Michigan to get $16.3 million from feds to build electric vehicle chargers

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan is expected to receive $16.3 million to build electric vehicle chargers, the Biden administration announced Thursday. 

It's the first round out of nearly $5 billion in formula funding over five years to build a nationwide network of DC fast chargers, approved as a part of the new bipartisan infrastructure law. Michigan is expected to receive $110 million in total over the course of the program. 

Officials expect the funding to hit state coffers in August or September, after state spending plans are approved by federal officials . 

The chargers should be primarily along "alternative fuel corridors" designated by the Federal Highway Administration that can quickly accommodate chargers.

In Michigan, U.S. 131 between Kalamazoo and Petoskey, I-96 between Muskegon and Detroit, I-194 between Gary, Indiana, and Detroit, and portions of I-69 between Lansing and Flint and I-75 between Pontiac and Detroit are among the highways that are considered ready corridors.

"We already know that EVs are the future. The auto industry is headed there, consumers are increasingly headed there," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday. 

But he said it's still not clear whether the shift will happen quickly enough to adequately combat climate change, whether American companies will lead the future market, and whether consumers will be able to reap the benefits of EVs regardless of where they live. 

"Those things will not happen on their own, but they will happen with our action," Buttigieg said. "And make no mistake, the benefits are enormous."

Building along highways is intended to help reduce range anxiety for consumers and to reach rural and other underserved areas, officials said. There are no alternative fuel corridors in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, though Transportation Department officials said they would begin accepting nominations for new fuel corridors Thursday. 

Once chargers are built along the corridors, officials say states will be able to focus funds on charging projects in cities, near apartment buildings, and other areas not aimed at long-distance drives. 

The funding can be used only for EV charging, rather than fuels such as hydrogen, propane and natural gas. Installation, operation and maintenance, traffic control, signage and other types of projects may qualify.

The other $2.5 billion for EV charging approved through the infrastructure bill — which can be used for EVs and other alternative fuels — will be doled out through a competitive grant program aimed at increasing access to charging in rural and underserved areas, the officials said. 

At least 40% of the benefits of the EV investments must go to disadvantaged communities, according to the Transportation Department, but not necessarily 40% of the chargers themselves. 

The administration will issue guidance advising states on other requirements for the chargers, including the required distance between chargers — up to 50 miles apart, with exceptions — what types of connectors must be available and more. 

The charger funding is a part of President Joe Biden's plan to roll out 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.

The infrastructure law requires states to pay 20% of the projects funded through the federal program, and officials anticipate the funding will incentivize more private-sector investment in charging as demand grows. 

Wedbush Securities estimates it will take around $60 billion to reach Biden's goal. Administration officials said the $7.5 billion to be allocated in the next few years represents "a significant down payment" on building the system. 

Automakers, environmental groups and Michigan Democrats praised the announcement Thursday. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said the state's 769 public EV chargers are "a fraction of what's needed to meet anticipated demand."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a statement that EVs "are a key part of our clean energy future" and will help consumers pay less for gas. 

"But you can’t drive one without access to convenient charging stations," she said. "This investment will help make sure we have public charging stations across Michigan so that it’s easier for people to drive the electric vehicles being made here in Michigan.”

Auto companies are rapidly moving toward electrification. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most major automakers producing cars in the U.S., says the industry has plans to invest $330 billion in electrification by 2025. 

Alliance CEO John Bozzella called the administration's EV announcement Thursday "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to jumpstart building a nationwide charging and refueling network for EVs."

Ford Motor Co. Chief Policy Officer Steven Croley said in a statement Thursday that the Dearborn automaker applauds the EV charging initiative, "which will help speed the transition to a zero-emissions transportation future, create good American jobs, and avoid the worst effects of climate change."


Twitter: @rbeggin