The infrastructure bill gives $7.5 billion to EV chargers—here's how it could shake out

Industry vet Brendan Jones, now president of Blink Charging, expects things to move fast when and if the bill becomes law
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4 min read

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is nearing the end of its transformation from 2,702 pages of words on paper to $1 trillion in real-life money, earmarked for everything from broadband to bridges.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi committed to voting on the legislation by September 27. The bill passed the Senate in early August, and is widely expected to make it through the House and onto President Joe Biden’s desk.

While the bill has a broad license to revitalize US infrastructure, it will serve as a particular catalyst for Biden’s goal of electrifying US transportation. It authorizes $2.5 billion for electric buses, and $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations across the nation, roughly half as much funding as he initially asked for, but still a landmark amount of federal investment. The latter is a crucial first step toward Biden’s pledge to build a network of 500,000 public EV chargers by 2030.

Brendan Jones, president of Blink Charging and a 12-year veteran of the US EV industry, told us how things could unfold from here.

Although there’s a lot of uncertainty, Jones generally expects the money to be disbursed to states according to a formula (based on some combination of metrics, e.g., new car sales), and for state Departments of Transportation to largely take over from there. Jones also said some portion will be set aside for underserved communities.

“Most of them [states or municipalities] are going to do this through open RFPs [requests for proposal] and grants where you have a multiplicity of companies,” Jones said. In anticipation of the increase in government contracts for public EV charging stations, he established a new grants and RFPs department that has four full-time staffers and plans to hire two more.

Jones joined Blink as COO in April 2020, before becoming its president in March 2021. Since he started, the company has grown from 42 to 121 employees, and it now operates a network of 4,616 Level 2 (L2) and Level 3 (L3) public chargers across the US, up from 3,275 in May 2021. That makes it one of the largest networks in the country.

Once the bill is passed and the funds are distributed to the states, Jones predicts things to move quickly.

“What we want is quickness—the states need to roll out the money, and we need to get it in the ground, because that money is just a good starting point,” Jones said. “And I think it’s going to be fast. …They’re already planning how they’re going to spend the money when they get it.”

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Key phrase: once the bill is passed. While the House has established Sept. 27 as its deadline to vote on the bill, there’s no telling if some political chicanery might hinder the vote. And even once the bill issigned, it’s not clear exactly when states will see the direct deposit hit their accounts.

“We’re anticipating that within 90 days of the states getting [the funds], you’re going to see these RFPs come out, and then chargers starting to get installed pretty quickly,” Jones said.

RFPs for public EV chargers are typically open for anywhere between two weeks and four months. Once they close and a vendor (e.g., Blink, EVgo, Electrify America) is selected, the permitting process begins.

Jones said that in a good scenario, it takes about six months for an L2 charger—which need up to 8 hours to fully charge a car and make up 82% of public chargers in the US—to go through permitting and get in the ground. Meanwhile, a DC fast charger (also known as an L3 charger) takes 60 to 90 minutes to charge a car, but can take considerably longer to build. In the longest cases, a DC fast charger project takes 1 to 2 years to make it through permitting, according to David Keith, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and CEO of Mobilyze.ai, an EV analytics firm.

In the most optimistic case, Jones said we could begin to see some infrastructure bill-funded chargers pop up as early as April 2022.

And while the impending deluge of federal funding will supercharge the US’s EV charging infrastructure, significantly more investment is needed to deliver on Biden’s EV vision. AlixPartners, a consulting firm, estimated that it will take $50 billion to build a public charging network that can accommodate the US’s needs in 2030.

“If we’re going to really change the carbon footprint of the vehicles in the United States, more is going to be needed after that to keep this thing going,” Jones said. “But then the benefits will pay for themselves over time.”

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