A major pillar of the Biden Administration's Climate Week announcements centered around the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs). The Biden Administration has continued to emphasize the deployment of EVs given the potential for significant reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in tandem with advancement of American industry and workers.
The Climate Week announcements included actions from three agencies: the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Services Administration (GSA). Respectively, the announcements were designed to support and encourage the deployment of EV charging infrastructure, charger-related research and development, and federal procurement.
Significant federal attention has been paid to electrification and the deployment of infrastructure to support EVs along major U.S. thoroughfares, including interstates and major roads. The goal of developing these highly electrified corridors is to relieve range anxiety that deters otherwise interested consumers from purchasing EVs, affording most Americans the ability to recharge their vehicles quickly while in transit on major interstates and highways.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's primary contribution to the Climate Week announcements was a fifth round of "Alternative Fuel Corridor" designations. This program, created by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) in 2015, recognizes highway segments that have infrastructure plans to allow travel on alternative fuels, including electricity, hydrogen, propane and natural gas. The Round 5 designations will make eligible for federal funding and assistance routes from 25 states for 51 interstates and 50 U.S. highways and state roads. With this announcement, only two states remain without an EV corridor designation: South Dakota and Mississippi.
In addition to these designations, the DOT also issued a new report clarifying how its programs can be used for EV charging infrastructure. Many existing programs have EV charging infrastructure as a possible use; this guidance expands how many funded entities will take advantage of the opportunities to the tune of $41.9 billion in federal grant funding in 15 specific programs.
DOE's role in the deployment of EVs has primarily focused on technology research, development, demonstration and deployment. Climate Week announcements leverage funding across these four categories through the Vehicle Technologies Office.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced new research funding opportunities on three EV charging-related topics:
- $10 million to research, develop and demonstrate innovative technologies and designs to significantly reduce the cost of electric vehicle supply equipment for DC Fast Charging that will be needed in large number to support high volumes of EVs.
- $20 million to accelerate the adoption of commercially available plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and supporting infrastructure through community-based public-private partnerships that demonstrate PEV technologies (for cars, buses, school buses, trucks) and infrastructure in various innovative applications and share resulting data, lessons learned and best practices with a broader audience. Projects that demonstrate the ability to accelerate clean energy jobs or provide new electric transportation solutions to underserved communities are of interest.
- $4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of PEV ownership for consumers in underserved communities (e.g., demographics that currently have minimal access to home charging).
In addition to the funding opportunity announcements, the administration announced two new reports led by DOE to help lay the groundwork for further EV deployment:
- DOE and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) also announced a national EV charging technical blueprint, including fast charging and grid interaction. This blueprint will assess needs in terms of connectivity, communication, protocols from utility down to vehicle, to support electrification of the full vehicle fleet.
- DOE announced that the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is partnering with global and domestic automakers to analyze anonymous vehicle charging data that describe market-level trends of operation and charging behavior for a large sample of U.S. consumer EVs. To guide this work, DOE, INL and automakers formed a working group to provide feedback on INL analysis and modeling efforts.
President Biden's Executive Order 14008 (EO) released in January, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, gives nearly every federal agency a role in tackling carbon emissions. In particular, the EO gave direction to all federal agencies to transition the federal fleet to clean and zero-emissions vehicles as part of the federal government's demonstration of leadership in the transition to a low-carbon economy on the path to net-zero. The EO further directs the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a comprehensive plan to convert all federal, state, local and tribal fleets to "clean and zero-emission vehicles," while complying with Buy American requirements as part of procurement decisions.
During Climate Week, CEQ and GSA announced early progress in responding to the EO. Since inauguration day, the administration has acquired more zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) than in the whole previous fiscal year. The administration further announced that the federal government is on track to triple the number of total ZEVs added to the fleet this year compared to last.
While these EOs continue to create far-reaching opportunity for multiple clean energy sectors, limitations remain. First, the federal procurement EO left discretion to federal agencies' interpretation and plan for action. Second, funding for the shift to zero-emission vehicles for government fleets will be limited by available appropriations for each agency and the availability of third-party financing options. Executive Orders cannot change existing laws; therefore, agencies cannot spend money that has not been appropriated to them by Congress.
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