The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents a potential turning point for electric mobility in the U.S. as historic government investment takes aim at meeting climate, equity, and global competition goals. Commitments from automakers, electric vehicle sales targets, growing consumer interest, and emissions regulations essentially assure an increased transition to electrified transportation. Critically, sustaining this transition is reliant upon city and state planning and coordination to stitch electric vehicle charging infrastructure into a connected and reliable national network.
Scope of the EV Market
The transportation sector is the largest contributor of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and electric vehicle (EV) adoption has become an important component in fulfilling U.S. global climate promises as we reach a point of no return on climate change. Yet the ability for EVs to reach their potential remains to be seen as electric vehicles currently account for only about 2% of new vehicle sales in the US. This is a far cry from the Biden Administration’s goal for EVs to make up 50% of auto sales by 2030, and wide variations in incentives, regulations, charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness programs have resulted in a patchwork in EV shares of new vehicle registrations, primarily across metro areas. At an average sale price of nearly $60,000, EVs have also remained unaffordable for most low- and moderate-income households even with incentive programs. This raises concerns for equitable, reliable access to electric mobility.
Three million EVs are expected to be on U.S. roads by 2025, but significant gaps in charging infrastructure are a leading barrier to EV adoption. Only about one-fourth of necessary workplace and public chargers are currently available in major U.S. markets, and charging infrastructure needs to grow about 20 percent per year to meet projections. Automakers (Volvo, Volkswagen, GM, etc.), third party companies (ChargePoint, EVgo, etc.), and energy giants (Shell, BP, etc.) are all playing catch up with Tesla in determining where to build charging networks. Utility upgrades are needed in many cities, and without direction from utility regulators or public sector assistance, private charging operators are unlikely to enter markets that require high capital costs and long payback periods. This has resulted in charging infrastructure with differing charge speeds, access, and payment methods with uneven deployment within and between cities.
The ability of cities to navigate a rapidly evolving EV market and strategically deploy charging infrastructure is also essential for the U.S. to compete in the global race for EV competitiveness. Representing only 17% of the world’s 10.2 million EV stock, the U.S. trails behind Europe (31% of global stock) and China (44%). Annual electric vehicle sales in Europe have been particularly impressive, overtaking China’s annual increase in EV sales in 2020 and outselling diesel vehicles for the first time within the European market in December 2021. In about one third of European Union countries, 10-33% of new vehicle sales were electric in 2020. This is a stark contrast to the U.S., where only California, which has the greatest number of EVs, broke double digits with 12.41% of light-duty vehicle sales going to EVs for the first time in 2021. Despite pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions and energy market volatility triggered by Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, global EV sales have continued to rise, and U.S. government leaders and automakers are making massive investments in electrification to compete in the future-of-mobility market.
EV Charging Provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
The most transformative investment in EV charging in U.S. history aimed at addressing infrastructure gaps and delivering 500,000 chargers across the country, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $7.5 billion over the next five years for two key charging programs overseen by the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.
- National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program ($5 billion)
Funding directed to state governments under NEVI can be used for planning, contracting, acquiring and installing publicly accessible EV chargers across Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) to build out the national charging network. Ten percent of funds have been set aside as grants for state and local governments as additional assistance for strategic charger deployment, and forty percent of the benefits of federal investments in clean transportation will go to disadvantaged communities. The first round of formula funding for FY22 will distribute $615 million to states with $70 million set aside for grant assistance. State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are tasked with submitting EV Infrastructure Deployment Plans to access this funding by August 1, 2022 and have until May 13th to nominate new AFCs to be eligible for funding.
- Discretionary Grant Program for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure ($2.5 billion) Guidance under this program has yet to be released but will be broken down into two competitive grant programs for corridor and community charging, each with $1.25 billion allocations, to support innovative approaches to EV infrastructure deployment and meet priorities to support rural and disadvantaged communities.
An additional $11.07 billion has also been allocated to promote other aspects of green mobility such as clean bus programs ($10.6 billion), an electric or low-emission ferry program ($250 million), and EV battery recycling ($200 million).
Breaking down inter- and intra-governmental silos, leveraging private sector resources, and establishing charging standards will be essential for successful development of a cohesive, reliable national network under these programs. State DOTs must demonstrate coordination with their energy or environment departments in their Deployment Plans, which is catalyzing new partnerships and conversations between agencies that previously hadn’t existed. States are encouraged to develop cost-share or rebate programs that leverage private funding, and private entities are eligible to cover the twenty percent match requirements for NEVI funding, so it is likely we will see a large private market play in accessing and deploying this funding. Another critical piece of the puzzle will be minimum standards and requirements for EV chargers under these programs. These requirements are yet to be set by the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation and are expected by May 13th.
