Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment
Alex Schroeder, chief technology officer at the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, and Michael Moltzen, deputy director of the Transportation and Climate Division at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in conversation with CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Heidi Crebo-Rediker discuss the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and provisions for sustainable, resilient, and equitable transportation projects including electric vehicle infrastructure deployment, grid integration, and decarbonization across the transportation sector.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations State and Local Officials Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR.
CFR is an independent and nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, publisher, and educational institution focusing on U.S. domestic and international affairs. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy, nor do we accept government funding. Through our State and Local Officials Initiative, CFR serves as a resource on international issues affecting the priorities and agendas of state and local governments by providing analysis on a wide range of policy topics.
We appreciate your taking the time to join today’s discussion. The webinar is on the record. The audio, video, and transcript will be made available on CFR’s website after the fact at CFR.org
We’re delighted to have you all join us from forty-nine states. The conversation is on transportation and electric vehicle infrastructure, and this webinar is part of a series on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act designed to help officials at the municipal, county, and state level take full advantage of the program.
So, with that, I’m going to now introduce our distinguished panel: Heidi Crebo-Rediker, Alex Schroeder, and Michael Moltzen.
Heidi Crebo-Rediker is an adjunct senior fellow at CFR and a partner at International Capital Strategies. Prior to her time at CFR, she served as the U.S. Department of State’s first chief economist. Heidi was also the chief of international finance and economics for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Alex Schroeder is the chief technology officer at the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. He is also a research manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences, where he leads a group focusing on electric vehicle charging, grid integration, and commercial vehicle decarbonization. And prior to his time at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, he served in the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office and the Western Governors Association, where he led programs related to transportation fuels and clean energy.
And Michael Moltzen is the deputy director of the Transportation and Climate Division at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. He has been with the EPA for twenty years and currently leads national programs that address transportation-related climate impacts, innovative place-based transportation, and environmental justice initiatives. Michael’s currently heading the EPA’s implementation of the $3 billion bipartisan infrastructure law’s Clean School Bus Program.
So, with that, I’m going to turn it over to Heidi to moderate the discussion, and then we’re going to go to all of you for your questions and comments. And as a reminder, this is a forum to share best practices amongst you. So, Heidi, with that I’m going to turn it over to you all.
CREBO-REDIKER: Thank you so much, Irina. And I guess just before we got on the call we heard that there were five hundred confirmed participants today, so to everybody who joined thank you so much and welcome. We hope that this latest CFR State and Local Official(s) Webinar on EV vehicle infrastructure deployment will be useful.
And just as a—as a quick background, I mean, the Biden administration has made a huge priority investing 7.5 billion (dollars) in EV charging, 10 billion (dollars) in clean transportation, and over 7 billion (dollars) in EV battery components and critical minerals and materials. And these programs are also complementary to the Inflation Reduction Act support for advanced batteries and tax credits for purchases of EVs, and so this is part of sort of an overall strategy to move towards cleaner vehicles. As part of this, the National EV Infrastructure Program has created a nationwide and interconnected network of charging stations along the National Highway System, and we—there’s an ambition for half-a-million chargers across the country by the end of the decade.
And as Irina already mentioned, we are so lucky to have these two speakers with us today. They bring a very unique expertise to these topics, and I hope that we do have a good interactive conversation with you after. I’m going to kick off with a few questions and let Alex and Mike talk a little bit about their various platforms. And what never happens but what happened today was just before this webinar there was a Politico headline that hit my inbox that said “Soaring EV Sales Lead Chargers Playing Catchup: U.S. consumers are finally gravitating to electric vehicles. It’s up to the charging infrastructure to keep pace.”
So, with that, I would love to hear from Alex to start: Where are we in the process of deploying the funds for building out this EV network? And I’d just love to hear sort of, you know, what some of the challenges and opportunities are from your side as well.
SCHROEDER: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question, and quite frankly, I think, a good problem to have, right? I think we have seen EV sales go from two percent to ten percent of all vehicle sales in the last three years. We’ve got 140,000 charging stations out there, up forty percent over the last two years, but more of all of the above are needed.
The infrastructure bill sets aside $7.5 billion to build out the national charging network you’re describing. That is not the only investment in the infrastructure bill, and I’m sure Mike has more to say about that. But maybe I’ll start with those two programs and where we are at.
There’s two really core components. There’s $5 billion which is formula funding that goes to states. The priority there is really to build out charging along our highway corridors initially so there will be a charging station every fifty miles along our major highway corridors in the U.S. All of the states as a condition of that funding were required to submit plans to our office last August 1. Those plans were reviewed and approved before the end of the federal fiscal year in September and President Biden actually announced the first billion-and-a-half dollars going to states last September. So the money is flowing and, really, the states are now moving ahead with issuing RFPs to work with vendors, the private sector, and other partners to build out that network. So we’re in a really exciting phase where that is ramping up.
And then just recently the Department of Transportation released a $700 million solicitation for community and corridor charging program. And really kind of the important and, quite frankly, probably primary use of charging stations is going to be closer for home and for those shorter trips, and so we’re really focusing that investment on, again, the intersection of corridors and communities but also providing charging for areas that might otherwise have low utilization, disadvantaged communities, and really wanting to see the benefits of Justice40 realized.
