AASHTO to help states partner with private sector to build out EV network

States in charge of building out the infrastructure necessary to promote adoption of electric vehicles will need to ramp up collaboration with utilities and the private sector to ensure the success of the ambitious program.

To that end, the newly created federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation is working with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state departments of transportation, and the National Association of State Energy Officials to launch a series of meetings and a national conference to coordinate national investment in the charging network that’s the heart of a high-profile new federal program.

Part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $7.5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program calls for states to build a network of 500,000 stations located every 50 miles along an interstate.

All 50 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico met the Aug. 1 deadline for submitting their EV infrastructure plans to unlock the first round of funding. The feds are expected to review the plans by the end of the month.

“The state plans submitted in August were just the beginning of the electric vehicle deployment program and now this collaborative effort will help states succeed in the next stage,” Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, said Wednesday during a webinar. “I think this is a really important moment for our country as we start to transition into the next stage into what transportation is going to look like in the future.”

There’s no date yet for final NEVI rules, though the joint office team “is working to resolve many of the comments that were submitted,” said Steve Lommele, senior project manager of energy, transportation and mobility at the joint office, during the webinar.

AASHTO has said in its own comments that state DOTs are likely going to pass on ownership and operation of the charging stations to the private sector.

To facilitate communication among the states, feds, utilities and private sector, AASHTO, NASEO and the joint office have divided the country into six regions, though states are free to ask to move to another region, said Dave Peters, AASHTO’s associate program manager for resilience and sustainability

Representatives from state DOTs and state energy offices will meet virtually once a month starting later this month to talk about issues like coordinating EV infrastructure across state lines, crafting Requests for Proposals, and agreeing on standards, Peters said.

Regional in-person meetings will be held from January to March next year.

The groups will start holding discussions with utilities in the next couple months, said Cassie Powers, a senior managing director at NASEO.

The private sector will be invited to some of the meetings and to the national conference planned for next spring, Powers said. Topics will include the best public-private partnership models and best practices, among others, she said.

The Biden administration’s goal is to have electric vehicles account for 50% of all vehicle sales by 2030. Currently, electric vehicles account for about 2.6% of U.S. vehicle sales, with the number projected by the Edison Electric Institute to reach more than 20% by 2030, with a total of 18.7 million of EVs on the road by then.