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Federal Highway Administration Issues Formula Program Guidance for EV Infrastructure Planning and Clean Energy

May 13, 2022

The advent of EVs and the ambitious goals of auto companies to produce and market electrified vehicles requires plans for supporting charging infrastructure required for these vehicles. Private parties who are interested in developing, supporting and financing EV charging stations in Wisconsin should follow closely the process for funding such infrastructure in Wisconsin.

One of those funding sources is contained in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed into law on November 15, 2021 (Pub. L. 117-58). This new law provides $7.5 billion for funding for EV charging infrastructure and is comprised of two parts: (1) a $5 billion formula program; and (2) a $2.5 billion discretionary grant program. The goal of this funding program is to create a network of 500,000 EV charging stations nationwide by 2030.  

Under the $5 billion formula funding portion of the program, each state is required to submit an EV Infrastructure Plan which will describe the way it will implement infrastructure deployment for the portion of the funding allocated to it. On February 10, 2022, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued program guidance on the implementation of the formula program for states and for state EV Infrastructure Plans.

In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be the agency that will prepare the Plan for implementing this state’s share of the $5 billion formula funding program to ensure that Wisconsin will qualify for the funding. WisDOT’s Plan must be submitted to the FHA on or before August 1, 2022. The FHWA will decide whether the Plan meets eligibility requirements by September 30, 2022.

It is important to note that WisDOT’s Plan must include the involvement of stakeholder groups to ensure the use of EV charging infrastructure achieves equitable and fair distribution in the state. For this reason, interested parties on this topic should be aware of the FHA guidance on the WisDOT Plan so that those parties can engage the agency regarding the public involvement portion of the Plan in a knowledgeable manner.

This newsletter will describe in greater detail the program requirements for such funding.

Overview of Plan Format

State agency coordination. The Plan must describe how the WisDOT will coordinate with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for environmental and energy components of the Plan.

Public engagement. There must be a description of the involvement of public, governmental agencies, representatives of tribes, labor, private sector, freight logistics as well as underserved and disadvantaged communities in Wisconsin.

Plan vision and goals. WisDOT must describe how it intends to use funds made available to Wisconsin for EV charging infrastructure. The Plan must include a five-year goal for implementation that is specific to geography and demographics that would be served by the funds.

Private contracting. It is important to note that WisDOT is authorized to contract with private entities for the installation, operation and maintenance of EV charging infrastructure. The Plan must provide details as to how Wisconsin will contract with those private entities to ensure the most efficient and effective deployment of the funds. Obviously, private entities interested on this topic should consider input in the way the Plan deals with this issue.

Existing and future conditions analysis. The Plan must describe an overview of existing EV charging infrastructure, the roles of public transportation needs, freight and other supply chain needs, grid capacity, land use and travel patterns. Given the diverse topics that must be covered in this portion of the Plan, interested parties should be ready to engage WisDOT on topics that interest them.

EV charging infrastructure deployment. This section of the Plan requires a discussion of the overall strategy for installations along designated corridors with a prioritization of EV infrastructure along the Interstate Highway System in Wisconsin. This section must include a map of the corridors planned for installation and upgrade of EV charging infrastructure. Obviously, parties interested in the placement of such infrastructure in locations along Wisconsin’s interstate highway system should engage the WisDOT on this topic.

Implementation of EV charging infrastructure. The Plan must include a summary of the state’s strategy to contract with private entities to ensure maximum and efficient deployment of the allocated funds.  The Plan must provide a description of installation standards as well as opportunities for participation by small businesses in Wisconsin. Interested parties may wish to comment on the state’s strategy to involve private entities to develop installation standards and involve small businesses.

Program requirements for installation/discretionary exceptions. The formula program funding portion of the Infrastructure Law requires that charging infrastructure is installed every 50 miles along the State’s portion of the Interstate Highway System. The location requirement for such charging stations is within one mile of the Interstate. The Plan may include a request for discretionary exception to these locational requirement, which exceptions will be authorized by FHWA in limited situations. Parties interested in this locational exception should engage WisDOT as part of this Plan development.