So the funding is flowing. Cities, local governments, states are all eligible for the grant program. And then the formula funding program, you know, we’re certainly encouraging and have seen really great collaboration by the state departments of transportation with all of the local stakeholders. So really excited, I think, about the progress that we’ve made and what’s in front of us as well.
CREBO-REDIKER: So I guess one—my first question would be that, in terms of deploying, the formula funding tends to disproportionately favor the bigger—the bigger states, where you also have the larger uptake of EV, like California and Florida and Texas and New York. How are you dealing with both the states that are not particularly quick to take up EV ownership, you know, for a whole host of reasons, but some of those states are also some of the more disadvantaged states, the lower-income states? And how do you kind of—how do you make sure that the funding that’s going out, both the formula and grant, doesn’t just go to the states that have the most capacity and the most use? Because if you’re making this a national—a new national infrastructure project, then it needs to be truly national.
SCHROEDER: That’s a great question, and I will be the first to admit the formula has a lot of nuances that I’m not fully versed in. I’d have to defer to my Federal Highway Administration colleagues on that. It’s a combination of population, miles of highway, et cetera. That was the direction we got from Congress.
I will say there is flexibility in the program as well. I mentioned the Discretionary Grant Program, which, again, allows for really strategic deployment and to ensure that there is an equitable deployment as well. That’s also a requirement even in the state plans to make sure that all communities are being touched, particularly disadvantaged communities.
There is also in the formula program a set-aside for what is—we can generally refer to as gap filling. So it does give some discretion to the Department of Transportation to help really fill those strategic gaps and potentially come in and be a little more directive with some of the things you’re talking about.
I’d love to pull Mike into this conversation, first to talk a little bit about the climate implications of this—of building out the EV infrastructure and then, after that, maybe touching on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act the Clean School Bus Program, because a lot of state and local governments are actually—particularly local governments are looking to utilize the facility. And how might they do that? And I’ll leave that over to you to tackle.
MOLTZEN: Sure. Thanks, Heidi. Yeah, I’m happy to talk about this. This is—and I appreciate the opportunity to be here, including with Alex, who’s—his work in the joint office has been a great help to the folks in my office, and it’s great to collaborate. We’ll talk a little bit, maybe, about some of the other ways that we’re collaborating as federal agencies.
But the—so the—I think in the simplest terms electrification of transportation is an opportunity that we can’t afford to not take advantage of to make progress on the climate crisis. This administration has prioritized that, both addressing the climate crisis and advancing environmental justice in communities that are disadvantaged. And we could talk a little bit about that, too.
So, you know, some of the estimates that are roundly agreed upon suggest that we have to reduce carbon dioxide or greenhouse-gas emissions drastically and dramatically if we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change moving forward. That’s accepted as fact. And we are fortunate that we are in a—at a time and place where we are seeing really dramatic advances in electric transportation technologies. It wasn’t long ago that I’m sure most people couldn’t conceive that we would have the numbers that we have today in terms of electric vehicles. You know, outpacing the charging capacity is probably what some people would consider to be a happy problem, right? You know, and folks like Alex and others are ready, willing, and able to tackle the infrastructure challenge, and we are there too.
So, you know, it’s simple, in my mind, to think about how does electrification of transportation benefit us from a greenhouse-gas reduction perspective. And if you think about, you know, what the average—you mentioned school buses, and I’ll talk a little bit about our school bus program. An average internal combustion school bus uses about 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel annually, which equates to seventeen tons of carbon dioxide. So you could see there—and that doesn’t—that equivalent doesn’t account for upstream emissions, but there is quite a bit of work out there that suggests that even when you do account for upstream emissions from power plants that generate the electricity there is still a net—a substantial net CO2 or greenhouse-gas reduction benefit in electrification. So if we are able to replace conventionally powered diesel and gasoline vehicles with electric, we will make—that’s our best bet, you know, in the near term for making progress toward our ambitious climate goals.
So I hope that answers your question, Heidi. And I don’t know if you had a follow-up there specifically that you’d like me to address?
CREBO-REDIKER: Well, I guess, I mean, a lot of the people on the—on the webinar are sort of—they’re practically involved in this: How do we get the funding? You know, who do we turn to? How do we make the application? And particularly for clean school buses, sort of how have you seen that—how have you seen the funding deployed? And what are the resources that folks on the call could actually turn to if they wanted to access the funds? Do they just do it through their state? Who do they call? Do they need to call anybody? Should they call you? (Laughter.) What—so just in the practicalities, because I think the Clean School Bus Program was a very—you know, a significant initiative of the Biden administration, but we want to make sure it works.
MOLTZEN: Yeah. Yeah. We’re really excited about it and we are—you know, we’re grateful that we have a bit of history in implementing these kinds of programs to build upon.
But simply put, the bipartisan infrastructure law, it gave EPA—I’m sorry—$5 billion toward clean school buses. So that’s not just zero-emission electric, but very much emphasizes the replacement of diesel school buses with electric school buses. And that funding—our first funding opportunity was announced a little over a year ago, or a little less than a year ago I should say, when we announced our clean school bus rebate offering, which was a lottery program. So we—the way that the applications were selected were through lottery, once they were deemed eligible. But we did have prioritization criteria in there that made sure that we were hitting the types of districts and the types of areas that Congress gave us direction to prioritize. Namely, low-income areas, low-income school districts, rural school districts, and tribal school districts.
