Biden administration announces $100 million in funding to improve EV chargers as drivers cool on the idea of switching vehicles.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has been helping the Biden administration push electric vehicles (EV) onto reluctant Americans stubbornly attached to reliable gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks, has admitted to having problems with his own EV.
“We’ve definitely had that experience,” Mr. Buttigieg told WSJ, referring to trying to charge his EV but finding that charging stations weren’t working. “Matter of fact, had it just a few days ago at a park in town.”
“Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t be sure when you pulled into a gas station that you’d actually get gas out of it,” he added.
“This is about making sure that access to charging is as reliable as access to fuel is today for gas cars, and we know that that’s not just a question of quantity but also one of quality,” Mr. Buttigieg told WSJ.
“This funding represents the latest step toward building a convenient, affordable, reliable charging network that reaches every corner of our nation,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a statement.
Reliability of EV charging stations is a problem in the United States—and not just going by the fact that the DOT’s press release is peppered with various permutations of the word “reliable.”
This latest EV-boosting initiative is part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, a $5 billion scheme created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help states build out their EV charging infrastructure.
The Federal Highway Administration, which administers the NEVI program, estimates that the $100 million announced by the Transportation Depart will probably cover the repair or replacement costs of all eligible projects.
“Charging your electric vehicle should be as easy and convenient as filling up a gas tank – and this investment will make our EV charging network more reliable, full stop,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a statement.
A major worry among Americans considering the wisdom of switching to an EV is range anxiety, which is the fear of driving an EV and running out of power without being able to find a charging port—and ending up stranded on the side of the road.
“Range anxiety remains a top reason consumers are hesitant to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs,” Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA, said in a statement.
The study points to an estimated need for 68.9 million chargers across the United States and Canada by 2035 to support the pace of the EV transformation.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of 50 percent of all new vehicles by 2030 being either EVs or plug-in hybrids.
But while the Biden administration presses ahead with the EV transition, there seems to have been a cooling of enthusiasm among American drivers for making the switch.
‘On the Decline’
An Aug. 18 survey by J.D. Power found that owner satisfaction with EV charging was “on the decline.”
“Public charging can be difficult, as crowded charger locations extend wait times, and frequent downtime can make it hard to find a working location to begin with,” it said.
The survey found EV owner satisfaction with Level 2 charging times fell to 455 points (out of a possible 1,000), while satisfaction with DC fast chargers fell by 30 points to 588. The declines are in addition to the general dissatisfaction with public EV charging, which has already hit its lowest-ever level since the survey began in 2021.
“The declining satisfaction scores for public charging should be concerning to automakers and, more broadly, to public charging stakeholders,” Brent Gruber, executive director of the EV practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
“The lithium comes from one place, and it’s all processed in China. So, just building the alternate processing infrastructure … and by the way, we have to invade Russia too … just to get the materials to do EVs at scale is just laughable for the next decade,” he said during an event in September 2022.
“We need a new technological series of breakthroughs in material sciences before that is possible,” he added.
Naveen Athrapully contributed to this report.