Five First Moves from European EV Charging Models
The U.S. is not the first to tackle the charging challenge of sifting through market, grid, technology, and consumer behavior dynamics to promote electric mobility adoption, and we can take a page from the European book of EV charger deployment. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for cities and policies across government levels vary, a look at high EV uptake markets within Europe provides insights on first moves for accelerating EV adoption and charger deployment.
- Conduct Charger Needs Analysis and Assemble Stakeholders — EV charging ecosystems are taking shape at the regional level, informed by unique driving behavior, housing stock, land use, and density. Navigating uncertainty of amount, type, and potential locations of charging infrastructure require a dive into localized data of these ecosystems to assess and monitor EV sales and distribution by housing type and demographics, existing types of charging infrastructure and relative use. Forecasts for future demand are also conducted for annual electric stock projections, charging patterns and speeds, and charging utilization rates. The European Joint Research Centre and German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure have established tools to assess and inform buildout of charging networks, and U.S. based startups such as Stable Auto are providing dozens of data points to inform optimal charger placement.
Data, EV adoption goals, and stakeholder engagement define an EV infrastructure plan. The London EV Infrastructure Taskforce serves as a model for stakeholder assembly, which united business, energy, infrastructure, and government leadership with London borough residents to publish a Delivery Plan of recommendations for increasing the city’s EV infrastructure through 2025. Borough residents have been further engaged through the Neighbourhoods of the Future Initiative which funded localized solutions for electrification and charging including healthy school streets, EV training for mechanics, and EV test drives for local businesses and residents.
- Electrify Public Fleets — With influence over its fleets, public procurement programs have been a key policy across European markets to stimulate demand, address equity and environmental goals, and raise awareness of EVs. Stockholm’s EV First procurement policy directs fleet managers to assess department needs and determine if EV or bicycle options are suitable alternatives, and staff are encouraged to consider the switch by test driving an EV for a few weeks to reduce adoption concerns. Upgrades to bus depot power capacity and strategies that integrate vehicle buildout times have resulted in London overseeing the largest electric bus fleet in Europe with over 430 buses along nearly 30 routes.
- Integrate Charging Incentives — In addition to the subsidies and incentives for purchasing EVs, local and national governments have implemented programs specifically for charging infrastructure. Brussels offered tax exemptions for companies equipping parking spaces with charging infrastructure, and in Norway, where the national government has already established fast-charging stations every 50 kilometers on all main roads, grants are provided to housing associations to cover 20% to 50% of the cost to purchase and install charging stations. In Amsterdam, residents and businesses can request the installation of a new public EV charging point from the city government for free.
- Streamline permitting, regulations, and building codes — Reducing timelines and red tape while providing clear process guidance can enable faster charging construction and improve the business case for private sector installation. Simplifying these processes for a variety of charger speeds and locations are key as chargers are being installed on lamp posts and utility poles, at residences and workplaces, and fast charging hubs including gas stations. Building codes that require charge points or wiring to support future charging capability for parking spots constructed during new development ensure future readiness in an evolving market. The European Union has directed all members to adopt policies that simplify permit and approval processes for charging points by 2025.
- Leverage private sector partnerships — From coordinating with utility companies and grid operators to partnering with EV charging and startup companies, cities are working with the private sector to upgrade capacity and deliver and maintain efficient, convenient charging infrastructure. Stockholm’s Charging Master Plan includes mapped priority areas with “pre-approved” locations for charging installations and encourages private sector operators to submit statements of interest for locations to be considered in a competitive process. The city also provided land free of charge to electric companies willing to pay for the installation of chargers along the city’s established “charging streets” designed to have several charge points next to each other. Amsterdam has partnered with TotalEnergies to deliver an additional 2,200 new chargers by fall 2022 through a combination of driver requests and data to optimize charging locations. In London, businesses like Shell and QPark are helping deploy rapid charging in public and commercial hubs, including filling stations and parking garages. Retailers (and Starbucks in the U.S.) are making investments in chargers at their businesses in the hopes of capturing customers as they wait for their vehicles to charge. In markets with high EV uptake, a shift towards greater private sector operation with decreasing government support has begun, and partnerships have been a testing ground for building the business case of private sector charging operations.
