Transportation Electrification Focus of NASEO Conference

The National Association of State Energy Officials 2022 Policy Outlook Conference held in Washington D.C. February 8-11 focused in part on the ways states and federal agencies can work together to support transportation electrification.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, participated in a panel discussion on February 10 regarding how states are ramping up support for the construction of a nationwide network of electric vehicle or EV chargers.

[Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Energy formally launched a new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure or “NEVI” formula program on February 10 as well that will provide nearly $5 billion over five years to help states create a national network of some 500,000 electric vehicle-charging stations.]

During the panel, Tymon noted that AASHTO has formed two inter-committee “working groups” to aid efforts by state departments of transportation around the country to support the Biden administration’s plan to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030.

Those two AASHTO-led groups – the EV Inter-Committee Working Group and EV Practitioner’s Working Group – seek to address what Tymon called the “technical and logistical challenges” facing the administration’s plan to build 500,000 EV chargers within the next eight years. He noted that AASHTO addresses many of these issues in letters sent to the Federal Highway Administration on January 14 and January 28.

AASHTO Executive Director Jim Tymon speaking to NASEO

“Our members … understand that the [EV charger] buildout needs to be consistent and coordinated across the country in order to provide reliable and accessible service to all EV drivers,” Tymon explained in written remarks prepared ahead of the conference.

“For example, chargers need to be universal so that any vehicle can use them; the chargers need to be reliable with uptimes of at least 95 percent; and payment methods need to be consistent, uniform, and available to all members of the public,” he said.

Moreover, while consistency is important, he said this build-out effort requires “flexibility” in certain areas. “For example, rural communities are going to have different needs than urban corridors,” he emphasized. “In order for efficient implementation to occur, states will need the flexibility to implement plans that meet the needs of their communities, while keeping the bigger picture in mind.” 

Tymon pointed out that collaboration between state agencies such as state DOTs and state energy offices “will be instrumental” in achieving the goals set out in the $7.5 billion EV program established by the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021.

“AASHTO looks forward to doing what we can to support our members as they continue these successful relationships with their sister agencies and regionally with their peers across state lines,” he said. “No one sector can be successful on its own. This is a massive undertaking and continual communication – of challenges and concerns, best practices and lessons learned – will be key to the success of this huge implementation project.”

California Governor Proposes Zero Emission Vehicle Package

Governor Gavin Newsom (D) (seen above) has introduced a $6.1 billion zero-emission vehicle or ZEV fiscal support package to accelerate the state’s transition to ZEVs and “fight climate change” in the process.

[Above photo by the California Governor’s Office]

Combined with a $3.9 billion ZEV investment package signed into law in September 2021, California would ultimately outlay $10 billion to support broader ZEV deployment statewide.

That spending also dovetails the governor’s executive order issued in September 2020 requiring that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California by 2035 must be zero-emission vehicles.

“The future is electric, and we’re making it easier and cheaper than ever before to go electric. That means more assistance to help folks buy clean cars and more charging stations in more communities throughout the state,” said Gov. Newsom in a statement.

This latest funding proposal would also support the construction of vehicle charging stations and other infrastructure needed to “facilitate” the state’s transition to ZEVs.

The governor’s $6.1 billion package includes:

  • Low-Income Zero-Emission Vehicles and Infrastructure: $256 million for low-income consumer purchases, and $900 million to expand affordable and convenient ZEV infrastructure access in low-income neighborhoods. These investments will focus on planning and deploying a range of charging options to support communities, including grid-friendly high-power fast chargers and at-home charging.
  • Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicles and Supporting Infrastructure: $935 million for the purchase of 1,000 zero-emission short-haul drayage trucks and 1,700 zero-emission transit buses. Another $1.5 billion would support the purchase of electric buses for school transportation programs. A further $1.1 billion would help buy zero-emission trucks, buses, and off-road equipment plus related fueling infrastructure, with $400 million to enable port electrification.
  • Zero-Emission Mobility: $419 million to support sustainable community-based transportation equity projects that increase access to zero-emission mobility in low-income communities. This includes supporting local clean mobility options plus sustainable transportation and equity projects.
  • Emerging Opportunities: $200 million to invest in demonstration and pilot projects in high carbon-emitting sectors, such as maritime, aviation, rail and other off-road applications, as well as support for vehicle grid integration at scale.

