Pennsylvania is preparing to award millions of dollars in new federal infrastructure funds to add electric vehicle charging stations across the state, and officials are urging those interested in applying to start preparing now .
President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law includes $7.5 billion to expand electric vehicle charging across the country, called the National Formula Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program.
NEVI has two parts. The federal government is giving money to Pennsylvania and the other states to distribute (more details below), and a second pot of discretionary funding will come directly from the U.S. Department of Transportation under a competitive program at the national scale.
Pennsylvania will receive $171.5 million for electric vehicle charging over the next five years under the NEVI program. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is preparing to open applications for grants for the first year of funding, approximately $24.5 million.
NEVI grants will require the recipient to provide at least 20% matching. There will be a separate program for heavy vehicles/trucks.
PennDOT plans to announce the application process in late December/early January, but is now holding informational meetings to help businesses, organizations, electric utilities, government agencies, and municipalities get ready to get started.
An online webinar for businesses is scheduled for November 1. Those interested in attending can find more information here.
A meeting Thursday in South Whitehall Township drew private businesses; representatives from Allentown, Bethlehem and Upper Macungie Township; Lehigh Valley Planning Commission staff; members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and a group of PPL.
“This is new for PennDOT,” Dan Szekeres, one of the session presenters, said of the NEVI program. “We are learning as we go along.”
Pennsylvania currently has 2,800 chargers in 1,100 locations, but “that’s changing day by day,” Szekeres said. The figure does not include Tesla chargers, which are not currently considered public charging points, he added.
Where can the chargers be found?
Under the NEVI program, funding must first be used to “build” designated Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) until the corridors are certified for construction by the Federal Highway Administration.
Corridors around the Lehigh Valley include I-78, I-80, and the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. PennDOT specifically looks at pricing differentials along these corridors, and has an interactive map of priority projects here.
Once Pennsylvania meets the building criteria, “we can do a lot more other things,” Szekeres said.
PennDOT and other states are still determining how to address the building requirement. Are they now adding more freeways to the corridors and must they meet the federal requirements for each one, or are they building the existing corridors and meeting the federal criteria, which then allows the state to manage the adding routes in the future?
One of the potential additions to the AFC is Route 222 between Lehigh and Lancaster counties.
Once construction criteria are met, PennDOT’s priorities include expanding charging on non-interstate highways, providing mobile charging or towing for emergencies, and adding charging in major public destinations.
What are the requirements for charging stations?
Public chargers must be DC fast-charging stations, with at least four ports, and within 1.6 km of a highway and 80 km from the next charging station.
Officials recognize that the distance requirement will be an issue; previous guidelines stated that charging stations should be within 5 miles of a highway.
How to register?
Those interested in applying for the grant should start preparing now, said Mark Kopko, director of transformational technology at PennDOT.
This includes signing up for Keystone Login, the electronic grant system that PennDOT already uses; select a site; assess site readiness; and coordination with utilities.
Readiness assessments include knowledge of energy availability and the degree of utility coordination that has been completed.
PPL’s Kimberly Gauntner said the power company was bracing for an influx of demands. PPL serves 29 counties in Pennsylvania, and many NEVI grant corridors are within PPL coverage areas, she said.
PPL has a dedicated electric vehicle website and information on how applicants can request feasibility studies. Studies include cost and time, and can be part of a NEVI application to show coordination with a utility.
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Sarah Cassi can be reached at [email protected].