This Thanksgiving weekend, when families hit the highway to visit friends or family, the tram is more likely to become part of the dinner conversation.
Product is a big part of it. With the advent of electric trucks like Lightning F-150 and even off-road capable SUVs like the Rivian R1S and affordable options like Chevrolet Bolt EVvehicle selection is less likely to hinder EV adoption.
But the lack of chargers during the annual vacation trip could be the cause of big car buying decisions and keep the family’s gas-powered vehicle alive for another year. If you can still cut it too close to the range of electric vehicles now, will the burgeoning charging infrastructure allow it next year?
While existing options including Tesla’s Supercharger network and Electrify America may hint at chargers opening in the next few months, they don’t allow us to look into the future to see if driving routes are possible. Will the holiday car be different next year? Both networks tend to cover major highways and cross-country routes, while leaving much of the country disconnected for fast road charging.
Tesla electric car at Supercharger fast charging area, TK [photo: Jay Lucas]
For a more definitive answer on whether those highway toll gaps can be filled next year or in a few years, we have a good source: the federal government.
A great start to the federal toll network
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted in November 2021 approved $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging. That money is split into two parts: $5 billion for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program and $2.5 billion for a discretionary funding program to tackle charging in the U.S. rural and disadvantaged and/or underserved communities.
There are two core aspects of the $5 billion NEVI program: the implementation of the approved state-proposed electric vehicle charging infrastructure, plus the formation of “an interconnected network to facilitate conducive to data collection, access and reliability”. Previously, it was split over 5 years and it came in the first batch of $615 million for fiscal year 2022 and an estimated $885 million for fiscal year 2023.
The program requires individual state plans to be submitted to the federal government, setting out plans for federal EV charging network set to place at least four 150 kw DC fast charge connectors, every 50 miles.
While NEVI plans submitted by states vary widely, all states essentially complete their homework on time and receive their plans by August 1. By the middle of the month 9, plans from a series of original plans 35 states approved for funding and to install chargers, and all states were given the green light by the end of the month.
It’s all laid out in the plan—and on the map
The program requires that prior to approval of any plans, charging routes be designated as Alternative Fuel Corridors, so in the weeks and months leading up to the proposal, states have gone through a separate process with the federal government to regulate that.
You can browse through each The state plans to charge electric vehicles through the Joint Office for Energy and Transport. But if you don’t have time to scroll through the reports, there’s a resource you can quickly reference to check that holiday route (or summer vacation route): Visit Department of Energy Alternative Refueling Station Locatormake sure you only check “Specified Alternative Fuel Corridor”, then zoom in on your designated route.
Alternative Fuel Corridor for Electric Vehicles – DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center, November 2022
The routes drawn in dark blue are designated as Alternative Fuel Corridors, and they most likely have or will soon be equipped with chargers. More useful are the light blue routes. They point to pending corridors, and they will almost certainly be built with chargers as part of a federal network by the middle of the decade.
You’ll need to see the respective state’s plan for details on when that will happen, but if you don’t see your route, charger coverage will depend on other charging networks. whether it’s a business model or not.
Even after construction, there will be some significant gaps. But if you currently have to drive in the fast-charging desert, even once or twice a year, it could be a glimpse of the future—and whether you might as well be more comfortable switching to an electric vehicle. or not.