Feds To Spend Hundreds of Millions of Dollars on E.V. Chargers in ‘Disadvantaged Communities’

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Electric cars

The projects include $1.4 million for a charging station in a remote Alaskan community with barely 2,000 people.

Joe Lancaster |

A hatchback electric vehicle charges at a public charger adjacent to a low brick building. | Mrnovel | Dreamstime.com

(Mrnovel | Dreamstime.com)

Last week, the White House announced that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would issue $623 million in grants for states to build chargers for electric vehicles (E.V.s). The money comes from the Charging and Fuel Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program, a $2.5 billion fund established as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. According to the announcement, the project “will fund 47 EV charging and alternative-fueling infrastructure projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including construction of approximately 7,500 EV charging ports.”

Unfortunately, that money is unlikely to go as far as it would have in private hands. “The CFI Program advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution,” bragged the FHWA press release. “More than 70% of the CFI funding announced today will support project sites in disadvantaged communities.”

As an example, it notes “$1.4 million to the Chilkoot Indian Association, an Alaska Native Tribe, to build an EV charging station in Haines, a rural and disadvantaged community where there are no publicly available EV charging stations.”

Haines is in Haines Borough, Alaska, which has a population of just over 2,000 people.

It’s hard to imagine that “disadvantaged” communities would buy E.V.s if only there were public charging stations available. A November survey from S&P Global Mobility showed that potential buyers cite high E.V. prices as their primary concern, higher than concerns about range or charging infrastructure. And while E.V. prices have declined in recent years, the average new electric vehicle still costs around $50,000.

Not that this is the first instance of poorly planned government spending on E.V. infrastructure. Last month, Reason reported that even though the federal government had dispensed $2 billion out of the $7.5 billion apportioned by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to build public charging stations, no chargers funded by the cash had come online. Speaking to Politico‘s James Bikales, state and E.V. industry officials blamed “the difficulties state agencies and charging companies face in meeting a complex set of contracting requirements and minimum operating standards for the federally-funded chargers.”

“The barrier isn’t technological,” The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board noted this week. “It took Tesla less time to install 80 chargers at its Harris Ranch station in northern California.” Rather, “the bureaucrats are getting in their own way.”

“The FHWA issued a rule requiring that workers for most projects be certified by the electricians union, or another government-approved training program,” the Journal continued. “The Electric Vehicle Charging Association warned that the restrictions ‘risk creating a bottleneck by limiting the available workforce.’ The agency charged ahead anyway, decreasing the odds of a workable contract.”

“In a better Washington, there would be no subsidies for EV chargers,” noted the Journal. “The market would meet demand, as it did with gasoline stations. But we live in the age of subsidy,” meaning bureaucrats are all too happy to give out your money and mine, with little hope of achieving their intended goals.

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