Florida Is Fueling Its EV Charging With Federal Funds

In late 2022, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT’s) electric vehicle deployment plan. This was Florida’s framework for implementing the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI). Importantly, the government pledged to invest funds in electricity infrastructure improvements to address charging gaps identified in the market. The 5-year plan supports the goals and objectives of not only the state’s long-distance transportation plan, but also the state’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Master Plan (EVMP).

It’s interesting that so many federal tax breaks are coming to Florida — since its two senators wanted nothing to do with the legislation behind the funding that makes it all possible.

Red states readily use federal EVs

That Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) was a federal bill signed by President Joe Biden (D) in August 2022, primarily dealing with climate change. The House voted 220-207 to pass the IRA. All 220 Democrats voted yes. 207 Republicans voted no. 4 Republicans did not vote. The Senate voted 51-50 to pass the bill. All 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with the Democrats voted yes. Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast the tie-breaking vote for passage. All 50 Republicans voted no.

Elizabeth Gregory, communications director for Marco Rubio’s Senate campaign, said in response to the passage of the IRA: “This bill will do nothing to reduce the cost of living.” Senator Rick Scott declared from the IRA: “Drivers lost because Democrats just raised gas taxes.”

That Bipartisan Infrastructure Act includes a $7.5 billion budget to help install 500,000 EV chargers across the United States. The Biden-Harris Administration announced in September 2022 that more than two-thirds of electric vehicle (EV) installation plans from states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had been approved ahead of schedule under the NEVI Formula Program.

The act provided $1.1 billion to protect and restore the Everglades in South Florida; Senator Scott visited the region to celebrate the investment. “It was good to be with the Army Corps and our strong local leaders today to see the great progress being made on the Herbert Hoover Dike,” he said, adding that he was “proud that Senator Rubio and I able to help secure an unprecedented $1 billion for Everglades restoration, the largest single amount ever awarded by the federal government.”

There is only one problem here. Scott didn’t vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding the Everglades project, and neither did Rubio — though they both shared the credit.

Despite voting against — and working to undermine — both laws, many Republicans are starting to see the benefits of the landmark climate law in their districts — and trying to claim them.

In recent months, companies have announced tens of billions of dollars in investments in clean energy, battery and electric projects that will benefit from incentives in the law. About two-thirds of those projects are in districts represented by Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill, according to a Political analysis.

How is Florida expected to embrace EVs?

In the past 15 months, Florida has seen an 87% increase in EV registrations, placing it behind only California nationally in new battery-powered cars. (I’m one of the fairly new Florida EV buyers.)

In FDOT’s first update of Florida’s EV plans since September 2021, Trey Tillander, executive director of transportation technologies for FDOT, told members of the Senate Transportation Committee last week that EVs could make up between 10% and 35% of all vehicles owned. in the state in 2040. The figure is based on an analysis the department has made of market and advanced car technology models.

“As the EV adoption rate grows, the vision is to develop a nationwide network of convenient, reliable and accessible EV charging infrastructure (that delivers) both long-haul and short-haul trips,” he said.

FDOT’s plan to build Florida’s EV charging infrastructure and funding is a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework – Florida will receive at least $198 million in federal funds to increase its statewide inventory of EV charging stations.

FDOT, local governments and Indian tribes will also be able to seek distributions from a separate $2.5 billion discretionary grant program that is “still awaiting guidance” from the Joint Office on Energy and Transportation. FDOT expects the first round of funds, distributed as grants, to go live this year.

The NEVI program will help FDOT over 5 years meet EV charging needs for passenger cars and light trucks. Funds may be used to purchase and install electric vehicle charging infrastructure, operating expenses, purchase and installation of right-of-way traffic control units, on-site signage, development activities, and mapping and analysis activities.

Criteria that will factor into FDOT’s grant distribution of NEVI funds include electrical power distribution readiness, the availability of facilities at each location, and how resilient proposed projects will be.

Important requirements and considerations in the guidance include:

  • The guidance is given for passenger cars and light trucks.
  • Electric charging infrastructure must be open to the public or to authorized commercial vehicle operators from more than one company.
  • EV charging must be located along a designated alternative fuel corridor.
  • States must prioritize charging locations along the Interstate Highway System.
  • EV charging should be spaced a maximum of 50 miles apart.
  • EV charging points must meet certain current capacities.
  • States should consider locations with publicly accessible restrooms, adequate lighting, and sheltered seating.

FDOT will first focus on interstate gaps in EV charging facilities, including 15 such gaps, mostly along the Gulf Coast in Lee and Sarasota counties; Hillsborough and Polk counties closer to central Florida; and across Leon, Madison and Hamilton counties in the Panhandle.

Planners will also prioritize “critical evacuation routes” across the country, Tillander revealed. “This first phase is an opportunity for us to recognize and learn lessons and incorporate them into subsequent phases.” The current plan also calls for FDOT to turn the stations over to local entities instead of maintaining and operating them all themselves. FDOT plans to hold a “clear and competitive” selection process for companies to build electric infrastructure and distribute funds through a request-to-apply process that will allow multiple applications at multiple sites to be evaluated simultaneously.

Florida has 6,168 miles of Federal Highway Administration-approved alternative fuel corridors. Along those routes, FDOT plans to install “Level 3” charging facilities for passenger vehicles capable of providing direct current for a full charge after 30 minutes, Tillander said.

Departments of Transportation accepting NEVI funds must also target rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities for EV charging infrastructure. That provision drew rebukes from Gov. Ron DeSantis shortly after U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg floated it more than a year ago.

“To me, a road is a road,” DeSantis shared Fox News hosted by Tucker Carlson in November 2021.


 


 


 

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