- A half dozen utilities on Tuesday announced a plan to provide electric vehicle (EV) drivers with a "seamless network" of direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations connecting major highways in the South, Midwest, Gulf and Central Plains regions.
- The Electric Highway Coalition includes Duke Energy, American Electric Power (AEP), Dominion Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
- The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and there is growing recognition that EV infrastructure is necessary to decarbonize the economy. Federal support for vehicle electrification is also growing under President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress, with lawmakers introducing a new climate bill on Tuesday that includes transportation electrification provisions.
Electric vehicle adoption is expected to grow rapidly, and utilities are moving quickly to ensure sufficient charging infrastructure is in place.
There will be more than 18 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2030, according to the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities. And consulting firm Frost & Sullivan says it expects the EV market to "register a nearly five-fold growth, reaching almost 7 million unit sales by 2025 [up] from 1.4 million unit sales in 2020." More than 90% of states offer some kind of incentive for EV charging infrastructure, the firm noted.
"The path to cleaner transportation is a robust charging infrastructure along the nation’s major highways," Lang Reynolds, director of electrification strategy for Duke Energy, said in a statement. The new EV coalition aims to address range anxiety as a barrier to EV adoption, he said.
Each of the utilities in the highway coalition has committed to provide EV fast charging options to facilitate interstate travel, but announcement of the partnership does not include new investments.
Duke has ongoing efforts to expand charging infrastructure in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. The utility got authorization last year to launch fast charging pilots in the Carolinas, and in Florida it has installed more than 570 EV public charging stations.
TVA in February announced a plan to triple the state's existing fast charging network with a $20 million investment in partnership with the state's Department of Environment and Conservation. The two agencies want to develop a statewide electric vehicle fast charging network along major highways and interstates.
The utilities' efforts are designed to ensure "seamless travel" across a large swath of the United States, said TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash. The coalition is "one of many strategic partnerships" TVA is leaning on to increase the number of electric vehicles in its service territory to more than 200,000 by 2028.
Each of the utilities involved in the coalition has its own set of electrification plans either in progress or before state regulators.
Southern Company last year announced an internal fleet electrification goal, with plans to convert 50% of utility vehicles by 2030. In 2020, AEP's Indiana Michigan Power began offering programs to address residential, multi-family dwelling, fleet and workplace charging, as well as corridor fast charging. In 2018, AEP Ohio began work to deploy 375 charging stations in partnership with local governments, workplaces and other entities.
In Virginia, Dominion is providing rebates for electric vehicle charging, along with offering managed charging programs. The utility is also helping to power electric transit buses in South Carolina and Virginia. Entergy, which operates in multiple southeastern states, has begun electrifying its own fleet and says it has invested in dozens of "strategically located charging stations."
The electric vehicle sector is also already seeing more support from the federal government, with Biden calling for the rollout of a half million charging stations. In addition, House Democrats unveiled a climate bill Tuesday that would reduce "transportation emissions, the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, by building the infrastructure needed for a clean transportation system," according to a statement from the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The bill includes "substantial investments in transportation electrification, including through grants and rebates to deploy electric vehicles and charging stations."
There are also provisions for zero-emissions school buses, and the legislation would update financing programs to expand domestic manufacturing of advanced automotive technologies.