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Grants for EV chargers aim at underserved US areas

The federal government on Tuesday announced US$2.5 billion in new grants for the construction of electric vehicle or EV charging stations and alternative fuelling infrastructure, aiming in part at increasing access in underserved neighbourhoods and communities across the United States.

Known as the Charging and Fuelling Infrastructure or CFI programme, the grants will be doled out over a five-year period, with an emphasis on both highway charger

s but also locations in traditionally underserved and disadvantaged urban, rural and tribal communities.

A statement from the Department of Transportation said the grants will be targeted to “fill gaps in the national charging and alternative-fuelling network”.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the statement that the overarching goal is “modernising our infrastructure and creating good jobs in the process”.

He hailed the fresh funding as “another big step forward in creating an EV future that is convenient, affordable, reliable, and accessible to all Americans”.

The US$2.5 billion in funding is split evenly into two tracks: a community programme which seeks to strategically distribute chargers in underserved locations in cities and communities; and a so-called Corridor Program, which will focus on highways with the goal of establishing ‘alternative fuel corridors’ to enable gasolene-free cross-country travel and long-haul trucking.

The money builds on a separate US$5 billion in federal money dedicated to growing a nationwide network of EV chargers specifically along highways. The Biden administration has been prioritising construction on highway routes that can allow EV drivers to go long distances, at the expense for now of neighbourhoods, shopping centres and apartment dwellings in more urban areas where chargers have been in relatively higher demand.

Established by the bipartisan infrastructure law, which was passed by the United States Congress in November 2021, the grants come under the umbrella of US President Joe Biden’s public goal of establishing 500,000 public EV charging stations and reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by the year 2030.

The department did not specify how many chargers it expects to help build off the latest round of funding. Direct-current fast chargers, which can charge a car up to 80 per cent of its battery capacity in 20 to 45 minutes, are quite expensive, costing US$40,000 to US$100,000, limiting the number that can be built, but they enable drivers to quickly get back on a road such as a highway. Level 2 chargers are cheaper in cost but take a few hours to charge an EV, and are typically placed in neighbourhoods and near schools, stores and offices.

In addition to electric chargers, the grants will fund the establishment of more hydrogen, propane, or natural gas refuelling infrastructure. The EV charger funding will target new charging stations at public buildings, schools and parks as well as publicly accessible parking garages.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the new grants will provide a much-needed push for the growing electric vehicle industry. The rapid expansion of the electric vehicle market has strained the infrastructure in many cities, leading to consumer reluctance – especially for residents who can’t conveniently charge at home.

“Ensuring that charging stations are more visible and accessible in our communities addresses the concerns many American drivers have when considering making the switch to electric,” Granholm said in a statement.



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