500,000 Chargers, Zero Progress from Biden

President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), included a significant amount of funding for an ambitious project aimed at constructing a nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging network. However, two years after the bill’s passage, not a single charger has been built with the allocated funds.

The IIJA set aside $7.5 billion for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, with an additional $2.5 billion for discretionary funds to support charging and fueling infrastructure. The goal of this initiative is to expand the adoption of EVs and reduce carbon emissions. Despite the substantial amount of funding, only $101.5 million has been distributed for seven state NEVI awards. Construction has begun on just two projects, located in Columbus, Ohio, and Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Daren Bakst, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, believes that Congress should defund the NEVI program to save taxpayers’ money. He argues that there is a lack of demand for EVs, with car dealers reporting waning interest and their lots full of unwanted EVs. He also points out that implementing the program’s stringent federal requirements has caused issues for states.

Out of the $7.5 billion allocated for the NEVI program, only $250 million is estimated to be distributed in five years based on the current pace. Bakst highlights the technological shortcomings of EVs, the rural nature of many states, and the hesitancy of states to invest in charging infrastructure that may not be successful.

According to the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, seven states – Ohio, Hawaii, Maine, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Kentucky – have received conditional NEVI awards. Seventeen states are currently in the process of soliciting proposals for future EV charging station projects.

A spokesperson for the Joint Office stated that the Biden-Harris administration has provided historic funding for all 50 states, including Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., to develop a national charging network. However, critics argue that progress is slow, with a 70% increase in charging ports since the President took office, but not a single charger has been built with the NEVI funds.

Meanwhile, the Columbus project, touted as the first success story of the NEVI program, broke ground in October but is not expected to be operational until early 2023. The project will include four charging ports that can take up to 40 minutes to give an EV an 80% charge. Pennsylvania also plans to construct dozens of additional fast-charging stations using NEVI funds by the end of 2024.

$2.5 billion allocated for the Department of Transportation’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Discretionary Grant Program has yet to be distributed or awarded anywhere. The agency announced in March that it would begin accepting applications.

White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson defended the progress made with EVs, noting a 70% increase in charging ports and tripled EV sales since President Biden took office. She also mentioned that multiple states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, have started construction on federally funded charging stations, with thousands more planned across the country. The administration remains on track to meet its goal of building 500,000 publicly accessible chargers by 2026, four years ahead of schedule.