EV Charging Infrastructure Cost Eligibility Requirements

Under the Infrastructure Law, formula program funding is limited to charging infrastructure and related uses that meet any one of following program requirements.

Acquisition and installation of EV charging infrastructure. This requirement includes upgrades of existing charging infrastructure as well as onsite distributed energy resources to support such infrastructure. Obviously, parties interested in the onsite energy generation/storage to support such EV infrastructure should be monitoring and commenting on Plan development regarding this topic.

Assistance for operating and maintaining EV charging infrastructure. It is anticipated that rural areas with lower utilization may require support from the private sector on this O and M requirement. The law anticipates that private contractors may be utilized to meet with these requirements.

Development phase activities required for charging infrastructure. These development activities include feasibility analysis, revenue forecasting, environmental review, engineering, design work and other preconstruction activities. This topic also includes community outreach to ensure fair and equitable availability in rural and other underserved communities.

Signage and traffic control information. Signage and traffic control devices that provide information to the public about EV charging stations constitute eligible cost items.

Data sharing. Systems necessary for data sharing on use of chargers and related charging activities are eligible cost items. Obviously, this category raises cyber security and privacy concerns depending upon the data sought to be collected by this category of authorized costs.

Mapping and analysis activities. Data activities that include any of the following topics are eligible cost items: (1) locations of current and future EV owners; (2) forecasting commuting and travel patterns; (3) estimates of power level and quantity of charging stations needed; (4) estimates of needs for shared mobility solutions; and (4) development of analytical models to assist local governments to evaluate adoption/use scenarios for EVs and EV charging stations.

Factors for Plan Approval by FHWA

The program guidance memorandum issued by FHWA on Feb. 10, 2022, describes several specific areas required to be included in WisDOT’s Plan to be consistent with the formula grant program in the Infrastructure Law.

Distance from/between EV charging stations. There is a one-mile distance from the Interstate Highway System and a 50-mile requirement between such stations. There is limited discretion for FHWA to authorize exceptions from these locational requirements.

Grid connections. There are substantive requirements relating to enhancing and not adversely impacting grid connections for this infrastructure. The numerous factors that need to be considered are outlined in greater detail in the guidance memorandum. Interested parties should consult the memorandum if this is an area of interest.

Existing facilities compatible for charging stations. The guidance highlights qualities that should be considered for existing retail locations for such facilities such as travel centers, food retailers and convenience stores meeting the location requirements.

Addressing need for infrastructures in underserved communities. There is a lengthy list of factors that must be considered for ensuring that this requirement is met for eligibility for formula funding.

Long-term operation and maintenance. There are several factors that must be addressed to ensure that the infrastructure does not become a stranded asset due to poor operation and maintenance.

Public/private engagement requirements. There is a long list of parties that must be consulted to meet the public engagement requirements for funding infrastructure. This public engagement requirement affords opportunities for interested parties to be consulted about and implementation of the Plan supporting the formula funding.

Fostering public/private investment. The guidance makes it clear that one of the purposes of the formula funding is to not only encourage but also “catalyze” additional private investment in the charging station infrastructure. The FHWA guidance outlines several financing models that could be utilized to meet this requirement. Interested parties should carefully review and comment upon any such models considered for inclusion in the Plan.

Substantive electrical requirements for covered charging stations. The guidance describes in detail the electrical requirements for such stations, including kW requirements, maximum charge power necessary to support consumer EVs. The Plan must also address the future electrification demands necessary for charging medium and heavy-duty trucks.

This FHWA Guidance is a “must reading” for any private party looking for opportunities in the EV charging station market in Wisconsin. Interested parties would not only include developers and installers of EV charging technology, but renewable energy providers and banks interested in financing such activities given the focus on private involvement in this formula funding program.


Wisconsin electric vehicle infrastructure plan

WisDOT has just announced a May 26, 2022 webinar from 10 - 11 a.m. for stakeholders to have input in the Plan the WisDOT is formulating for EV charging infrastructure. All parties who are interested in any element of the Plan requirements described in this newsletter should take advantage of this public input opportunity. 

Register

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