We initially offered $500 million for that program. And we got an overwhelming response of about $4 billion in applications. Based on that, we made the decision to increase the amount we were offering in that first offering to close to $1 billion, so effectively doubling what we were planning to allocate to eligible applicants that were selected for rebates. That offering closed in August, and we are working closely with all of our selected rebate winners. That’s about four hundred school districts nationally representing about 2,500 electric school buses that will be procured through that part of the program.
And those districts, maybe some of which are on this webinar today, they have a deadline this month to get us their payment requests in so that we can process those and get the money flowing, and get it out there so that they can put those buses into service soon. And we are preparing for our next funding opportunity, which we announced is going to happen this spring. So very soon we will be launching not a rebate program, but a clean school bus grant notice of funding opportunity, that folks can apply to. And the primary applicants—eligible applicants are state and local agencies that have responsibility for the school system transportation and the purchase of school buses, as well as nonprofit school transportation associations, eligible contractors, and tribal organizations.
CREBO-REDIKER: So one of the themes, I think, of some of the other webinars that we’ve had is that a lot of the less-advantaged areas that you’re trying to target might not have the necessary resources to do the application process, or to figure out their way around where to even go to put together one of these applications. Are there any resources that you are aware of within the federal government or maybe nonprofit that people on this call who might not have done the first-round application but would be interested in a grant in the second round, but might need some help filling out those applications to make them competitive?
MOLTZEN: That’s a great question, Heidi. So, first of all, we spent a lot of time and effort curating our website, our clean school bus website. And that’s the best place for people to go to get information about what funding is currently available and what resources are available to assist in applying. The rebate program that I described was designed in part to be simple and straightforward, a one-page application for school districts out there that are eligible to apply, and the other eligible entities. And it was very much intended to be something that we could kick the program off efficiently, and timely, and without a lot of administration necessarily to be concerned about.
Our next offering is our grant program, which will be a little bit more nuanced. And we will be offering—again, I would encourage folks to go to our website. It’s epa.gov/cleanschoolbus, one word, to learn about opportunities. We’re going to be hosting webinars once we launch the notice of funding opportunity. We learned that webinars like this one are really effective in getting out information to stakeholders, collecting questions. We’ve got an active question and answer library that we update on a very frequent basis. So a lot of times if you have a question, chances are that somebody else would have the same question. We can help answer that.
And we’ve got really good resources on applying for a grant—in general, for a federal grant. I’m sure it can seem daunting, but following certain steps can be really helpful. And we’ve seen people do that effectively. And our grant programs have consistently been over-subscribed, which I think is a good indicator that they work and that they are not too difficult to apply to.
SCHROEDER: Heidi, I might jump in quickly. We’re—the Joint Office is not necessarily supporting specific applications of grants, but we’re working with Mike and the team at EPA, as well as others, to provide technical information on the content and the substance. So not to plug another website, but driveelectric.gov, you know, really intending to be the front door for technical questions on this so that, you know, if folks have a question about utility and our connection processes, or charging technologies, case studies, et cetera, that’s a great place to go. We also have a concierge service where folks can send in questions. So just wanted to provide that as a resource as well. It’s not going to necessarily help you meet all the—dot all the I’s and dot all the T’s with the application, but in terms of content and substance trying to really pull up and highlight best practices there.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK. Well, I’m going to ask everybody—all the participants in the audience to start thinking about the questions or comments that you want to flag when we—when we get there, which will be shortly. But just a question, Alex, on standards. There have been some challenges on the EV charging standards, and how you’ve been trying to harmonize those standards as you roll out over—especially over long distances. How are you addressing the standards question?
SCHROEDER: Yeah. Great question. So, actually, February 16, I want to say, the Federal Highway Administration published a set of minimum standards for Federal Highway Administration programs. So for the $7.5 billion I was referring to. And generally, this is something we’re thinking with, you know, just to try to provide that harmonization. And it really does—you know, I think the challenge and the opportunity here is to really have that national network and to have that consistent user experience. Thake the highway system as an example. It really started as a system—four lanes, consistent signage—connecting population centers of fifty thousand or more.
Those aren’t our criteria, but we are looking for similar criteria that if you’re charging in New Hampshire, or New Mexico, or North Carolina, or Montana, or Alaska, you know what to expect if it’s a federally funded charger. And I think, just given the magnitude of the investment, and I would say the favorable feedback that we have gotten on the standards, we hope that this will really become the de facto standard for the industry and help to be a catalyst for that broader adoption and, quite frankly, uniformity that we have lacked previously.
CREBO-REDIKER: So I think the last point I want to touch on, because it’s—you know, some of the characteristics of the application, your emphasis on equity, particularly targeting disadvantaged, and low-income, and tribal communities, is what—you know, what we’re trying to achieve with, I think, the law—either the law, or the regulatory, you know, how we’re deploying this, is that at least forty percent of the benefits are going to those communities. How are you prioritizing and I guess how are you—what kind of results from the first round of funding have you seen targeting that particular policy? And I’ll leave that to both of you for both buses and for EV charging.
