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States get go-ahead to build electric car charging stations

WASHINGTON (AP) – States are being given the go-ahead to build a nationwide network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations that would place new or upgraded stations every 50 miles along interstate highways, part of the Biden administration’s plan to spur widespread adoption of the zero-emission cars.

The administration yesterday announced the availability of USD5 billion in federal funds to states over five years under United States (US) President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law, sketching out a vision of seamless climate-friendly car travel from coast to coast.

Under new requirements issued by the Transportation Department, states must submit plans to the federal government and can begin construction by this fall if they focus first on highway routes, rather than neighbourhoods and shopping centres, that can allow people to take their electric vehicles long distances. Each station would need to have at least four fast-charger ports, which enable drivers to fully recharge their vehicles in about an hour.

A joint office between the Transportation and Energy departments will help provide guidance to states on how to build out the network, with attention as well to serving rural and disadvantaged communities. If states don’t fully meet requirements, they risk delays in getting approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) or not getting federal money at all.

“A century ago, America ushered in the modern automotive era; now America must lead the electric vehicle revolution,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who will have final sign-off over most aspects of the funding. “The president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help us win the EV race by working with states, labour, and the private sector to deploy a historic nationwide charging network that will make EV charging accessible for more Americans.”

The law also provides an additional USD2.5 billion for local grants, planned for later this year, to fill remaining gaps in the charging network in rural areas and in disadvantaged communities, which currently are less likely to own the higher-priced electric vehicles.

Biden made a pledge during the presidential campaign to build a first-ever network of 500,000 charging stations. He has also set a goal of 50 per cent EV sales by 2030, part of a broader US effort to become zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.

Electric vehicles amounted to less than three per cent of US new auto sales last year, but forecasters expect big increases in the next decade. Consumers bought about 400,000 fully electric vehicles. According to a Consumer Reports survey, anxiety about limited range and the availability of charging stations were among the top concerns consumers had about owning an EV.

United States President Joe Biden listens as Tritium Chief Executive Officer Jane Hunter speaks at an event in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex. PHOTO: AP