The Biden administration has designated billions of taxpayer dollars to build electric vehicle (EV) chargers, but lagging market demand and government red tape are getting in the way, according to experts who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced Thursday that it was awarding $150 million to upgrade existing public EV chargers, just one week after announcing another $623 million in subsidies to states to bolster EV charger construction. The grants from the FHWA are part of two EV charger programs established by the Biden administration in the November 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program and the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Discretionary Grant Program, which were designated collectively $7.5 billion for charger construction and upgrades.
However, there have only two stations have been built due to NEVI as of December, according to the Department of Transportation, with experts telling the DCNF that lack of demand, regulations and union requirements are stalling construction.
Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF that federal regulations pertaining to the specific parameters of the installation sites must be met before the projects can be finished, adding on bureaucratic red tape. Additionally, the government’s insistence on dedicating resources to certain constituencies that would bolster the current administration’s election prospects has created limits on procuring those assets.
“This is a central planning snarl-up,” Lewis told the DCNF. “The subsidies exceed the scale of market demand. States complain of inflexible requirements regarding how far apart charging stations must be, how many charge ports must be built per station, and how many must be located in disadvantaged communities. In addition, central planning and politics are joined at the hip, so workforces must be certified by unions, and materials such as iron and steel must be sourced from American companies.”
The EV charger rollout carries a number of restrictions, stalling progress on their installation.
For example, there is an FHWA provision requiring all electricians working on the project to be certified by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union’s Electric Vehicle Industry Training Program or have obtained certification from a Department of Labor-approved certification program with charger-specific training.
The requirement for certification or union recognition for the electricians working on the chargers limits the number of available workers to take up the installations, leading to a smaller number of workers being paid more, Dan Kish, a senior research fellow for the Institute for Energy Research, told the DCNF.
“The union probably isn’t going to look kindly upon certifying electricians who aren’t members of the union,” Kish told the DCNF. “So, you got paperwork there; you’ve got paperwork with environmental injustice, which means that they’re putting it in places where the economy is depressed, and the states are supposed to come up with areas that meet these criteria.”
The Biden administration has made it a goal of the EV charger rollout to have 40% of the benefits of federal investment go to “disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution,” according to the FHWA. These are communities that generally do not have access to the disposable income needed to pay for an EV, with the current price for a new EV as of January 2024 being $50,798, according to CarEdge.
The push for EV chargers is part of President Joe Biden’s broader objective of having half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 be electric. To facilitate the transition, Biden has sought to bring prices down by creating a $7,500 tax credit for EVs.
John “Private Jet/Climate Czar” Kerry:
Biden has “very clear policy” on electric vehicles, but it “regrettably has been attacked by people who are engaged in high levels of disinformation.” pic.twitter.com/FnZvEY1Ttj
— Project TABS (@ProjectTabs) January 18, 2024
“Thanks to the record federal investment in President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we’re on track to build out a national network of 500,000 publicly accessible chargers by 2026 — fulfilling the President’s campaign goal four years early,” Robyn Patterson, assistant press secretary at the White House, told the DCNF. “The number of publicly available charging ports has grown by nearly 70% since he took office, and there are now over 170,000 publicly available EV chargers. On top of that, EV sales have more than quadrupled since President Biden took office, with more than four and a half million EVs on the road.”
There are currently only around 60,000 unique EV charging stations in the U.S., which can have multiple chargers, according to the Department of Energy. While the number of operational EV chargers has grown over the past few years, the increase is largely independent of government funding, coming from private companies like top EV manufacturer Tesla, which built 6,000 fast chargers in 2023, and charger operators like ChargePoint Holdings and EVgo Inc., accordingto Market Insider.
“It seems the goal for President Biden when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on his green initiatives is more about getting the cash out the door than getting results for our families,” Larry Behrens, communications director for Power The Future, told the DCNF. “The bottom line is clear: if the American public demanded electric vehicles and charging stations, the free market would deliver them, and Joe Biden wouldn’t have to throw billions of taxpayer dollars in order to try and build them.”
Despite subsidies pushing costs down for consumers, the market share of EVs sold in the total auto market in December 2023 was only 3.6%, rising from 3.1% in January of last year, according to Cloud Theory. Despite only modest growth in sales, the share of inventory in the U.S. auto industry grew from 2.8% in January 2023 to 5.7% in December, following Biden administration incentives.
“So it’s unlikely that these things are going to meet the need, and the government can’t determine what that need is anyway,” Kish told the DCNF. “They don’t have the capability of doing that. Intrapreneurs, people looking at the market and saying, ‘Hey, we ought to put in some EV chargers; we can make some money on the side,’ would be the way for this to actually happen, but that’s not what this program is. This program is ‘Give money to groups that will support us in the election.’”
Many have also raised concerns about the EV charging stations’ reliability, with drivers in Chicago in January being unable to charge their EVs due to the frigid temperatures. The Biden administration has previously dismissed concerns that battery performance for EVs was severely affected by cold weather.
“They’re basically bumping up against the realities of what it’s like to have things done in the real world, as opposed to, you know, from a big office someplace in Washington, DC, where you think you can just issue edicts to people,” Kish told the DCNF.
Will Kessler on January 21, 2024