MOLTZEN: Well, I’ll jump in for the buses. And I can say that—so it’s both an administration priority, as you mentioned, forty percent or as it’s come to be known, Justice40, is an all-of-government priority, just as you said, Heidi, that ensure that a minimum forty percent of benefits reached disadvantaged communities across the country that have historically been, you know, not in receipt of all the benefits that are available publicly. And we did have also congressional direction through the bipartisan infrastructure law. The statute directed us to prioritize those communities.
And we’ve done it in a way with the Clean School Bus Program. We’re looking at data regarding children—school children that are in poverty. So if a district has twenty percent or more of the students in its district that are at or below the poverty level, they would be prioritized. And in being prioritized, they have the ability to access more of federal share for the cost of a zero emission or electric school bus than otherwise. And that’s been—it was extremely successful. I believe the end result of our first offering and rebate program was—we reached about ninety percent, it might have been more than that, of our rebate selectees are in those disadvantaged communities, or tribal, or rural. So we’re really pleased with that. And we’re going to build on that success moving forward. But I’ll let Alex chime in here.
SCHROEDER: Well, I think that was a great—it will be hard to follow that on. But I think, Heidi, it’s a good question. And I think, quite frankly, it’s a huge opportunity, making sure this is a just transition. Electrification by all measures is really—it’s speeding up, and we want to make sure that everyone benefits from that. So everyone from the American worker to the driver, right? And so I think a lot of—to Mike’s points, a lot of the administration policies are really intended to lift that up.
With the NEVI Program, and I would just say generally, equity really starts with engagement. And community engagement was a requirement for all of the states. And the NEVI plans really describe how they are engaging their communities in having this conversation, because not all communities are going to have the same needs. So really kind of matching up the needs and the opportunities, and having that dialogue, I think is step one. You know, the discretionary grant program has equity as a focus as well, and so that’s certainly something where we’re encouraging applications. That’s criteria that we’re going to be looking at. So, you know, I think just in general we want to do what we can to ensure that this is a just transition. Again, going back to providing technical assistance, but also helping support this engagement, and making sure this is a dialogue with communities and we’re not taking one-size-fits-all approach.
The last thing we’ll—I’ll say, and just looking at questions in the chat—we actually very early on shared a map with all of the states on disadvantaged communities, you know, as it pertains to the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation world. And there’s a striking correlation, I think, with a lot of the highway corridors we’re going to be focused on. So I think we’re really looking forward to seeing these communities get engaged in the program and the process going forward, and continuing to emphasize that in the out-years as well.
CREBO-REDIKER: Well, I think those are great—that’s a great platform to launch into the Q&A, that we have—we have quite a robust number of questions that have popped up, and we also have hands up. If you—if you have your hand up, I’m just going to ask for your—if you can start with your affiliation. And the first question will go to John Jaszewski. I think you’re on—you’re on mute still. All right. While we get John off mute, I’m going to—oh, there he goes. Go ahead. Over to you.
Q: OK. I’m John from—(inaudible, technical difficulties). I’m a city council member.
I’m curious as to what kind of—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—for municipalities and school districts.
CREBO-REDIKER: So if I understood your question, what programs are available to municipalities and school districts? Was that your question?
Q: Rather—(inaudible, technical difficulties). Here in—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—school district and a city—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—separate organization. So what I’m wondering is, do we—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—for cities? Does that make sense?
MOLTZEN: I didn’t quite hear the question.
CREBO-REDIKER: Yeah, you’re—we haven’t heard—you’re sort of coming in and out, cutting in and out.
Q: Let me try one more time.
Q: Programs for cities as—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—school districts—(inaudible, technical difficulties)—for these—(inaudible, technical difficulties).
CREBO-REDIKER: Do either of you want to take a stab at that?
MOLTZEN: I think it was not just school districts, but what might cities look for in terms of federal programs that could help in terms of transportation electrification.
Q: That is correct, yes.
MOLTZEN: Well, I will tell you there is one that’s on the horizon. It’s not in my group’s area of responsibility, but EPA through the Inflation Reduction Act has, I believe it’s $5 billion for a Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program, which will be targeted to municipalities, cities, and states, and regions. So I would encourage you to take a look at that program on our website, Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program, under the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s in the very early stages, so you’re just at the right time in terms of looking into that.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK. I’m going to go to the first Q&A, state representative for Connecticut’s southeast corner, Representative Aundre Bumgardner.
We have a question: City of Groton owns and operates a municipal public electric utility. Will public utilities be given priority in terms of IIJA/IRA funds for deploying EV infrastructure and grid integration? Will public utilities be given priority?
SCHROEDER: I could maybe start. And maybe just to define public utility a little bit. There’s public utilities and then there’s municipal utilities, which is sounds like this is, right, where it’s actually owned and operated by the government. So I wouldn’t call it prioritization, but there are eligibilities that cities have that a private or investor-owned utility would not have. So I don’t know if you could necessarily call that prioritization, but potentially the direct access to funds as opposed to contracting.
