We are more than a year and a half into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. Under the IIJA, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (known as the NEVI Program) was established to distribute $5 billion in funding over five years to build out a national network of electric vehicle charging stations along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors.
Individual state departments of transportation have developed plans to administer funding at the state level. With so many states and various stakeholders, how will the NEVI program help the Biden Administration achieve its goal of building a national network of 500,000 EV chargers along 75,000 miles of U.S. highways, and how far along are we?
The first step in the process has been holding meetings with state agencies and stakeholders, including technology and fuel providers and environmental groups to determine the best plan to ensure reliable, accessible charging along key travel corridors while ensuring disadvantaged communities receive equitable access to charging solutions.
As states begin to make NEVI funds available, some key requirements for applications have emerged to ensure that:
- Stations are built along approved Alternative Fuel Corridors
- Stations are no more than 50 miles apart and no more than one travel mile from an off/exit ramp or highway intersection
- Charging solutions are non-proprietary, so any and all EVs can successfully charge at each station
- At least four 150kW chargers per site capable of simultaneous charging
- Site power must be at least 600kW
While these technical requirements are essential to ensure the NEVI program’s overall success, other factors should also be considered. What does charging an EV from state to state—for passenger cars and heavy-duty trucks—look like, and will travelers have access to the amenities they need while charging their vehicles?
Those amenities are quite important because even though NEVI requires 150kW chargers, which means fast charging speeds, travelers are still “hanging out” for a typical recharge from 20 minutes to one hour, depending on the charger and the vehicle. So, designing for travelers means EV stations that provide a safe, clean, and well-lit location.
Truck stops and travel stops are well-positioned to play a critical role in building out electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the U.S., not only because of their existing infrastructure footprint but also because of the driver services provided. This potential is getting a hard look by industry players. For example, at Love’s Travel Stops, every location is being evaluated for EV charging, and it is anticipated that several hundred locations will deploy chargers over the next several years, with NEVI acting as a driver of this industry trend as states look for opportunities to build out a network that is convenient for drivers. It bears mention that whether driving a big-rig truck or a passenger car, drivers will need food, clean restrooms, and safe areas for pets and families when fueling their vehicles, regardless of the fuel type.
As the nation begins widescale adoption of EVs, there will naturally be a learning curve in charging and operating these vehicles. Access to 24/7 staff for onsite support will be a key feature to provide assistance with EV charging and ensure a positive charging experience. And as EVs become increasingly mainstream, a key consideration for charging sites will be the availability of space to add more chargers in the future and adapt current traditional fueling lanes. Those are two things to keep in mind for successful planning.
States are now beginning to open NEVI applications, with Alaska, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania taking an early lead in reviewing and accepting applications. Interestingly, the NEVI program will update its application process on an annual basis, allowing for flexibility to incorporate lessons learned from earlier stations that are built.
Fleets and drivers will increasingly transition to EVs over the next several years and decades. That transition is already underway because legislation is urging and sometimes enforcing the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. The NEVI Program and the invested stakeholders are working together to ensure the charging experience is safe, easy, and effective.
The real question is: Will states be able to check all the boxes as they review projects to ensure charging sites deliver a successful, widely used network of charging locations that deliver a great travel experience?
Kim Okafor is GM of Zero Emission Solutions for Trillium Energy Solutions, the technology arm of Love’s Travel Stops, which is supporting EV charging projects at hundreds of locations across the country. This article was originally published on FleetOwner.com.