NATSO, representing truck stops and travel centers, along with SIGMA and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), have urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to incentivize the nation’s existing refueling locations to incorporate electric vehicle (EV) charging into their suite of fueling options as it implements the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula grant program.
The organizations, representing more than 150,000 refueling locations nationwide, urged the DOT to implement the NEVI grant program in a manner that does not simply invest public funds but drives policies that will positively shape the future of vehicle fast-charging markets. If federal investments are made without any effort to drive necessary policy and market reforms, or with unnecessary strings attached, the NEVI grant program will result in charging stations being placed in undesirable locations, limiting consumer interest in purchasing EVs and minimizing private companies’ desire to invest in charging stations, NATSO, NACS and SIGMA emphasize in comments filed with the DOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
“Retail fuel companies are capable of single-handedly eliminating range anxiety,” says David Fialkov, NATSO’s executive vice president of government affairs. “All they need is a level playing field and an opportunity to generate a modest return. EV charging availability at existing retail fuel locations will mean drivers do not need to change their refueling habits if they choose not to. They can refuel on-the-go with the same safe, reliable service and amenities that they enjoy today.”
“Bringing private investment to EV charging will lead to more of the infrastructure that drivers need,” comments Doug Kantor, NACS’ general counsel. “To do that, the NEVI Program should move the country toward a competitive EV charging market with a multitude of retail businesses in all parts of the country having the opportunity to invest and earn a profit. Encouraging private investment will mean state-of-the-art chargers in convenient locations with competitive low prices alongside the types of amenities that drivers have come to expect while they refuel.”
“If NEVI investments are made without any effort to drive necessary policy and market reforms, the program will result in charging stations being placed in undesirable locations and likely operated by site hosts with limited incentive to provide consumers with a positive charging experience,” adds Richard Guttman, SIGMA’s chairman of the board. “This ultimately will dampen consumer interest in purchasing EVs as well as charging station innovation.”
Fuel retailers specifically encouraged DOT to flexibly administer the requirement that states locate EV charging stations every 50 miles along designated corridors. Rather than forcing states to meet an arbitrary 50-mile requirement where it isn’t feasible, DOT should ensure that states can administer the program in accordance with their specific needs, especially in rural states, working with the private sector as required by law.
The organizations asked that DOT refrain from regulating or capping revenue earned from private sector operation of a NEVI-subsidized EV charging station. Regulated utilities should be precluded from imposing exorbitant rate hikes on their monthly customers to underwrite NEVI-funded charging station investments that the private sector is willing to make.
In addition, the organizations want DOT to establish a transparent and uniform pricing structure across the charging station network, requiring NEVI-funded charging operators to display and base the price of electrical charge in dollars per kWh. A uniform, transparent pricing structure would allow consumers to compare offerings throughout the country.
They want to see states encouraged to allow EV charging station operators to sell electricity to EV drivers without being regulated as a utility. In many states, utilities are opposing efforts by prospective charging station operators to generate their own electricity to power their charging stations. This opposition reflects an effort by regulated utilities to undermine the case for private investment in charging stations and inhibits EV penetration.
The organizations urge DOT to require states to consider driver safety and convenience by locating chargers at sites that have on-site employees to call emergency personnel when needed and offer amenities that attract other highway travelers. Co-locating charging stations with 24/7 amenities will invariably make consumers more comfortable purchasing an EV without concern for undue safety risks when refueling.
In addition, the organizations hope the government will avoid bureaucratic hurdles that would inadvertently depress the market for EV charging. The “Buy America” provision, for example, requires charging station equipment to be manufactured in the United States yet virtually no equipment on the market today meets the “Buy America standards.” Such requirements would significantly delay charging projects.