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US to install four charging ports every 50 miles for EV drivers

10 June 2022 Amena Saiyid

American electric vehicle (EV) drivers may be able to reach a charging station with at least four public ports every 50 miles along a highway by 2030 under federal minimum standards proposed for such sites, but they still won't find charging as easy as their counterparts in China and Europe.

"No matter what kind of EV a user drives, what state they charge in, or what charging company they plug into, the minimum standards will ensure a unified network of chargers with similar payment systems, pricing information, charging speeds, and more," the US Department of Transportation (DOT) said in a 9 June statement.

American EV ownership is on the rise owing to their lower emissions, although many US consumers still have anxieties about long road trips given the distances they might encounter between charging station or their destination.

DOT said the rule would put those fears to rest because it seeks a minimum distance of 50 miles between DC fast charging stations. Currently, the distance between charging stations can range from a few miles in cities (where drivers are more able to charge at home or their workplace) to 60-plus miles in rural areas of Wyoming and Montana.

Spacing based on demand

EV stations need to be spaced out "based on demand," and the current focus of the federal dollars is to build something that will allow consumers to travel coast to coast in an EV without a problem, Mark Boyadjis, global tech lead with S&P Global Mobility's consulting practice, told Net-Zero Business Daily 10 June.

The proposal, which is subject to a 60-day public comment period following its publication, would lay the foundation for "a convenient, affordable, reliable, and equitable network of chargers throughout the country."

As DOT pointed out, there are currently no national standards to install, operate, or maintain EV charging stations. Moreover, it said, "wide disparities exist among EV charging stations in key components, such as operational practices, payment methods, site organization, display of price to charge, speed and power of chargers, and information communicated about the availability and functioning of each charging station."

President Joe Biden set a goal of having a national network of 500,000 charging ports by 2030 for which he secured $7.5 billion from US Congress in the 2021 Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. DOT made $5 billion of that sum available to states over the next five years under a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program to build out a nationwide network.

States seeking NEVI funding to build EV stations will have to meet the minimum standards, which DOT expects to finalize by the year's end. States, localities, and private EV charger providers retain the flexibility though to set their own standards for charger deployment under the rule.

However, DOT added a caveat that states receiving the funds must maintain the charging infrastructure for at least five years, which it termed a "reasonable useful life."

Supercharging America

DOT said these standards once finalized will "supercharge America's efforts to lead the electric future" and align with the Biden administration's goal of achieving 50-52% GHG cuts by 2030.

An average of 5,322 public EV ports have been installed in each quarter since 2020, but at least 14,706 new public EV charging outlets will be required each quarter for the next nine years to meet the Biden administration's 2030 target, according to a US National Renewable Energy Laboratory study released in January.

By the end of 2022, S&P Global Mobility estimates 2 million cumulative EV charging stations will be installed in the Americas, compared with 7.9 million in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and 5.1 million in the Asia Pacific region. These same projections show the Americas will have 10.7 million charging stations by the end of 2028, EMEA will have 18.8 million, while APAC will have 25.7 million.

"Right now," Boyadjis said, "the EU is currently leading with total EV charging stations, with APAC in a near second place. The US will begin to catch up in terms of total installed public chargers with strong federal and state funding like this, but it is not forecast to overtake the other regions through the end of the decade," Boyadjis said.

"What is important though," he added, "is that the mobility industry in the US focuses on building out an efficient, logical, and sustainable network of EV charging stations. The last thing anyone wants is for these billions of dollars to be used inefficiently."

Under the proposal, DOT said EV charge providers must at least provide 150 kW per outlet at the stations, which can be outfitted with either level 2 or DC fast chargers. Level 2 ports can add 10 to 24 miles of range to an average EV battery in an hour, while DC fast charging ports can add 60 to 80 miles or more of range in as little as 20 minutes.

"Bones are all there"

Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst for S&P Global Mobility, doesn't expect the final standards to differ significantly from what has been proposed other than some changes in data transfer protocols.

For instance, she said the requirements that each port comes with at least a 150-kW power level, each station has at least four ports, and a minimum 50-mile gap between stations are likely to stay.

"The bones are all there, and if you are an EV charging provider, a state, or a city you can get started on your planning for installation in 2023 just on the basis of this proposal," Brinley told Net-Zero Business Daily by S&P Global Commodity Insights.

In addition, the proposal ensures that payment options are publicly accessible, secure, equitable, and factor in innovations made in payment methods, such contactless payment through all major credit and debit cards. Since these chargers would be federally funded, the proposal made it said access and service would not be restricted by membership or payment method type.

Adopting best practices

Anne Smart, vice president of global public policy at California-based ChargePoint, an EV charging network provider, told Net-Zero Business Daily in a 10 June email that the draft minimum standards incorporate many best practices the company has developed over the last 15 years.

"We applaud the federal government for working to increase access to EV charging by embracing contactless credit card payment technology and supporting roaming between charging networks," Smart said.

The NEVI formula, which was jointly crafted by the DOT and the US Department of Energy, also lays out minimum skill, training, and certification standards for technicians. This would ensure that the deployment of charging EV infrastructure will create more openings for workers to pursue training in the electrical trades—which the government termed critical occupations for the clean energy transition.

"By requiring on-site installation, maintenance, and operations to be performed by a well-qualified, highly-skilled, and certified, licensed, and trained workforce, the proposed regulation would also increase the safety and reliability of charging station function and use, and mitigate project delivery issues such as cost overruns and delays, DOT said.

The BlueGreen Alliance, a network of unions and environmental groups, was pleased that the proposed rule requires the use of American-made EV chargers and certification requirements for electricians who install and maintain charging stations.

"It's now up to state DOTs—with input from communities, labor representatives, and other advocates—to outline how they will comply with the [notice of proposed rulemaking] requirements in their EV infrastructure plans," BlueGreen Alliance Policy Advisor Reem Rayef said 9 June.

She added that the alliance hopes states take measures "above and beyond what is required of them" as the proposal merely sets minimum standards for training the EV workforce.

ChargePoint also pointed to the importance the proposed rule gave to training electricians across the country to install EV charging infrastructure, which it said "we are proud to support through our new partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association."

Posted 10 June 2022 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate and Energy Research Analyst

This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.


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