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Developing EV Charging Network Will Require Collaboration

As states develop electric vehicle public charging plans for federal approval, expect to see more collaborations among data analysts, utilities, transportation equity groups and neighboring states.

A sign for an electric vehicle charging port.
Albert Pego/Shutterstock
In the coming months and years, expect states to collaborate much more closely with the private sector, data analysts and each other as they each play their part in building out a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure network.

“There’s a lot of opportunities under the infrastructure act to support transportation electrification activities,” said Cassie Powers, senior managing director at the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), during a Feb. 8 webinar to discuss the ever-evolving topic of EV charging. The webinar panel discussion was organized by Forth, an Oregon-based EV policy and advocacy group.

The $1.2 trillion package that makes up the federal infrastructure act includes some $7.5 billion to help to lay the groundwork for a national EV charging network. The first $5 billion of this money will be administered by a joint office made up of officials from the U.S. departments of transportation and energy. That office is charged with reviewing and approving state plans for developing public charging infrastructure along highway corridors under the newly formed National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program.

“There’s a lot of conversation about what that means, whether it’s going to be a brand-new standalone plan, or whether it’s going to be a combination of existing plans and programs,” remarked Powers.

But what federal officials have made clear is the need for states to have an approved plan before the federal government releases funding.

To date, 23 states have an official EV road map or planning document, said Powers, adding that nine additional states have an EV working group.

“There’s a lot of different ways states have gone about this, but about half of the states have an official document already in place,” she remarked.

Still, other states are moving forward by bringing together the applicable partners. South Carolina has launched an electric vehicle stakeholder engagement process and formed an advisory committee made up of officials from state agencies, utilities, private industry and others to help guide the development of an EV charging plan.

States are also coming together to form coalitions. Governors from across the Midwest established the Regional Electric Vehicle for the Midwest Memorandum of Understanding (REV Midwest MOU), an agreement to collaborate on electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The states involved are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

There’s also the Nevada Electric Highway, a governor-led initiative, which as a partnership between the state and utilities, focused building out EV charging along key corridors, with a large focus on rural and underserved areas.

“This was more of a top-down approach, with the partnership from the state and the utility,” said Powers of the Nevada Electric Highway.

State leaders are encouraged to turn to data as they develop their plans. The fundamental question around the deployment of EV infrastructure is centered on how much charging is needed, where should it be located, and by when, said Karen Glitman, senior director at the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), a nonprofit focused on decarbonizing the transportation sector. CSE conducts modeling and forecasting around the adoption of EVs and the public charging they will require.

“We believe there is some data that can provide some support for the answers to those questions,” said Glitman, in her comments on the panel.

Some of the data CSE collects — which is organized into a dashboard — includes the total number of charging sites; types of chargers; total sessions and drivers; emissions reductions; average energy consumed per charging session; and other data points needed by DOTs.

The nonprofit is currently part of the planning process to deploy 2,000 EV chargers in San Diego County, Calif. Using special software, CSE created “site suitability score” sections of the county covering about a third of a square mile. The suitability score is based on factors which would emphasize access to chargers for low and moderate income groups.

“This real-world data is going to help you determine if you are on, or off, course to meet your goals,” Glitman explained.

As state agencies move forward to develop plans for charging infrastructure — which are due to the feds by August — they will likely be turning to a number of sources and partners to create networks that both serve today’s charging needs, prepare for the future and address equity concerns.

The plans should focus on the people and not just the place, said Leslie Aguayo, climate equity program manager at The Greenlining Institute. She urged policymakers to consider equity in their decisions, and to develop plans which truly expand EV access for all drivers.

The new infrastructure law, with its clear directive to expand the use of electric vehicles, has the capacity to help shape the future of transportation in the United States, say experts, and shape that future through an equity lens.

“There are so many elements in it that are transformative, and it provides the resources to tackle a whole host of issues that are needed to accelerate decarbonization,” said Glitman. “I think the entire bill is exciting.”

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.
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