Biden administration announces EV charging network plan

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — The Biden administration announced a federal strategy Monday shaping the roll-out of $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging approved through the bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

The funding is meant to jump-start the creation of a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers nationwide, which industry and officials believe is crucial for making zero-emission vehicles viable for customers.

Under the administration's plan, the departments of Transportation and Energy will create a joint office responsible for providing resources and guidance on EV charging and other electrification provisions in the infrastructure law. 

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks next to an electric vehicle and a charging station during her tour of the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George's County, Md., highlighting the electric vehicle investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law and the "Build Back Better Act" Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

The White House also will issue guidance for states and cities to deploy the network by mid-February and charger standards by mid-May. It also plans to create an advisory committee on electric vehicles in the first three months of 2022 and gather input from local government, industry, advocacy groups and others. 

"There can be no doubt the future of transportation in our nation and around the world is electric," Vice President Kamala Harris said during a speech Monday at a maintenance facility in Maryland.

"Our nation's ability to manufacture, charge and repair electric vehicles will determine many things. Including, one, the health of our communities, two, the strength of our economy, and three, the sustainability of our planet."

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a visit to the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George's County, Md., highlighting the electric vehicle investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law and the "Build Back Better Act" Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

The administration is also seeking information from domestic automakers and suppliers to identify sources that can meet "Buy American" requirements "and to highlight the benefits of shifting all manufacturing and assembly processes to the United States," according to a White House fact sheet. 

Harris said the biggest barrier to consumers buying electric vehicles is concern over where they would charge it, which the administration's plan hopes to address.

"The auto industry is clearly moving toward electric," she said. "We need to make the shift faster and make sure it is driven by the United States."

Automakers are pouring billions of dollars into transitioning their fleets from gas- and diesel-powered vehicles to electric ones, but industry advocates have argued that significant federal help will be necessary to accelerate the transition in order to cut emissions. 

That request has fallen upon friendly ears in the Biden administration, which has committed to ending federal purchases of gas-powered cars by 2035 and has set a nationwide goal of 50% EV sales by 2030. 

The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in November includes $7.5 billion for a nationwide charging network, including $5 billion in formula funding for states and $2.5 billion in competitive grants. 

White House officials have also kept the United Auto Workers close, supporting a tax credit provision that would implement $4,500 off-the-hood consumer rebates for EVs made by union workers in U.S.-based facilities, despite fierce opposition from major trading partners Canada, Mexico and the European Union. 

The tax credit provision is included in the Build Back Better bill, the social safety net and climate package passed by the U.S. House that's being debated in the Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, has also raised concerns about the provision. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, who wrote the proposal, have said they're optimistic it will remain in the bill. Leaders hope to conduct a vote on the bill before Christmas. 

rbeggin@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @rbeggin