A host of public and private sector organizations will be required to implement a national EV charging network. (NEVCS)

Private sector ‘coalition of the willing’ charged with energizing America’s new EV roadmap

With federal funding on tap, a coalition of private sector players will help amplify federal ambitions to install America’s new EV-friendly infrastructure.

The Biden administration’s EV charging action plan announced in December 2021 detailed how it intended to fast-track billions in funding from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The infrastructure upgrades, including a target to install 500,000 charging outlets nationwide, are designed to support the administration’s (probably optimistic) goal of a 50% EV sales share in the U.S. by 2030.

To help kick off the program, the National EV Charging Summit held on January 20 brought together stakeholders in the initiative, including government officials, industry stakeholders, utility providers and public interest groups. The summit was designed to allow administration officials to detail commitments already in place and provide a forum for stakeholders lining up to engage what Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo noted in her brief address as a “once in a generation” investment.

The EV charging initiative will require extensive coordination between the federal Departments of Energy (DOE) and Transportation (DOT), which have already established a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (JOET), and secretaries from both agencies presented at the half-day virtual summit. The departmental officials keenly emphasized that along with unprecedented cooperation between government agencies, private/public sector involvement – what it detailed in a summit session titled “Coalition of the Willing” – will be necessary to meet the ambitious targets.

On hand representing a cross-section of this willing coalition, and what type of commitments will be needed to spawn America’s new EV infrastructure were: John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI); Illinois Commerce Commissioner Maria Bocanegra, who also serves as the EV Task Force chair for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC); Cathy Zoi, CEO of charging outfit EVgo; Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE); Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute; Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Electrification Coalition; Stan Cross, the electric transportation policy director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Joel Levin, executive director for Plug In America.

AAI’s Bozzella noted that in terms of the electrification timeline, it’s all become real. “We are moving toward an electrified vehicle fleet,” he stated, adding, “$330 billion of industry investment by 2025 across the industry – vehicle manufacturers, battery producers, suppliers, technology companies, all moving in this direction. Today there are 68 models in the marketplace that are electrified. By mid-decade, that number will be 130.”

Addressing NARUC’s Bocanegra, Bozzella posited that industry aligning with municipalities will be crucial. “As OEMs and EV charging station providers participate in these commission proceedings, it's more inclusive of considerations like standardization and interoperability. It's good to have you guys at the table,” Bocanegra said. “No one is in a better position than OEMs to understand what is used and useful for their customer base. I think having that opportunity to align – from the regulators' perspective, the utility perspective, and the OEM perspective – will go a long way in ensuring that rate-payer dollars are invested in a way that is prudent and makes economic sense for everyone.”

EVgo CEO Zoi noted that it already has begun bridging the public/private divide to speed installs, having recently launched its “Connect the Watts” initiative to bring members of the charging ecosystem together to share best practices and accelerate deployment. “In Connect the Watts, we're working with automobile companies, charging equipment providers, local governments, state governments [and] site hosts to share best practices,” Zoi said. “The EV charging initiative extends that reach.”

Commercial-vehicle charging infrastructure will play a large role in the program’s goal of emissions reduction, explained Edison’s Pizarro. Through its “Charge Ready” program for light-duty vehicles and “Charge Ready Transport” for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, it will add 8,000 charging outlets in the next few years. He also pointed out SCE’s role in EEI’s recently launched National Electric Highway Coalition (NEHC) consortium to provide fast charging along major U.S. travel corridors by the end of 2023, and its role in the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative (WCCTCI), a collaborative effort among utilities from San Diego to the Canadian border.

“It will analyze, promote and develop electric charging facilities for freight trucks as they travel up and down the west coast,” Pizarro said of WCCTCI. “This is particularly important to help continue the clean-energy progress made to reduce harmful emissions at our ports. Many of our most economically vulnerable neighbors live and work in the surrounding communities, so cleaning the air along these corridors represents a significant environmental justice opportunity.”

The EEI’s Kuhn echoed Pizarro’s statements, pointing to the infrastructure as the needed driver for EV adoption. Kuhn quoted EEI data estimating the number of EVs on U.S. roads could reach 22 million vehicles within a decade, requiring more than 10 times the current number of public EV fast-charging ports. “Today, the biggest barrier to EV adoption is not a lack of EVs, it is lack of access to charging infrastructure that is convenient, affordable, equitable and reliable.”

Kuhn explained that the EEI's NEHC includes more than 50 investor-owned electric companies along with the Tennessee Valley Authority, and each member is committed to building a foundational network of fast-charging stations across major travel corridors in their service areas by the end of 2023. “The goal is to help give drivers the confidence they need to choose an EV,” he said. “The EV market is not uniform across the country. Each coalition member will pursue approaches to deploy EV charging that make the most sense for their customers, their company and their regulators.”

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