CREBO-REDIKER: Did that get to your question, hopefully? The next question is one directed at Mike. OK, that was a “yes, thank you.”
Mike, how can EPA improve VMT reduction, micromobility and shared mobility versus just employing CAFÉ/ZEV standards to increase vehicle efficiency? Are there other statutes that—oh, it’s moving around—other statutes that can be employed to move those items forward for EPA? And that’s from Christian Noyce, who is a rates analyst with Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
MOLTZEN: That’s a great question and I’m happy to take it on. Right, so, you know, if we’re going to make the kind of progress that, as I touched on earlier, we really need to address all of our environmental challenges, climate change, as well as public health, you know, we have to use all the tools in the toolbox, so to speak. Among them are the very things that were just mentioned in that question, vehicle miles traveled reduction and other mobility options. We like to look at the activity as well as the technology, and not necessarily—well. There is a statute, it’s the Clean Air Act, that, you know, there’s a framework there for ensuring that states are making progress in lowering pollution to the point where air quality meets our standards for healthy air. And everybody wants that. And it’s a—it’s a vexing problem. And there are tools there that can help, including incentivizing and encouraging vehicle miles traveled reduction.
You know, we have all kinds of ways to account for emissions from transportation. And a key variable there is how many miles do the vehicles travel? And there are public transit options and ride sharing that, you know, these are some of the things that—you know, we like to think of it as, you know, kind of a disruption in transportation that we knew for decades. And, you know, ridesharing and micromobility, like was mentioned there, those are all really fascinating ways that we can get at addressing this huge challenge. One of the—one of the things that my office has put in place, we piloted around the country and then we’ve made available guidance for it on our website, is something called the Transportation Efficiency Assessment Method.
It’s a little wonky. TEAM, is the acronym. And it’s geared toward transportation planners and air quality planners as a way for them to, almost like a sketch model, figure out what might—what might I turn towards as an option to help me make progress toward climate goals and public health goals? And it can give states and municipalities the ability to quickly compare different options, like perhaps increasing subsidies for public transportation. What kind of greenhouse gas benefits might we see if we were to employ that in, say, southeastern Connecticut? And I believe Connecticut was one of our pilot areas that tried that tool out. So I would encourage you to check that out on our website. I’ll try and grab a link and drop it into the chat.
CREBO-REDIKER: Next question. And I don’t know where Deputy Chief Joe Garcia is from, but it’s a good question for everybody: Are there plans to fund infrastructure for the police fleet charging?
SCHROEDER: That’s a fun one. I’ve seen and heard some great stories about electric vehicles and police fleets. And so I think certainly to the extent that there is public charging available for police fleets, that would qualify under the bill programs. So the $7.5 billion I referenced earlier is really for public charging. I can’t speak to how every police fleet charges. Sometimes—or, it feels, I guess, sometimes it might be behind the fence. There is not specific funding that I’m aware of or that working on to support that behind-the-fence charging. But I think in general, we hope everyone will benefit from those public charging networks.
CREBO-REDIKER: I guess that can be for the next Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, deployment. One question from Christopher Kohr from Leesburg, Virginia.
Is there any consideration for application deadline extension this year? Many jurisdictions have determined that the May deadline is not something they can meet given the requirements of the application. Any flexibility on timeline?
SCHROEDER: Do we know if that’s directed towards Mike or myself?
CREBO-REDIKER: So I think if there is a May deadline coming up with one of your programs, then that would probably be what is referred to.
SCHROEDER: I know we have one, Mike, so I’ll jump—do you have a May deadline?
MOLTZEN: No, we’ve got an April deadline for selected rebates winners.
SCHROEDER: All right. I will—and I just wanted to confirm the question. So the community charging—the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Program has a May 30 deadline. I don’t think there is any conversations about extending that at this point. What I will say, though, this is year one. So this is a five-year program. So the announcement that came out a couple weeks ago was really for FY ’22, FY ’23 funds. So I think we fully expect there will be a future pass and future opportunity here. As well as additional opportunities, I should say. So this isn’t the only game in town.
CREBO-REDIKER: So this is going to be deployed over the next five years?
SCHROEDER: The bill funding essentially is allocated over a five-year time period.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK. But you’re front-loading right now. So it would be better to do sooner rather than later?
SCHROEDER: I wouldn’t say front-loading it. I think just the money was available when the bill passed, and when the program was stood up there was essentially two years of funding available. And we do want to—we want to get chargers out there, I think to go back to your very first question, to lead us off.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK. Wayne Domke, who is a trustee from the Village of Roselle in Illinois: We currently get taxes for roads by the gas tax. If we have—if so, will we be able to tax electric for road repairs? Otherwise, what are other options? I think that’s sort of a broader question about how we think about funding roads and bridge infrastructure moving forward.
MOLTZEN: I can’t speak to that. I do know that some—I’ve heard that some states and municipalities are looking at taxing electric vehicles for that purpose, because of the expected or suggested loss in tax revenue from lack of gasolines sales for those vehicles. But I can’t speak to that. It’s nothing that our office works on.
