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Feds Outline Standards for National EV Charging Network

As the U.S. begins the process of building out a national network of electric vehicle chargers, federal transportation and energy officials stress they must be accessible, user-friendly and interoperable.

The emerging national network of high-speed chargers for electric vehicles will be easy to use, fairly priced and readily available, federal officials announced.

The network of chargers to be developed in the next five years along interstates and other highway corridors are a centerpiece of the President Joe Biden administration’s efforts to advance the use and adoption of electric vehicles. The administration has a nationwide goal of 50 percent of new car sales to be EVs by 2035.

“The minimum standards being proposed today will ensure that our EV charging network is the national network, greater than the sum of its parts, and not just a loose collection of state networks,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack, during a June 9 electric vehicle symposium in Washington, D.C., to outline minimum standards and requirements for the national undertaking.

The charging network being planned today is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress last year. Some $7.5 billion will be allocated to developing EV charging, with $5 billion of this funding dedicated to the national charging network. States have until later this summer to submit plans to the joint office from the departments of Transportation and Energy, set up to carry out the nationwide charging project.

The development of the charging network will be guided by several key concepts: accessible, user-friendly and interoperable, say federal officials.

To ensure the chargers are accessible, they must be sited about every 50 miles along interstate highways, and be located within a mile of the highway. The charging stations must have at least four charging ports that are operable at least 97 percent of the time. The stations must accept a range of payment options, be accessible to users with disabilities and are fairly priced, said Pollack.

An “EV working group” has been established, made up of leaders from across the electric vehicle space. The group will report both to the departments of Transportation and Energy to offer insights into the adoption, development and integration of EVs into the U.S. transportation ecosystem, explained David M. Turk, deputy secretary with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Today, EVs make up roughly 6 percent of new cars sold in the United States. Quickly transitioning to an electric driving future will require growing the charging network, as well as growing American confidence in the cars themselves. The goal is seen as a central plank of the nation’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, and save money for drivers.

It costs an average of $60 less to recharge an EV, compared to gassing up a conventional car, said Turk, in an unspoken, but unavoidable, nod to record-high gas prices.

“That is a huge cost-savings for those fortunate enough to have EVs now, or looking to buy an EV,” he added.

California, which has the most robust EV market in the country, is moving forward on a plan to require that all new cars sold in the Golden State be zero-emission by 2035.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.