The Biden administration has announced a $5 billion investment to build electric vehicle charging stations across the country in a bid to ease U.S. dependence on gas-powered cars.
Part of President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the EV program will distribute the money to qualifying states over a five-year period.
The federal Transportation and Energy departments will lead the initiative to electrify interstate highways as rising gas prices and climate concerns motivate people to buy electric.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said disbursements will go only to states with detailed plans on how they’ll spend the money.
“These are taxpayer dollars, so it can’t just be a blank check,” Buttigieg said recently. “We’ve got to make sure that they’re being spent effectively.”
Nearly 489,000 electric vehicles were purchased in the U.S. last year, slightly more than 3 percent of all cars sold, according to J.D. Power. What could be stunting interest to switch is “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of juice before a driver can get to a charging station.
Buttigieg said he hopes the program can calm those nerves.
“No matter where you’re headed, you know that you will not have a problem any more than you would worry about being able to find gas when you take a trip on the interstate highway system today,” he said.
There are 47,142 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S., according to the Department of Energy. The Biden administration has said its goal is to raise that number to 500,000 chargers. But those chargers are useful only if EVs are on the road.
With an average price of $56,437 for an electric car, according to Kelley Blue Book, many Americans say they can’t afford to switch.
“We got to get that sticker price down,” Buttigieg said. “That’s why we got to accelerate these things being produced on a widespread basis. And it’s why we want more tax incentives to help buy down that upfront cost.”
Buttigieg; Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker; Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., visited Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, over the weekend to meet with students in a two-year program that trains them to become electric vehicle technicians.
Student Kyle Klein said he believes EV is the future of automotives, and he wanted to join a growth industry.
“I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for the past three years,” Klein said. “I was trying to get back into the workforce once the kids headed to school, and luckily this program was available.”
Buttigieg acknowledged the EV industry can’t succeed without infrastructure to support it.
“We’ve already got a lot of chargers across the country,” he said. “This is about accelerating that to keep up and get ahead of the increasing popularity of these EVs.”