SCHROEDER: In the same, I would have to defer to my Federal Highway Administration colleagues. I would, maybe to pick up on Mike’s point, when I worked in the State of Colorado, there was—it was essentially a decal program, where it wasn’t a per gallon tax but there was a use fee that went into both road infrastructure as well as charging infrastructure. So there is a number of approaches, I think, at the state level that are really trying to figure out the broader question. It’s not just electric vehicles. It’s how do we fund our transportation infrastructure.
CREBO-REDIKER: Yeah. And, you know, otherwise petition Congress, because they’re sort of—(laughs)—they’re the ones that have that tie to the gas tax.
We have Minh Le from L.A. County: Can you speak about how concerned you are about grid hosting capacity and the integration challenges in regions of high EV penetration? California is, obviously, you know, the top in EV penetration. Velocity of grid infrastructure upgrades is limited by supply chain availability and lead times of major electrical equipment, such as large transformers. So if you’re—if you’re waiting on the grid infrastructure upgrade, how do you—how concerned are you about the hosting capacity for EV chargers?
SCHROEDER: Well, there’s a couple, I think, separate but related issues there. I think the hosting capacity is really the robustness of our distribution network, which is really what gets taxed when you’re increasing the electric load in a certain area. I wouldn’t say concerned, but I think we need to be aware of this. I think we have seen really a clustering effect of charging. So certain locations, certain neighborhoods. I know utilities are thinking about this as well. So it’s definitely something that is front-of-mind for us in the Joint Office, and really kind of being the nexus of DOE and DOT, to make sure that we are stepping up to meet demand.
I think directly in our programs, you know, we are accommodating things like onsite storage and generation. Batteries can be a great buffer during times of peak demand, and can also feed energy back to the grid. And I think that’s probably an overall theme that we’re seeing with our electric grid. It’s getting and needs to be a lot more flexible to meet some of these loads. And transportation is certainly a bit of a different beast than your washer/dryer/refrigerator, other appliances or things that might draw electricity.
The supply chain question I think is maybe more directed towards how quickly we can do that. And I certainly will not paint over that there are challenges in supply chains, specifically with transformers. President Biden actually invoked the Defense Production Act to really try to shake that free. You know, I think the other way to think about that, one of the reasons we need more transformers is we’re seeing a lot more demand for EV chargers, for wind, for solar. And I think it’s—quite frankly, it is an outcome of our grid being a lot more flexible, is you need fewer, smaller assets, rather than more larger assets, if that makes sense.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK, I’m going to go to a hand raised. Meredith Martino, if you could state your affiliation, and over to you.
Q: Hi. This is Meredith Martino with women in Government. Mike, hi. This is Meredith, formerly from AAPA. So it’s nice to see you.
I work with an organization now that supports women state legislators. And so I’m curious about what state legislators can do to help support the EV network, right? Because a lot of the formula funding is going to flow straight to state DOTs. And it’s not necessarily—there’s not necessarily a role for the legislature. So is it—is it really just a matter of, you know, appropriating state matching funds or, you know, something equivalent to that? Or are there actual policies that need to be put in place, or, you know, state laws that need to be written or amended in order to accelerate the deployment of EV charging? Thanks.
MOLTZEN: I think—I don’t want Alex to have answer all the tough questions. Not that that’s necessarily a tough one. And it’s great to see you again, Meredith.
I think you kind of hit the nail on the head one of your suggestions. And that is, you know, state-supported match funding for—to match federal funding is a great idea. There’s, you know, inevitably going to be a gap in what the federal government can provide in terms of funding. We’re throwing around big numbers here, billions of dollars, but it only goes so far. We know it’s not going to be enough to transform the entire transportation system vehicles. So, you know, we are—and this is, you know, one of the many aspects of how we’re trying to help people that are interested is helping them find local sources and state sources of funding. So if a state can do that, you know, that’s, I think, the epitome of collaborative government between federal, state, and local levels. But Alex may have a different thought or another thought.
SCHROEDER: No, I think that’s a great—absolutely. Maybe a couple other things to even tie back to the last question. Utility regulation often sits at the state level. And every legislature has a different role in that, right? But certainly, there’s a lot that needs to be done there to prepare for an electrified transportation future. But again, this kind of more flexible energy and electricity system—and that goes, again, beyond EVs—I would throw that out there. And I think there’s also a lot of complementary policies at the state level. There’s incentives at the state level. There’s a number of states that are—quite frankly, have been building out charging infrastructure for a decade.
So I do think there is a lot that can be done at the state level. There is a—it’s called the Alternative Fuel Data Center, but it’s essentially there’s an inventory of state policies that are really intended to support and promote transportation electrification. I would maybe point you towards that as a good resource for ideas. But I think there’s a ton that can be done at the state level.
MOLTZEN: And I’ll throw one more out there, and that is—that’s definitely, I think, in that category. And that’s providing training and workforce development. That could be something too that state legislators might tackle, that is a critical need if we’re going to be successful in doing what we want to do with the transportation electrification.
Q: Great. Thank you so much.
CREBO-REDIKER: We have one question from Arno Zegerman, who is a council member in Apex Town, North Carolina. And the answer is, can you post these websites in the chat, please? And I think I’ll—we’ll put our heads together with Irina afterwards, and maybe send out—blast out an email with the websites with the relevant information so that everybody has it, doesn’t have to scribble it down from the chat. So, yes.