AASHTO Highlights Key Challenges of EV Charger Plan

While the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials supports President Biden’s “ambitious goal” of building a new national network of 500,000 electric vehicle or EV chargers by 2030, the organization cautions that “many challenges must be overcome, both technical and logistical, in order to make this goal a reality.”

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The establishment of such a network is a key part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA signed into law in November 2021, which sets aside $5 billion in formula funding specifically to support EV charging infrastructure projects.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 7, AASHTO said some of the major challenges facing this administration’s EV charging push is overall national electrical grid capacity as well as the grid’s proximity to potential charging stations, especially in rural and underserved areas.

Industrial capacity to meet the sudden increase in demand for EV supply equipment, along with the need to coordinate – on a “huge scale” – with business models and supply chain of “non-traditional” transportation sector stakeholders, are also big concerns, AASHTO said. 

Yet one of the biggest short-term challenges facing Biden’s EV effort – with the “greatest potential” to affect the initial deployment of chargers around the country – is the “reasonable and appropriate” application of Buy America requirements to the EV infrastructure industry, the organization emphasized.

AASHTO strongly recommended in its letter a “staged” or incremental approach to the application of Buy America requirements as they relate to EV supply equipment during the initial implementation period of the IIJA in order to facilitate efficient and effective deployment in the first few years.

“A reasonable, practical, step-wise approach will ensure progress in deploying EV infrastructure while coaxing the industry along to full compliance within a defined period of time,” the organization said. “State DOTs are concerned that the approach taken to Buy America has the potential to upset implementation and increase market volatility.”

In addition, EV infrastructure providers need “widespread education” on federal transportation regulations in general, in addition to the Buy America requirements with which they must now comply. “Many of the subcontractors receiving funds for EV infrastructure will be nontraditional, non-transportation-related private-sector entities that are not familiar with and, in many cases, unable to accommodate the myriad federal-aid requirements attached to the IIJA funding,” AASHTO warned.

The organization pointed out that eliminating the interpretation of Buy America at the state DOT/Federal Highway Administration Division Office level by making compliance determinations at the national level and disseminating this information to the states would be the “preferred solution” to this issue.

“The development by USDOT of a national, pre-approved list of EV equipment vendors that are certified Buy America would ensure that the same review and certification processes do not need to be replicated in each individual state, and would also ensure consistent implementation across the country,” AASHTO added.

Maryland Launches Zero-Emission Transit Bus Transition Plan

The Maryland Transit Administration or MTA – a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation – launched a “transition plan” in December 2021 to move its transit fleet to zero-emission bus or ZEB models as older diesel-fueled and hybrid buses reach the end of their useful life.

[Above photo by the MTA]

MTA said in a statement that this “incremental” ZEB transition process includes bus facility updates as well and is designed to meet the requirements of Maryland’s new Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act, which mandates all new buses procured for the state’s transit fleet be emission-free beginning in 2023.

The agency plans to launch its first ZEB pilot program in 2023, when seven new battery-electric 40-foot and 60-foot articulated buses arrive at its Kirk Division, with that division’s facility expected to become a 100 percent electric bus facility by the end of 2026. The Northwest Division, which will begin a retrofit in early 2025, will highlight the second phase of the ZEB program with electric buses arriving in 2026.

Meanwhile, MTA said its Eastern Division expects to start the reconstruction of its bus facility in 2026, which will be one of the few purpose-built zero-emission bus facilities in the U.S., and should start hosting ZEBs starting in 2028. Finally, beginning in 2030, MTA’s Bush Division will undergo similar ZEB infrastructure investments.

Purchase of the new buses for this pilot program and the infrastructure for charging them will utilize grant funding from the Low or No Emission Vehicle Program from the Federal Transit Administration, and the Volkswagen Settlement.

