Biden Administration to Set Rules of the Road for Charging Electric Vehicles

Source: By Lisa Friedman, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, June 9, 2022

Proposed regulations would require charging stations built with federal dollars to be located no more than 50 miles apart.

Advertising electric vehicle charging stations at the Eagle’s Landing Travel Plaza along Interstate 15 in Mesquite, Nev.
Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun, via AP

WASHINGTON — Electric vehicle charging stations built with federal dollars should be positioned along Interstates every 50 miles, be able to recharge cars quickly and be located no more than a mile from a major highway, according to new rules proposed by the Biden administration on Thursday.

“EV drivers should be able to count on finding a place to recharge easily wherever they go,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Wednesday.

Mr. Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm outlined the proposed regulations, which are designed to make sure that rural areas and communities with few services would have the same access to electric charging stations as more urbanized areas that already have access.

The new standards are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to spur widespread adoption of zero-emission cars, with a goal of having half of all new vehicles sold in the United States electric by 2030.

Under the proposed new rule, states would be required to provide at least four of the quickest type of recharging ports, known as DirectCurrent fast chargers, at every charging station to allow multiple drivers to plug in at the same time.

Mr. Buttigieg said the plan will send “a market signal” to companies that build charging stations that they should offer a standard facility that can accommodate all models of electric and zero-emissions vehicles. Along I-95 in the Northeast, many rest stops are equipped with chargers that accommodate only Tesla vehicles.

Under the bipartisan infrastructure law signed last year by President Biden, the government would provide $7.5 billion to states to create a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

In a notice of proposed rule-making released Thursday, the administration indicated it would prohibit charging stations built with federal dollars from requiring paid memberships. Charging stations would also have to use mobile apps to make available real-time information about pricing and the availability of ports.

Biden administration officials have pointed to electric vehicles as an answer to climbing gas prices; electric cars are generally much cheaper to operate than vehicles that burn gasoline. The administration is also promoting electric vehiclesas a way to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and to fight climate change.

While sales of electric vehicles are robust, and many manufacturers now have waiting lists for new vehicles, the initial sticker price and concerns about enough places to recharge are seen as barriers to greater consumer acceptance.

Administration officials said they believe the charging station hurdle is on its way to being solved. Mr. Biden has set a goal of building 500,000 charging stations across the country by 2030.

A senior administration official on Wednesday said internal modeling showed that the $7.5 billion in the infrastructure law was sufficient to meet and possibly exceed Mr. Biden’s goal.

Ms. Granholm said the standards proposed Thursday should reassure motorists they will be able to recharge wherever they are.

“If we’re going to build out infrastructure like we haven’t done since the Eisenhower era, we have to do it right,” she said.

Making electric vehicles more affordable will be harder for the Biden administration to tackle. Tax credits of up to $12,500 for consumers who purchase electric vehicles are in limbo on Capitol Hill. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, whose vote his party must secure to pass the measure, has called electric vehicle rebates “ludicrous” given that there are currently waiting lists for some vehicles.

Sales of electric vehicles now amount to 4.6 percent of new purchases in the United States. Ms. Granholm noted that sales of electric vehicles doubled last year and are on pace to double again in 2022, despite supply chain problems and semiconductor shortages.

The G.O.P. has painted the Biden administration as tone deaf on the issue, pushing for more expensive electric cars at a time when Americans are suffering amid inflation. When Mr. Buttigieg in March noted the savings on gasoline that can come from driving an electric vehicle, Republicans pounced.

“Tell me you’re a liberal elite without telling me you’re a liberal elite,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted.