment buildings.

Another $312 million in funding will go to 11 highway “corridors” along roadways designated as Alternative Fuel Corridors. The projects include $19.6 million for public chargers in Riverside County California, between Los Angeles and Phoenix on the I-10 corridor.

A pollution district in San Joaquin Valley, California will receive $56 million to build two state-of-the-art truck charging sites in Taft and Gustine, California, to support two of the nation’s busiest freight corridors along I-5.

About $70 million will go to the North Central Texas Council of Governments to build up to five hydrogen fueling stations for medium- and heavy-duty freight trucks in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

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