Per targets identified in the Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan and guided by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan by the Maryland Department of the Environment, MTA has established several overall goals in undertaking the transition to a ZEB fleet. The agency has committed to converting 50 percent of its bus fleet to zero-emission by 2030 while seamlessly providing reliable, efficient service throughout the transition and beyond.

Oregon DOT Preps IIJA Funds for EV Charging Projects

Some $52 million of additional funding over the next five years should flow to Oregon for investment in electric vehicle or EV charging infrastructure. That money comes from the $1.2 billion in additional transportation funding Oregon will receive from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in to law in November.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

The Oregon Department of Transportation said the federal government makes the initial decisions on how to spend that $52 million, with the agency expecting to receive its first set of federal guidelines for that EV funding by February 2022.

Suzanne Carlson, director of the Oregon DOT Climate Office, said in a statement that her office expects those federal guidelines to steer that funding to Alternative Fuel Corridors, which are national highways that are eligible for federal grant funding to add public EV charging and other alternative fuel infrastructure. Oregon has seven corridors designated under the program: Intestates 5, 84 and 82, and U.S. 26, 101, 20 and 97.

Public-private partnerships will be a key component of Oregon’s EV investment strategy, the agency said, pointing to previous examples such as its investment of $4.1 million earlier this year to support EV charging upgrades to Oregon’s slice of the West Coast Electric Highway.

Oregon DOT also collaborated with local firm Forth, Kittelson & Associates along with the Rocky Mountain Institute to complete a future electrification needs study in 2020-21, which examined Oregon’s EV charging needs over the next 15 years. That study presents a “clear roadmap” for the agency and its partners for electrifying the state’s transportation system for multiple types of vehicles, explained Carlson.

According to data tracked by Oregon DOT, state residents are adopting EVs at a “swift rate,” with new EV registrations in 2021 on track to increase by about 70 percent compared to 2020. “With the study’s findings, we can be more strategic and keep up momentum on EV adoption rates,” she said. “Our role will be to make targeted state investments, secure more federal grant funding, and make sure public EV charging is equitable and practical.”

Utility Coalition Seeks to Build National EV Charging Network

The newly formed National Electric Highway Coalition – consisting of 51 investor-owned electric companies, an electric cooperative, and the Tennessee Valley Authority – seeks to build a national network of electric vehicle or EV fast-charging ports to allow the public to drive EVs with confidence along major U.S. travel corridors by the end of 2023.

[Above photo by USDOT]

That coalition, led by the Edison Electric Institute, estimates that the country will need more than 100,000 EV fast-charging ports to support some 22 million EVs expected to operate on U.S. roads in 2030. EEI added that its member companies have invested more than $3 billion in EV charging infrastructure projects and related customer programs to date.

“By merging and expanding the existing efforts underway to build fast-charging infrastructure along major travel corridors, we are building a foundational EV charging network that will help to encourage more customers to purchase an electric vehicle,” explained Tom Kuhn, EEI’s president, in a statement. “With the formation of the National Electric Highway Coalition, we are committed to investing in and providing the charging infrastructure necessary to facilitate electric vehicle growth and to helping alleviate any remaining customer range anxiety.”

“Addressing issues such as grid resiliency, energy demands for charging, and equitable rollout of charging infrastructure will be an integral part of a successful future for EVs in America,” added John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

“The National Electric Highway Coalition will support the EV transition by facilitating electric power industry engagement in transportation electrification across the country,” he said. “Electric companies, which are regulated by state commissions, can help leverage all funding sources, help fill the infrastructure gaps, and help manage the deployment of these chargers with a long-term view.”

Several state departments of transportation are involved in similar EV recharging efforts.

For example, an initiative launched in September to develop the nation’s first electric vehicle or EV wireless charging infrastructure on a public road is gearing up in Michigan – and the Michigan Department of Transportation will play a critical role in this new project.

The Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the state’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification that plans to deploy an electrified roadway system that would allow electric-powered buses, shuttles, and personal vehicles to recharge their battery systems while driving – enabling EVs to operate continuously without stopping to recharge.

