Electric vehicle recharge

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania is set to receive an estimated $171 million in federal funding over the next five years to build the commonwealth’s network of electric vehicle charging stations along major highways.

The funding is part of a $5 billion program included in the infrastructure law approved by Congress that is expected to result in $25 million for the first phase of funding in 2022. Pennsylvania received the fifth-highest amount among U.S. states, behind Texas at $407 million, California at $383 million, Florida at $198 million and New York at $175 million.

“This is great news for the environment and for union jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn. “This $25 billion federal investment will jump start the work to build the electric vehicle transportation technology and infrastructure for our state and our region.”

The funding is aimed at a goal set by the Biden administration to install electric charging stations every 50 miles along highways to encourage more drivers to purchase electric vehicles. Pennsylvania has 1,079 charging stations, including along sections of I-376, I-76, I-79, I-70, I-80, I-99 and I-496 that already have stations less than 50 miles apart, which the Federal Highway Administration considers “electric vehicle ready.”

“The U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market – in 2020, plug-in electric vehicles made up only 2.3% of new car sales in the U.S., compared to 6.2% in China,” according to a U.S. Department of Transportation fact sheet.

The 2021 update to the Pennsylvania Electric Vehicle Roadmap produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection showed of the 12 million registered vehicles in the commonwealth, more than 29,000 are electric passenger vehicles, a figure that has doubled since 2017.

The vast majority of those vehicles are registered in and around Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Officials from the Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation (PennDOT) and Environmental Protection highlighted the benefits of the funding for Pennsylvanians at a news conference Friday.

“PennDOT and our sibling-agency partners are well positioned to advance our transportation and EV charging networks to meet current and future needs,” PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula said. “These investments are a significant opportunity, and we are committed to delivering benefits across the state.”

The funding will be aimed at installing stations along the commonwealth’s previously designated “alternative fuel corridors” (AFC) and state officials are working to align those designations with new criteria for AFCs updated this week by the federal government. Previously, federal AFC criteria required charging stations no more than 5 miles from an interstate exit or highway intersection, and the new criteria was changed to 1 mile.

“From PennDOT’s most recent update there are currently 1,051 Interstate miles pending and 692 Interstate miles in ready status, under the previous designation criteria,” according to a PennDOT statement. “Should PennDOT determine, and U.S. (Department of Transportation) certifies, that the AFCs are fully built out, then Pennsylvania may use funds to build EV charging equipment on any public road or in any publicly accessible location, including but not limited to parking facilities at public buildings, public schools, and parks.”

The statement also highlighted an additional $2.5 billion in discretionary grants available from the federal government that “will allow Pennsylvania’s eligible entities like municipalities, school districts, planning organizations and more to apply for funds to support local communities in installing, operating, and maintaining EV charging equipment. Grant funds will also be available for electrifying school bus fleets and EV battery manufacturing and recycling programs.”

State officials said EV proposals in Pennsylvania will be evaluated using “equity principles” that prioritize making EVs more affordable, charging more accessible, investments in fleet electrification, investments in low-income and minority areas and efforts to increase EV awareness, education and technical capacity.

“DEP is grateful for the federal infrastructure support and excited to partner with PennDOT in expanding charging station locations across the state, as we work to bring the health and environmental benefits of zero emission transportation to all Pennsylvanians,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.