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Biden makes trucks part of electric vehicle charging-station plan

Administration outlines grant programs available to industry as part of zero-carbon vision

Biden, DOT confirm trucking part of charging station plan. (Photo: Nikola)

The Biden administration has confirmed that the trucking industry will be included in its electric vehicle (EV) expansion strategy and will be eligible for federal grants.

A new guidance document released on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) outlines existing formula and discretionary grant programs through which funding will flow for EV charging infrastructure, and which of those grants will be made available for trucking-sector funding.

The FHWA funding mechanisms support the Biden administration’s goal of allocating $15 billion to install a national network of 500,000 new electric vehicle (EV) chargers throughout the U.S. by 2030.

“Through a combination of grant and incentive programs for state and local governments and the private sector, it will support a transformational acceleration in deployment of a mix of chargers in apartment buildings, in public parking, throughout communities, and as a robust fast charging [network] along our nation’s roadways,” according to the White House.

Among the grants for which the trucking industry will be eligible are Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (“INFRA”) and Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (“RAISE”) grants — formerly “BUILD” grants.

“The FHWA strongly encourages transportation partners in States, Tribes, Territories, [metropolitan planning organizations], and [federal land management agencies] both to use existing DOT funding and finance programs to build out EV charging, as well as to use these programs to leverage private sector investment in such a national EV charging network,” the agency stated.

To support the planned national charging network, FHWA also announced on Thursday a fifth round of Alternative Fuel Corridors designations. The first four rounds of designations, which were created as part of the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation legislation, included portions of 119 interstates and 100 U.S. highways and state roads. Round 5 includes nominations from 25 states for 51 interstates and 50 U.S. highways and state roads.

The cumulative designations through the five rounds for all fuel types (electric, hydrogen, propane, natural gas) include 134 interstates and 125 U.S. highways/state roads covering 166,000 miles in 49 states and Washington. Of that total, FHWA has designated EV corridors on approximately 59,000 miles of national highways in 48 states and Washington. South Dakota and Mississippi are the only two states without an EV corridor designation, according to the agency.

The EV infrastructure guidance followed the Biden administration’s Earth Day announcement setting a new target for greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of a 50%-52% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

The transportation sector, and EV in particular, will feel pressure from the new goal because of the industry’s significant contribution to GHG emissions, according to Fred Wagner, former chief counsel at FHWA and now with the law firm Venable.

“It is impossible to get to that kind of goal without advancing the electrification of the transportation industry, and you can’t electrify the transportation sector without having the EV infrastructure associated with it,” Wagner said. “That goes for passenger cars as well as changing the mix of [diesel]-powered vehicles versus electric vehicles in the trucking industry.”

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.