- Light-duty electric vehicle sales in the United States almost doubled last year, rising 85%, while sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles grew 138%, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office.
- The strong sales come amid a growing push from the federal government to electrify the U.S. transportation system, which accounts for almost 30% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden touted plans for a 500,000-charger national network supported by the federal government.
- There is $5 billion in federal funding for that network that is expected to begin hitting the market this fall, and a new report from the Fuels Institute and ICF concludes state-managed programs with flexibility and clear guidance are the most effective ways to grow public charging infrastructure.
Along with development of an EV charging network, Biden also called for investment tax credits to weatherize homes and make businesses more energy-efficient, and for the nation to double its clean energy production, including wind and solar.
The president also focused on the potential for electric vehicles to help fuel a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing.
EV sales showed strong growth last year, but some experts say it will still be a stretch to reach Biden's goal for half of new vehicle sales to be electric in less than a decade.
"I don't think we're going to get to 50% by 2030, the federal goal, but I think we're gonna get a pretty good number," Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger said.
Amid supply chain disruptions, car manufacturers in 2021 were unable to roll out as many new vehicle models as expected, said Eichberger. But offerings are anticipated to increase significantly in 2022, possibly to 100 or more EV models in the U.S., by some estimates.
In his State of the Union address, Biden called for lowering the price of EVs and thus "saving you another $80 a month that you’ll never have to pay at the pump." He also touted companies choosing to build new factories in the United States and pointed to investments of $11 billion by Ford Motor and $7 billion by General Motors to build EVs.
Convincing consumers to make the switch means building sufficient charging infrastructure — and at least initially, building charging infrastructure faster than it is utilized, Eichberger said. Fuels Institute, a research group, expects the U.S. will need a mix of 1.8 million public Direct Current fast chargers and Level 2 chargers by 2030.
"Not only do we need to build the infrastructure, we need to tell people the infrastructure exists. They need to see it, they need to experience it," he said. "They need to be reassured ... And that's going to require probably an overbuild of the market, relative to what's actually necessary, to provide that customer assurance that they they're never going to stranded."
The upcoming federal funding "is important because it gives that kickstart, to start building the necessary infrastructure," Eichberger said.
States are now beginning to develop EV charging infrastructure plans, due in August, in order to access $5 billion in federal funding for the development of the national network. A second, $2.5 billion competitive grant program for states will be announced later this year.
Ahead of that funding roll-out, Fuels Institute partnered with ICF to assess what mixes of programs and incentives could most effectively advance charging infrastructure. Their report, "Evaluation of Policies for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Deployment," was released Tuesday and shows public funding may be responsible for up to 26% of the difference in charging infrastructure between markets.
Stakeholders found state management of rebates and incentives to be the most effective, according to the report. And states employing a "broader set of policy approaches" will see stronger development of EV charging, in particular when combined with emissions reductions goals or mandates for the transportation sector.
"The combination of funding programs, whether they're grants or rebate programs, and a state-run program that aims to reduce transportation-related emissions, was associated with some of the highest levels of market development," ICF Lead Transportation and Energy Consultant Jonathan Norris said.
And stakeholders noted "simplicity, clarity, ease of use, and speed of delivery of funding," as aspects that make for successful programs, said Eichberger. "If they're cumbersome, if they're not organized and structured properly, then they're not going to do their job."