In February, the California Department of Transportation finished installing 22 new “fast-charging” stations for EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

The agency said the 22 Level 3 DC fast chargers deployed as part of this $4.5 million project provide an approximate 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to EVs with fast-charging capability. The units also feature “universal connectors” so they can re-charge all EVs on the market, including Teslas, with an adapter. Charging is free with no time limit, Caltrans added.

Five Midwest States Plan Build-Out of EV Charging Network

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have established a partnership to support the build-out of electric vehicle or EV charging infrastructure across the Midwest region.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons]

The goal of this agreement – known as the Regional Electric Vehicle for the Midwest Memorandum of Understanding or REV Midwest MOU – is to “accelerate vehicle electrification” in the Midwest, providing for fleet electrification along key commercial corridors. The MOU also ensures the entire Midwest region can effectively compete for new private investment and federal funding for vehicle electrification.

“By working together with our Midwestern neighbors, we can accelerate the region’s growth in the transportation sector, create jobs across our communities, and prioritize the environment that makes the Great Lakes region so great along the way,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D) in a statement.

Improving access to charging infrastructure and reducing range anxiety will support EV adoption and the next generation of American-made electric automobiles, he added.

Through REV Midwest, those five states said they will work together to remove barriers to electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles and enable EV charging across states by coordinating to optimize charging infrastructure, cooperate on best practices, and support standardization.

“[The] REV Midwest partnership is a bipartisan effort to build the future of mobility and electrification and connect our communities,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D).“Our partnership will enable the Midwest to lead on electric vehicle adoption, reduce carbon emissions, spur innovation, and create good-paying jobs.”

On top of that, the Midwest utility sector needs an estimated 105,000 new jobs to deploy EV charging infrastructure across the region by 2030, she added. As a result, those five state plans address workforce needs in concert with private industry; supporting workforce training programs to build the transportation system of the future.

“The Midwest has the ingenuity and the drive to develop innovative solutions to curb climate change,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D). “I am proud to work with my fellow Midwest governors to not only reduce pollution, but protect public health, create jobs, and increase consumer choice across the region.”

“I’m proud to partner with our neighboring states to put the Midwest region on the leading edge of providing the charging infrastructure needed to futureproof our transportation network and meet the demand as rapid adoption of electric vehicles continues,” echoed Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R).

“We shouldn’t have to choose between building a cleaner, more equitable state and economic development—and thankfully, vehicle electrification is an area where we can do both,” said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D).“This regional partnership [is] critical for addressing emissions from the transportation sector, ensuring folks in every community have cleaner air to breathe and creating jobs to meet our future workforce needs.”

Michigan DOT Part of EV Wireless Road Charging Project

A new initiative to develop the nation’s first electric vehicle or EV wireless charging infrastructure on a public road is gearing up in Michigan – and the Michigan Department of Transportation will play a critical role in this new project.

[Above photo of Governor Whitmer via the Michigan Governor’s Office]

The Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the state’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification that plans to deploy an electrified roadway system that would allow electric-powered buses, shuttles, and personal vehicles to recharge their battery systems while driving – enabling EVs to operate continuously without stopping to recharge.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) noted that the development of a “wireless dynamic charging roadway” would help address range anxiety among EV users while accelerating the transition to all-electric transit fleets in Michigan and beyond.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” the governor said in a statement. “This project reinforces my commitment to accelerating the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure in Michigan and will create new opportunities for businesses and high-tech jobs amidst the transition to electric vehicles.”

[Editor’s note: The governor also concurrently launched two other initiatives – the Lake Michigan EV Circuit and the Michigan Revolution for the Electrification of Vehicles or “MiREV” – to continue advancing Michigan’s EV and mobility landscape by building out critical charging infrastructure in the state and ensuring the strong pipeline of talent needed for automotive mobility and electrification career pathways.]

“We know the future of mobility involves connectivity and this initiative dovetails nicely with our other successes linking vehicles and infrastructure through technology,” added Paul Ajegba, director of the Michigan DOT. “This is a model we will build on across the state to further promote the governor’s broad and ambitious vision.”