U.S. Case Studies
Ensuring that EVs deliver on their promise of a cleaner future that is accessible to all, cities and states are being challenged to collaborate on a wide scale and take a closer look at how people move within their regions. The following are highlights from U.S. first movers that can serve as examples for maximizing the federal EV infrastructure funding to fill in the gaps and ensure a connected, equitable network.
The heart of the U.S. auto industry, Michigan is positioning itself to lead the electric vehicle revolution. Private investment announcements keep rolling out including the $7 billion investment by General Motors to enhance EV production and $1.7 billion by LG Energy Solutions to expand EV battery production. Detroit is becoming the innovative testing bed for mobility and will be home to the nation’s first public, wireless in-road charging system pilot. Efforts are underway by Ford Motor Company to restore Michigan Central Station into a 30-acre mobility innovation district that will serve as a commercial hub for testing cutting edge mobility solutions. Michigan has also prioritized state-wide and regional coordination, signing a joint MOU to form the Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition, a coordinated approach for electrifying fleets, supporting clean mobility industry and workforce growth, and advancing equity and environment goals. A new Michigan Office of Infrastructure has also been established to coordinate federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law across the state government and partner with local governments and other stakeholders to leverage funding.
The City of Columbus and Columbus Partnership collaborated to form Smart Columbus, a smart city initiative that leverages over 30 utility, academia, government, transit, and private sector partners to reimagine mobility for the region. Awarded a total of $50 million in 2016 through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first Smart City Challenge, the initiative catalyzed pilot projects that enhanced human services, leveraged existing technology, and tested emerging technologies. The Smart Columbus Acceleration Fund, seeded by private sector funding scales and sustains Smart Columbus programs. Partnering with the American Electric Power and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the group created a map of priority charging locations to optimize EV charging placement, and the city added over 200 electric vehicles to local fleets. To share lessons learned and best practices, Smart Columbus launched a Playbook for organizing a smart city including driving EV market growth and approaches for regional charging.
The city government is also working on a more equitable strategy for installing EV charging infrastructure. Through community and stakeholder engagement processes that engage low-to-moderate income residents and understand transportation patterns and EV interest and hesitancies, the city is co-creating an Equitable EV Readiness Ordinance for City Council consideration. The ordinance would ensure a certain percentage of newly constructed parking spaces include electrical infrastructure to enable future EV charging.
Electric vehicle charging provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill are a stake in the ground on the Biden Administration’s commitment towards a future of cleaner mobility. Realizing these goals requires a connected charging network that fits into broader multi-modal and mass transit options and balances market demands with planning-oriented design that includes rural, low-income, and hard to reach communities. As cities and states navigate the array of programs, guidance, and fact sheets now streaming from the legislation, their ability to navigate shifting EV market dynamics to fill charging gaps will require thoughtful partnerships and strategic first moves informed by local ecosystem needs and opportunities.
 “EPA Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions
 “Today’s Electric Vehicle Market: Slow Growth in U.S., Faster in China, Europe.” https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/06/07/todays-electric-vehicle-market-slow-growth-in-u-s-faster-in-china-europe/
 “Fact Sheet: The Biden-Harris Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/13/fact-sheet-the-biden-harris-electric-vehicle-charging-action-plan/
 “Quantifying the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Gap Across U.S. Markets.” https://theicct.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/US_charging_Gap_20190124.pdf
 “The EV Revolution Needs an Energy Surge.” https://www.ft.com/content/16f9611c-0cb4-4520-a9fa-f4df95ad76b7
 “Analyzing Policies to Grow the Electric Vehicle Market in European Cities.” https://theicct.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/EV_city_policies_white_paper_fv_20200224.pdf
 “EV City Casebook and Policy Guide 2021 Edition.” https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/a38038c8-0ccf-4782-9e00-66da140d8035/EV_City_Casebook_and_Policy_Guide_2021_Edition.pdf
 “Discover Norway’s Unique EV and EV Charger Perks.” https://blog.wallbox.com/norway-ev-incentives/#:~:text=An%20EVSE%20grant%20for%20a%20maximum%20of%2050%25%20of%20the,%E2%82%AC4%2C500)%20per%20housing%20association.
 “Everything You Need to Know About EV Incentives in the Netherlands.” https://blog.wallbox.com/netherlands-ev-incentives/
 “Electric Vehicle Charging Guide For Cities.” https://theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/EV_charging_guide_02262020.pdf
Bruce Katz is the Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. Nishan Inampudi, a student at Detroit Country Day High School in Michigan, is very passionate about technological disruptions in the auto industry and their implications on public policy. Chelsea Gaylord is a Graduate Research Analyst with the Nowak Lab.