President Biden has long vowed to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the United States by 2030. Those stations, the White House said, would give Americans more confidence in buying and driving electric cars and help the country reduce carbon pollution.

But now, more than two years after Congress appropriated $7.5 billion to help build out these stations, only seven EV charging stations are operational in four states. And as the Biden administration rolls out its new rules on car and truck emissions — which will require many more electric cars and hybrids on the road — the slow rollout could slow the transition to electric cars.

“I think a lot of people watching this are concerned about the timeline,” said Alexander Laska, deputy director for transportation and innovation at the center-left think tank Third Way.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Biden signed in November 2021, provided $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging. Of that, $5 billion was allocated to individual states in the form of so-called ‘formula funding’ to build a network of fast chargers along major highways in the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program.

But after two years, that program has produced just seven open charging stations with a total of 38 spots where drivers can charge their vehicles, a Federal Highway Administration spokesperson said. (According to analysis from EV policy analyst group Atlas Public Policy, the funding should be enough to build up to 20,000 charging points, or about 5,000 stations.) Stations have opened in Hawaii, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and are under construction in four other states.

Twelve additional states have awarded contracts to build the charging stations; 17 states have not yet submitted any proposals.

Last month, Republican members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Biden administration with a list of questions about the slow rollout of EV chargers.

“We are deeply concerned that under your efforts, American taxpayer dollars are being woefully mismanaged,” wrote Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.). . “The problems with these programs continue to grow – delays in charger delivery, states’ concerns about labor contract requirements, and minimum operating standards for chargers,” the letter continued.

Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, said some of the delays are to be expected. “State transportation agencies are the recipients of the money,” he said. “Almost all of them had no experience with deploying electric vehicle charging stations before this law came into effect.”

Nigro says the process — states must submit plans to the Biden administration for approval, solicit bids for the work and then award money — has consumed much of the first two years since the funding was approved. “I expect things to move much faster in 2024,” he added.

“We’re building a national EV charging network from the ground up, and we want to do it right,” a Federal Highway Administration spokesperson said in an email. “After developing program guidance and working with states to guide implementation plans, we are moving in the right direction as states move quickly to bring NEVI stations online.”

Part of the slow rollout is that the new chargers are expected to meet much higher standards than previous generations of fast chargers. The United States currently has nearly 10,000 “fast” charging stations in the country, of which more than 2,000 are Tesla Superchargers, according to the Department of Energy. Tesla Superchargers – some of which are open to drivers of other vehicles – are the most reliable fast-charging systems in the country.

But many non-Tesla fast chargers have a reputation for poor performance and reliability. Electric car advocates have criticized Electrify America, the company Volkswagen created after the company’s “Dieselgate” emissions scandal, for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on chargers that don’t work properly. The company has said they are working to improve reliability. Data analytics company JD Power estimates that only 80 percent of all charging attempts in the country are successful.

The Biden administration guidelines require the new government-funded chargers to be operational 97 percent of the time, provide 150 kW of power at each charger and be located no more than a mile from the highway, among many other requirements.

EV policy experts say these requirements are critical to building a strong national charging program — but will also slow charger rollout. “This funding comes with dozens of rules and requirements,” Laska said. “That’s the nature of what we’re trying to achieve.”

States have also faced challenges in obtaining permits and supplying electricity to stations that may be located in fairly remote areas. Nigro points out that each charging spot requires the same maximum power as about 20 homes – a huge increase for local utilities that are not used to installing chargers.

Not all of the country’s chargers will come from the public program. Private companies are also working to expand the national charging network, including installing Level 2, or slightly slower, chargers for charging in apartment buildings or workplaces.

But the NEVI program chargers would increase the nation’s fast-charging capacity by about 50 percent — a crucial step to alleviate “range anxiety” and help Americans transition to battery-electric cars. States just have to build them first.

“States are just not operating with the same urgency as some of us,” Laska said.

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