The Michigan DOT has released a Request for Proposal or RFP to implement the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot along a one-mile stretch of state-operated roadway in Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb counties. The firm that wins the RFP will then work closely with the Michigan DOT, the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on this project. Michigan DOT added that, to date, it has activated the largest vehicle-to-infrastructure technology deployment – nearly 600 miles – in the United States, including a first-of-its-kind connected and autonomous vehicle or “CAV corridor.” The agency also noted that Michigan is also home to a diverse collection of automated vehicle and drone testing environments.

Kansas DOT Seeks Input on EV Charger Unit Placement

The Kansas Department of Transportation recently issued a request for information or RFI in advance of a request for proposals to install electric vehicle charging (EV) stations along the most traveled state highways.

[Above photo of an EV charging station by the City of Olathe, KS]

Through this RFI, the Kansas DOT said it seeks to receive input from “industry stakeholders and potential applicants” to help develop program criteria for awarding funding toward the installation of EV charging equipment to ensure “continuity of travel” across the state for travelers and commerce alike.

The agency added that it already has identified approximately 12 preliminary locations for the installation of Direct Current Fast Charging stations producing 50 kilowatts or more of power to improve public access to charging stations every 50 miles along primary corridors. Funding their installation would come from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust, which made approximately $2 million available to Kansas for EV charging infrastructure needs.

“We want to work in partnership with the private sector to expand EV charging stations,” noted Kansas DOT Secretary Julie Lorenz in a statement. “This RFI is the first step in that process.”

This effort by the agency reflects the impetus of an executive order issued by President Biden on August 5 for 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles, which includes battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.

That dovetails with a plan also initiated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency on August 5 to mandate an 8 percent annual increase in fuel efficiency for passenger cars and light trucks between model-year 2024 and 2026.

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, recently offered some state-level perspective on how to manage this transition to EVs – noting in a recent Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast that state DOTs will play a “critical role” in helping electrify the nation’s transportation system.

Mug shots of Sens. Schumer and Sherrod

Senators Unveil $73B ‘Clean Transit for America’ Plan

Two key Senate Democrats introduced a $73 billion plan on May 4 to transition the nation’s transit buses and vans to Zero Emission Vehicle or ZEV platforms.

The “Clean Transit for America” plan – introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the senate’s majority leader, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – would replace America’s 70,000 mass transit buses and 85,000 cutaway/transit vans to “clean energy vehicles.” The plan would also prioritize funding for areas with the worst air quality first.

Currently in the United States, only 2 percent of buses are ZEVs, argued Sen. Schumer in a statement. He added that the volume of air pollutants from diesel buses disproportionally affects low-income communities and communities of color. 

“To reduce the carbon in our atmosphere and address the climate crisis, we must transform our transit system,” he said. “The Clean Transit for America proposal will replace dirty, diesel-spewing buses, create new American jobs, help save the planet and protect public health, particularly in our country’s most vulnerable communities.”

“Americans deserve world-class public transportation that is delivered with modern, zero-emission buses built by American workers,” added Sen. Brown. “The Clean Transit for America Plan will create a significant number of good-paying, union jobs building zero-emission buses in the U.S. It is the kind of transformative investment we need in public transit that will put Americans to work [and] connects people with opportunity.”

In a related effort, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., recently outlined a “vision” for how the Environmental Protection Agency could adopt standards to reduce greenhouse gas or GHG emissions in the automotive industry and eliminate tailpipe pollution from new cars by 2035.

“The future of the automobile manufacturing sector is at a crossroads,” Sen. Carper – chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – explained in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“The Clean Air Act provides sufficient authority for the EPA to rise to this challenge,” he said in a statement released with the letter. “EPA can establish requirements on new cars that would significantly reduce air pollution harming communities, put the nation on track to maintain its leadership in vehicle technology, and make significant progress in fighting climate change.”

Sen. Carper added that “if the U.S. does not establish a robust policy that leads to ZEV deployment” he warned the nation “will be at risk of losing our automotive jobs and industry leadership to other nations, as well as enduring unnecessary public health impacts from pollution.”