And then we have, from Christopher Kohr, who’s deputy director of the town of Leesburg, Virginia: What defines a disadvantaged community?
MOLTZEN: That is a great question, and it’s one that, you know, the federal government, anyways, is putting a lot of time and effort into figuring out. The White House’s Council for Environmental Quality established a tool for helping to map where these disadvantaged communities are located across the country. I’ll reiterate, you know, from EPA’s perspective and the context of the Clean School Bus Program, you know, we were, I guess, beneficial in part because we got some pretty clear statutory direction. So our consideration of what is the definition of a disadvantaged community came, in part, from Congress. And we also, you know, put a lot of time and effort into thinking of it.
And for the Clean School Bus Program, it, as I mentioned earlier, school districts that have 20 percent or more students living in poverty is how we’ve defined a disadvantaged community or an eligible entity that is a disadvantaged community. And that determination is based on school districts listed in the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, or SAIPE, as we’ve come to know it, that we get from the Department of Education.
CREBO-REDIKER: So he had a follow-on question, do jurisdictions have to submit financial information? So is there a threshold that would disqualify a jurisdiction? Is there a revenue threshold per citizen? And how would—and you just answered part of, what is it based on. But just looking, if you’re—if you’re eager to participate and receive funding for both of these programs, is there a revenue threshold?
MOLTZEN: Well, I would say no. I mean, and I should clarify, these are not the only entities that we are awarding funding to. We’ve prioritized them for, I think, good reasons. But, you know, the—our programs are intended to benefit the entire country. And for sure, you know, again, if we’re going to make the kind of progress that we need to make to address climate change, we need to see this kind of transformation occur everywhere. So those are the ones that are prioritized, but we’ve given rebates to entities in all fifty states, as well as several of the U.S. territories. So we’re really pleased with the first offering for the school bus program, and we’re looking to make more progress with our grant program.
CREBO-REDIKER: We have a question from—I think a call from Jeanette Sidebottom, who is Nelson County, Kentucky clerk—county clerk. A raised hand in the participant list. So please, over to you, Jeanette. I think you’re—are you still on mute?
OPERATOR: Looks like we’re experiencing some technical difficulties with Jeanette.
CREBO-REDIKER: OK. All right.
Well, let’s go—we have one question from Jessica Hannah: How many level-two charging ports will be at each station?
SCHROEDER: That’s a good question. I don’t have a great answer for that. And maybe just to provide a little bit of background, there’s typically two types of public charging that’s available. Level two and DC fast charging. And level two is, just from a—that’s like your dryer, in terms of electrical output. A DC fast charger is much more of a commercial operation. So that’s more of your gas station experience, whereas a level-two charger would be more like what you would do in your garage, or at a shopping center, et cetera. That’s going to be site-dependent, I think, and really vary across the country. You see some places with a bank of, like, fifty level-two fast chargers. You’ll see other places, like rec centers that just have two.
So it’s really going to vary locationally. And that’s, again, kind of one of the things that we’re providing from a technical assistance standpoint, just helping people think about what that demand looks like and whether it’s a better application for level two or DC fast charging. So probably not an entirely satisfying answer. I hope the answer is enough for you to plug in, right? I think that’s, quite frankly, what we need to work towards.
CREBO-REDIKER: We have a question from Josh Winkler.
Can you speak to requirements or consideration for EV charging station accessibility for people with disabilities as part of this effort to expand the network?
SCHROEDER: So the U.S. Access Board actually just published recommendations. And it’s on our website. I want to stop plugging websites, Heidi, if I can’t actually put them in the chat.
CREBO-REDIKER: We’re going to collect them all and just blast them out at the end. So don’t worry.
SCHROEDER: All right. But really a great resource for thinking about the accessibility question, which is certainly front of line, again, in terms of equity, in making sure that there’s charging stations available for use by everyone. I think it’ll probably look slightly different for different applications, right? So I don’t want to speak to what that might look like for school buses. But, again, the access port is a great resource. And their guidance is posted on our website.
CREBO-REDIKER: So I think just to repeat, Tommy Moore, who’s the mayor of Gainesville, Texas.
How do municipalities or cities apply for funds to build this infrastructure? Do we go to the state? Do they need to come through you for the grants or do they need to go to the state for the formula?
SCHROEDER: The answer is, “yes.” So if they want to work on the formula program, that goes through the state. If they want to apply for a grant, if they’re an eligible entity, then they would apply directly to the Federal Highway Administration. And we would encourage both of those. And maybe just a—I think something for everyone on this call, really trying to encourage that state-local coordination here. If we’re going to have a national network, it needs to flow from the national to the community level. So those connections are really important. So would definitely encourage that kind of outreach, if it hasn’t happened already.
CREBO-REDIKER: And a great question. Harry Browne, who is the commissioner of Grant County, New Mexico: Should a county containing no interstate highway bother applying for EV charger funding? We have U.S. highways, but no interstate.
SCHROEDER: Yeah, actually, the designated corridors include both. It’s not just the interstates. Its U.S. highways. It’s really up to NPOs and states to nominate those corridors. So we would absolutely encourage that. And also, again, there’s the corridor piece, the highway piece, but also community charging as well. And I can’t emphasize enough how important that is to the national network. So I would absolutely say yes.
