Electric vehicles

Four top EV charging companies on their plans to win federal funds

The Biden admin recently gave guidance on how states should distribute $5 billion of the infrastructure bill funds.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

6 min read

In early February, the Biden administration released guidelines for how states should distribute $5 billion of the $7.5 billion for EV charging included in the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation called for states to prioritize highway travelers and fast chargers, which can refuel a car’s battery about seven times faster than standard Level 2 charging stations. The idea is to build EV charging stations every 50 miles along interstate highways, easing “range anxiety” by making longer trips easier for EV drivers. The highway network will be a step toward the Biden administration’s goal of building 500,000 new charging stations.

State departments of transportation have until Aug. 1 to submit their plans to the federal government, and the Biden administration intends to roll out $615 million of this funding before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

As rules and regulations take shape, EV charging companies are trying to best position themselves to capitalize on the once-in-a-generation push to expand the country’s charging network. Emerging Tech Brew spoke to some of the largest EV charging companies about what steps they’re taking to get ready for this historic investment.

Staffing up

With infrastructure funding on the horizon, Miami-based Blink Charging—the fourth-largest charging network in the US behind ChargePoint and Tesla, per Alternative Fuels Data Center figures compiled by EVAdoption—is growing its team in charge of applying for grants.

“That money hasn’t rolled out [yet], and our grants and our [request for proposals] department is slammed right now,” Blink President Brendan Jones told Emerging Tech Brew. “There’s other money from utilities and states and other programs that’s rolling into the EV infrastructure space.”

Blink began scaling up its efforts to capture that funding last year, winning $26.5 million in grants compared with just $1 million in 2020, Jones said. The company now has seven employees dedicated to the task, with support from two executives, business development personnel, legal staff, and outside contractors. That’s up from four full-time staffers in August, and the company is continuing to hire.

“But that’s company-wide as well,” Jones said. “We started with about 40-some-odd employees in [2020]. We’re well over 200 now as a company, and we’re going to grow towards 300 by the end of this year.”

closeup of a blink charger in a parking lot

Blink Charging

Other EV charging companies, including Volta, EVgo, and Electrify America, told us their teams are growing quickly as well. They declined to share specifics about the number of employees focused on handling federal infrastructure dollars and attributed their hiring sprees to growth more generally.

Planning out

Volta Charging—whose network of more than 2,000 EV chargers is among the top-ten largest in the country—is focused on the first step of the infrastructure rollout: selecting locations.

The San Francisco-based company has an AI tool called PredictEV that it says can help allocate government resources most efficiently.

The algorithm is designed to predict EV adoption and charger utilization rates in an area three to five years into the future.

“In the [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law], there is a layer of money that’s supposed to be spent on analytics, software, and planning. So that will be the first area where I’m focused,” Volta President and Co-Founder Chris Wendel told us. “Of course, I will build stuff when it gets built, but this first layer has to be, let’s not waste the money.”

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Other charging companies use forecasting tools as well, but Volta is now offering its algorithm as a standalone product for customers, such as governments, corporations, or utilities, like Southern Company.

Program precedent

At EVgo, which operates the third-largest network of fast chargers in the nation, the team is sharing best practices with the federal government and state DOTs about how to structure effective charging infrastructure programs.

“This will not be new,” Sara Rafalson, VP of market development and public policy at EVgo, told us. “There have been incumbent programs in nearly every state. This will help build upon the learnings from those programs. And for companies who have been interacting in those programs already at the state level, I think we’re well ahead in terms of being equipped internally to handle an influx of federal funding.”

Many states began their own charging infrastructure initiatives with the money from Volkswagen’s dieselgate settlement. In 2017, the automaker put nearly $3 billion into a fund for US states, territories, and tribes to mitigate the environmental impacts of diesel vehicles after VW agreed to plead guilty to cheating on government emissions tests.

Rafalson says learning from the best practices of the most successful state programs, such as the scoring rubric used by North Carolina’s Fast Charging Program, can help other states deploy the infrastructure law capital more quickly.

For example, EVgo has outlined steps utilities and local permitting offices can take to speed up the development of charging stations from as long as 18 months to as little as four to eight weeks, she said. The company points to state guidelines in California and New Jersey that have expedited the permitting process.

“The biggest difference is going to be that, traditionally, energy and environmental offices have administered the charging infrastructure programs. Under the infrastructure [law], it’s going to be the state departments of transportation through a formula,” Rafalson said. “So we’re really hoping for strong interagency coordination.”

Fast charging

Electrify America, which was created by a separate $2 billion investment from VW following its 2015 diesel-emissions scandal, is hoping to apply its expertise to this new push for charging stations as well.

Many of its existing projects look similar to the model laid out in the federal guidance earlier this month. Electrify America has the biggest, open DC fast-charging network in the US and is focused on adding ultra-fast 350kW chargers.

Image of an electrify america charging station in california

Electrify America

“What we do today is build charging stations along highway corridors. That is our primary focus,” Matt Nelson, director of government affairs at Electrify America, told Emerging Tech Brew. “Fifty-five percent of all that we’ve done to date has been along highway corridors.”

But Nelson says it’s too early to say if the state plans will align with Electrify America’s priorities for charging stations.

“What we’ve learned over the last five years is that if charging is ultra-fast, reliable, and non-proprietary it will meet customer needs. And if it falls short on any of those three metrics, it probably won’t,” he said.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.