Last year’s infrastructure bill that funded hundreds of thousands of future EV charging stations continues to head toward breaking ground. The federal government asked states for EV charging plans, with the following specifications for interstate highways (which must be covered first):
- Gaps of no more than 50 miles between chargers, and chargers within a mile of the interstate
- At least four 150 kW or higher rate chargers, with CCS connectors
- Ability to simultaneously charge four vehicles at that rate or greater
- Exceptions are available for any of these on a case-by-case basis (unavailability of electricity, etc.), but funding can be used to prepare a site for stations by adding power generating capability, etc.
Once the feds get a complete plan, funds will be dispensed and construction will begin, perhaps as soon as later this year.
It’s been interesting watching the different states take different approaches to making plans. Texas DOT came up with a draft plan fast, releasing it a couple weeks ago. Washington State DOT has an interactive map people can add proposed stations to, and then “heart” the station suggestions they like. Arizona DOT asked people to join a mailing list, take a survey, and then announced a public meeting.
In this article, I’m going to cover some of the most interesting information from the public meeting, which you can view here or watch below (article continues after video). While the purpose of the meeting was for ADOT to get more information from the public, it also gives us some insight into what EV charging will look like in the future in Arizona and gives us ideas other states, manufacturers, and EV charging companies could use. If nothing else, there may be some good information for investors (who seem to like reading our articles).[embedded content]
Before Asking For Comments, They Gave Us Some Good Information
They started with a presentation, which gave some basic information about the EV charging plan, where funding is coming from, the federal rules, etc. (I covered this at the beginning of the article). They talked a bit about the funding match (20% comes from a private entity), and that they’re not using any state money for the project (which would be unpopular in a red state). They talked about the state’s interstate highway corridors and where things stand today.
They then showed us a map of potential locations and where they’re going to face challenges meeting the federal rules (50 mile gap between stations maximum).
They also told us that they plan to get all preliminary comments by August 1st, and then release a draft plan and final plans in the fall, with further public meetings to inform residents and businesses about the plan and get final input.
Notable Public Comments & Questions
One open question is what stations will need to be new and which will need to be upgraded to meet the federal requirements. On their map, they’ve identified several possible sites for that, but they don’t yet know who will actually do it. In other words, ADOT is going to leave some decisions open to multiple possibilities in their final plan to make it flexible enough to implement multiple ways as the time gets closer to actually pull permits and break ground through contractors.
How Tesla’s vehicles and Supercharger stations fit into this plan was another popular question. Sadly, Tesla’s stations don’t currently fit the federal standards (because they aren’t CCS). ADOT did reach out to Tesla and asked them about upgrading Tesla stations to have some CCS plugs. Tesla’s representative indicated that they’re open to the idea of working with ADOT to put in some CCS stations at Supercharger sites. But, Tesla is still looking into it to make sure it would work for them, both physically and legally. Either way, it’s good to see that ADOT is in touch with Tesla to make it part of the plan in some way if at all possible.
Another interesting thing about the plan is that Arizona wants to make the stations privately-owned as much as possible. They do want to use the federal funds to build them and even operate/maintain for up to 5 years (as allowed by federal rules), but they want to sites to stay around a lot longer under complete private ownership and operation. Once again, it’s a red state, and they don’t want government doing anything it doesn’t need to do (in theory).
Grid capacity was another common thing people commented about and asked questions about. ADOT’s people talked to utilities, and the utilities all feel comfortable with the stations that would be put in as part of this phase of EV buildout (which won’t be too many). Upgrades will certainly be needed in some cases, especially for smaller utilities, but they’ve all been working on plans for supporting future EV charging energy needs already. So, it’s not a thing to worry about as much as just work on as planned.
Reliability was another important question they’ve been asked about. They are aiming for 97% reliability, and they’re working a lot on making sure there are safety features, robust cybersecurity (especially for payments), and other things to make sites as safe and reliable as possible.
Another question people asked was how they can make these stations more future-proof. Charging standards and speeds obviously have changed a lot over the last decade and will continue to change in the coming decade. Federal guidelines recommend that stations be built with large conduit, spare capacity, and other things to make it easier to upgrade the stations later for more power without having to tear the whole thing out and start over from bare dirt.
For expansion, they’re trying to spread the build-out as much as possible around the state. They aren’t going to overbuild the interstate corridors, and they’ll have extra money to put chargers around other parts of the state. They’re doing as much as they can to work with existing stations and upgrade possibilities to be as efficient as possible.
Some questions centered around the sites themselves. They’re also actively looking at amenities, including things to do, restrooms, food, shade (a big one in Arizona), and pull-through chargers for people towing. They won’t do things like solar and battery storage at sites that don’t need it (so they can get more stations put in), but when it’s needed to put a station in, they’re very much open to the idea. The sites will almost always have four stalls, not because they don’t think more will ever be needed, but because they’d rather close gaps in the EV charging map instead of focusing too hard on certain corridors.
One area we know won’t get stations are ADOT rest areas. There are other federal laws that get in the way of doing that unless the station is publicly operated, and Arizona (along with most states) doesn’t want to do that.
One last thing that was a little funny was that they seemed to be getting questions about diverting the funding quite a bit, and the hosts definitely struggled a bit to field these. Obviously, this means a bunch of anti-EV people showed up trying to convince ADOT to spend the money on something else. But, this isn’t legal under the infrastructure bill money, so ADOT cannot spend the EV money on other things. They had to explain several times that no state tax money will be going to stations.
ADOT Is Putting Good Effort In Here
All in all, seeing the presentation made it clear that ADOT has actually put in quite a bit of thought on this. Their presenters seemed knowledgeable about the topic, knew what the challenges are, and seemed to want to spread the benefits around as much as possible. They’re probably going to end up with a decent well-though-out plan.
Featured image by ADOT.
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