As efforts to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles intensify, Virginia is expected to receive $100 million from the federal government over the next five years to install public electric vehicle charging stations.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations nationwide. Of that, $5 billion will go to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, the main pipeline for funds directed to the states.
In order to access its share of NEVI money, Virginia submitted its plans for using the windfall to the Federal Highway Administration last month. Here’s what they say.
Chargers are initially focused on highways
The NEVI program asks states to initially focus on installing public charging stations at least every 50 miles along freeways and within one mile of federally designated alternative fuel corridors.
While neighboring states, including Maryland and North Carolina, have identified alternative fuel corridors outside of the interstate system, Virginia’s eight existing and planned corridors all lie along the freeways.
As of September, Virginia had 1,139 public charging stations with 3,301 outlets for all charging speeds.
With the new federal funds, the state is proposing to build 19 to 26 new train stations along several highways. Each station would include at least four 150-kilowatt DC fast chargers, capable of charging four electric vehicles simultaneously.
Federal funding covers up to 80% of the cost of new charging stations, retrofits to existing stations, and other related expenses.
Marshall Herman, deputy communications director for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said once the state meets the initial requirements of the NEVI program, the agency will consider designating additional alternative fuel corridors to expand the expansion.
Installations will begin in 2023
The first expansion of the new charging infrastructure is expected to take place in 2023 and 2024.
The VDOT has determined that of the existing network of 139 public charging stations with direct current fast charging capacity, only 17 are allowed to meet the criteria of the national program. Criteria include at least four 150-kilowatt DC fast chargers that can operate simultaneously and a minimum station power rating of 600 kW or more.
Between 2023 and 2026, VDOT intends to focus on expanding the charging network beyond the alternative fuel corridors.
Jeff Kelley, a spokesman for the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, said auto dealers are supporting state policies that will create more charging infrastructure that includes both vehicle charging stations and power grid upgrades to support the additional capacity that electric vehicles are creating will . Most automakers have already committed to moving away from gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
“The Virginia Auto Dealers will support a policy that expands infrastructure in Virginia to have these cars [and] increase charging stations,” Kelley said. “We definitely want to do it responsibly. We look at the environmental impact and all that, but we want to do things that will usher in this new era of transportation, because in 20 years you’re not going to be buying a new gas-powered car.”
Risks of crowding out, charging station costs
While the expansion of charging systems statewide will reduce a major impediment to EV growth, the expansion could pose risks to communities.
Chris Bast, director of EV infrastructure investments at advocacy group Electrification Coalition, said property values could rise as charging revenue increases and communities should consider preparing for potential risks associated with gentrification, including the displacement of long-term residents.
“Overall, attention is paid to clean air [and] The economic benefits of transportation electrification accrue to the communities that have historically borne the greatest burden of our fossil fuel transmission system and are critical to this transition,” Bast said.
Herman said VDOT will adjust its expansion plan based on potential impacts from the program, federal government guidance and the Justice40 initiative, which calls for 40% of total benefits from federal investments to go to disadvantaged communities.
VDOT officials say the expansion will also bring benefits to disadvantaged communities, including better access to transportation, new economic opportunities, less air pollution and a reduced likelihood of negative health outcomes such as asthma, heart disease and short-term infections.
Alleyn Harned, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, a nonprofit that’s part of the state-sponsored Alternative Fuels Promotion Network, said Virginia also needs to consider the potential maintenance and electricity costs associated with charging infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
He said Virginia needs to find ways to keep charging costs down “because if it’s so expensive that it can’t be used, people aren’t going to use it.”
What else is Virginia doing to drive electric vehicle adoption?
After a 2016 settlement between Volkswagen and the federal government over allegations that the company installed devices in vehicles to circumvent Clean Air Act emissions limits, Virginia was awarded $93.6 million for clean transportation projects. More than 16,000 vehicles with the devices were sold in Virginia and produced over 2,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides in violation of federal pollution standards.
Of Virginia’s share of the development, $14 million has gone into EV charging infrastructure, with millions more going into electric transit and school buses.
In 2021, the General Assembly amended Virginia’s energy policy to work toward net-zero carbon emissions from transportation by 2045. Legislators also created an unfunded electric vehicle rebate to encourage EV purchases and passed California vehicle emissions, which are stricter than federal standards the state previously followed.
Earlier this month, California updated those standards to require all new cars by 2035 to be electric or hydrogen. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin called California’s move “out of touch” and said he wants to prevent Virginia from implementing the standards. Republicans tried to overturn and then delay their introduction in the last session, but their proposals failed in the Democratic Senate.
Also in the last session, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring state agencies to buy or lease electric cars instead of gas-powered ones unless a cost-of-living calculator “clearly indicates” that the gas vehicle will be cheaper. and Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, introduced a bill that would have instituted a state program to award grants to charge point developers, particularly in low-income communities and those where the majority reside the population are people of color. However, the effort died in committee.
Greg Habeeb, a former Republican delegate and one of the main lobbyists for the law, said the latter state legislation closely mirrors the federal electric vehicle infrastructure program.
“Passing a bill rarely solves a problem, and that’s why we need to continue to think ahead when it comes to infrastructure deployment when it comes to infrastructure deployment [electric] network when it comes to the cost to tariff payers — all those things,” Habeeb said.
by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury
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