© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An electric car charging station is seen in the parking garage of Union Station in Washington, U.S., September 29, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday it is awarding $148.8 million for projects in 20 states to repair or replace nearly 4,500 existing electric vehicle charging ports.
The announcement is the latest in a string of awards to boost EV charging, as President Joe Biden’s administration looks to finalize new rules in coming months that could dramatically boost EV sales.
The funds aim to help frustrated owners who find EV chargers out of service, said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt in an interview with Reuters.
“We know there’s going to be more demand for the technology,” Bhatt said citing rising EV sales, adding that charging is getting better. “We anticipate reliability being less of an issue going forward.”
The new funds are part of the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program funded by a $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure law. Under the program, states need to operate federally-funded charging ports for at least five years, which must work 97% of the time.
The White House aims to expand the nationwide network of chargers to 500,000 by 2030, which include high-speed chargers no more than 50 miles (80 km) apart on the nation’s busiest highways and interstates.
Automakers and others say drastically boosting EV charging stations is crucial to the wide deployment of electric vehicles, even as a growing number of automakers are adopting Tesla (NASDAQ:)’s EV charging technology.
The United States has more than 170,000 public charging ports, and since the start of the Biden administration, the number of publicly available chargers has increased by more than 70%, the White House said.
Biden in 2021 set a goal, backed by automakers, seeking 50% of new vehicles by 2030 to be EVs or plug-in hybrids.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stringent new tailpipe regulations that would result in 67% of new vehicles being electric by 2032 and the administration is expected to finalize new emissions limits by March.
Automakers want the EPA to soften those requirements and Republicans in the U.S House of Representatives voted last month to bar the EPA from finalizing those rules.