CREBO-REDIKER: Definitely apply. OK, good. Are we—do have the phone—the phone working now, so we can get Mavis Bates, who’s a board member, Kane County. I believe that’s Illinois.
Q: Hello. This is Mavis Bates from Kane County, Illinois.
We had a meeting on this yesterday. I’m a member of the Kane County Board and also the chairman of our Energy and Environmental Committee. So we had a meeting yesterday with our Department of Transportation, hoping to apply for this. I agree that the date has come quickly, and we will probably have to wait for the next round. But are there any funds for planning, such as help in filling out the application, understanding our traffic patterns, gaining community input, and determining our needs, such as how many chargers, what kind, where, and who to serve? And how to—also, do we need to gain access to the locations for the chargers before we apply?
CREBO-REDIKER: Good questions.
SCHROEDER: So, not to sound like a broken record, we’re happy—driveelectric.gov—to provide that technical assistance. If you have questions, I think it’s a deeper dive. Certainly, that’s the right place to get started. And in terms of planning assistance, that is an eligible expense in the NEVI Program. It’s really, again, at the state DOT level. Stay tuned on that, though, because I think that’s something that we’re actively working on. I can’t share today, unfortunately, the details on that, but really looking to provide a bit more targeted assistance to communities and others that are asking the very questions that you’re putting in front of us. So maybe, Heidi, by the next one of these we’ll have a better answer there.
CREBO-REDIKER: Well, don’t feel bad in terms of the—just the EV infrastructure. Because this has been a consistent theme of all of these webinars. You have a lot of places that don’t have the capacity or understand how to fill these forms out. And you really don’t want to—you don’t want to lose—you don’t want to lose those particular applications.
One more. I think we have time for Michael Mozer, New Hampshire DOT: If projects are selected in year one, will they automatically roll over to the next fiscal year? Or do we need to have a separate application to be required to utilize funds in the next year as well?
SCHROEDER: So I think that’s going to be dependent on your agreement. Typically, you know, when you’re awarded funds there’s a period of performance. And it doesn’t necessarily correspond to the budget fiscal year that the funds are awarded. So it’s going to be a case-by-case basis, I think, to give a blanket answer. But typically, the period of performance extends beyond the period of the funding announcement. I don’t know if that totally answers the question, but.
CREBO-REDIKER: Well, we have—we literally are at the—at the witching hour. And we have so many questions in the Q&A, and a lot of hands up. I am wondering, Irina, if we can maybe capture these questions that were left unanswered and maybe send them to our wonderful speakers to see if maybe we can get some answers back to the folks who didn’t get their questions answered? Because I think this is a—it’s a pretty unique forum but we only have one hour. And this is the time where, you know, CFR’s pretty religious on, like, starting on time, ending on time. So I’d love to leave with—any final words from the two of you on what—how to interact with you, and what to look for in the coming year? From both of your departments.
MOLTZEN: I’ll just jump in and say, I would encourage the participants on this webinar to make a regular habit of checking EPA’s website. Inflation Reduction Act programs are here and coming. I dropped another link to the chat, and we’ll add it to the blast that goes out for EPA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program. I had that in mind when the participant from Kane County came on, as a resource for helping state and local governments plan for climate programs, which very much should include electrification of transportation.
CREBO-REDIKER: Alex, last word?
SCHROEDER: Yeah. I mean, just thank the Council on Foreign Relations for pulling this together. This is a really important forum. And I think there is no mix of stakeholders that is the wrong mix of stakeholders. This transformation is going to impact all of us. And I think that last question about just capacity to deliver is huge. So the chance to have these dialogues, and hear from all of you, and have this exchange, hopefully these programs improve over time. I honestly think that’s one of the most exciting things about this. A number of programs in the bill, they’re multiyear programs. We’re going to learn as we go. They’re going to get better. They’re going to adapt to the market, and technology, and feedback from all of you.
So please keep the questions coming, keep the dialogue going. And, but again, just double down on that—the state, local, community engagement. All of these ideas really need to be embraced at the community and local level if it’s ever going to work nationally. So, again, appreciate the Council on Foreign Relations realizing that, as an organization that has a global reach and global focus, to bring local leaders together, I couldn’t think of a better way to demonstrate the importance of that. So, again, really appreciate the opportunity to be here.
CREBO-REDIKER: Well, I thank both of you. I thank everybody who joined us today. Great questions. This could have gone on for a very long time. And I’m looking at the long list of questions to go. Irina, thank you so much for gathering such an amazing group on this webinar. And join us next time when we do our next Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act teach-in and webinar. Thank you so much for joining us today.
FASKIANOS: And as we mentioned before, we will get from both Alex and Mike the list of resources, websites. We will compile those and send them out to all of you. And I will—we will download the questions and share them with you, Mike and Alex, so you can take a look and see if you can address specific questions that came in. Again, sorry we couldn’t get to them all. But we appreciate you all being with us.
And please, again, come to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for more expertise and analysis. And do email us, [email protected], for any ideas or feedback you want to give us, or ideas on how we can support the important work that you are doing in your communities. So, again, thank you all for today’s conversation.