By Timothy Puko
WASHINGTON -- President Biden's ambitious plan to fund a network
of electric vehicle charging stations could be a shot-in-the-arm
for the EV industry, but it leaves a myriad of legal, technical and
budgetary problems still to be addressed.
The White House is calling for 500,000 new EV charging stations
-- five times the size of the national network now -- as part of a
$174 billion plan to boost the EV industry in Mr. Biden's broad
$2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. The stations are seen as key
to addressing the range anxiety that many consumers cite when
ruling out an EV purchase, out of fear they may be stranded too far
away from a charging opportunity.
Whether Congress approves the money is the immediate question,
especially given stiff Republican opposition. But beyond that, an
even bigger issue could be what rules it might set for that
spending and for accelerating the network build-out.
The industry may need federal intervention on permitting and
cost-sharing rules for EV charging stations to clear regulatory
bottlenecks at state and local levels, said Chris Nelder, who
studies EV-grid integration at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an
energy and environment policy organization that promotes clean
The build-out of stations so far has often been hamstrung by
utilities, new competitors, consumer advocates and oil companies
all fighting in front of state regulators -- or dithering over
Building charging infrastructure is "really slow and really
expensive. We need a whole lot more support," Mr. Nelder said.
"It's going to take money, it's going to take authority, it's going
to take leadership and the federal government to step in."
While EV investment in the U.S. private sector is on the rise,
analysts say, it pales in comparison to the industry's growth in
China and European countries, where governments have spurred
development with big subsidies and friendly regulations. Advocates
and financial analysts said the U.S. needs a similar plan to catch
"Biden's plan could help supercharge" the market, said Anastasia
Amoroso, a strategist at the private-banking arm of JPMorgan Chase
& Co. "The plan puts the right and similar incentives in place
that have helped drive EV adoption in Europe and China."
Utilities and the auto sector, both reliant on the EV market as
a source of new demand, stand to gain from the Biden plan, said
analysts at Evercore ISI, an advisory firm.
Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. stand out as two potential
winners, they added. Both would benefit from a proposal to raise a
cap on tax breaks available to EV buyers, which the pair had
already maxed out.
Other big winners likely include the businesses that install and
operate charging stations, such as ChargePoint and EVgo Services
"We have electricity everywhere. Let's just make sure everyone
feels comfortable they can charge everywhere," said Cathy Zoi,
chief executive of EVgo Services, which operates more than 800
charging stations in 34 states.
EVgo last year announced a partnership with General Motors, a
$90 million investment to triple its charging network over five
years. Their venture aims to produce 2,750 new stations by
"If we can get rid of range anxiety, then you have a virtuous
cycle in which EVs become ubiquitous around the U.S.," Evercore
ISI's James West said. The Biden plan is "a step in the right
direction," he said.
Mr. Biden included the new EV stations as one of several
initiatives in the infrastructure proposal designed to address
climate change by supporting cleaner energy.
Transportation -- heavily dependent on oil for burning gasoline
-- is now the country's leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
So the administration prioritized a push toward electric cars,
which are more likely to get energy from nuclear, wind or other
sources of lower-emissions power.
Last year battery-powered vehicles made up fewer than 2% of U.S.
auto sales, and consumers haven't been shopping for electric cars
while gasoline prices were relatively low.
Consumers used to quick fill-ups are also scared off by a
shortage of fast charging stations or broken, occupied or
Administration officials have further said they want to compete
with China, which has become a world leader in the EV business
through government investment. It helped fund manufacturers,
consumers and a charging network.
In December alone, China added 112,000 new charge connectors to
the network to power EV cars, more than the entire existing U.S.
network, according to an energy-data arm of Bloomberg.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm mentioned China's success
Sunday in defending the size of the administration's proposed
investment. She pointed to China's long-term intentions to control
EV batteries and their supply chains.
"We can decide, no, we want to build that stuff here," Ms.
Granholm said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And that's part of
the investment in the electric vehicle infrastructure."
That is a hard sell with Republicans, both those in Congress
with a vote on the funding and the state and local officeholders
who may have a say later in how it is spent down the line.
Several on Sunday pointed directly to the size of the EV
proposal as a problem. They said it is larger than funding for
traditional infrastructure areas such as roads and bridges, which
they said they want prioritized.
"That is a political statement, it's not a statement on trying
to improve our infrastructure in America," Mississippi Republican
Gov. Tate Reeves said on CNN about the emphasis on EVs.
"It looks more like the Green New Deal than it looks like an
Write to Timothy Puko at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 05, 2021 08:14 ET (12:14 GMT)
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