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Officials highlight Biden's electric vehicle goals, importance of charger rollout

By Katherine Huggins, Medill News Service
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Officials highlight Biden's electric vehicle goals, importance of charger rollout
Vice President Kamala Harris, on a visit to a maintenance facility in Brandywine, Md., on  December 13, announces the Biden-Harris administration's "Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan." File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Officials from the newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation previewed their plans Thursday to accomplish President Joe Biden's goal of establishing a national network of electric vehicle chargers.

"This administration knows that the future is electric," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in remarks at the virtual National EV Charging Summit.

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She later added, "We've got to make sure that every American can get an electric vehicle and can get wherever they want to go in that electric vehicle, whether it's plugging in at their local grocery store or going on a cross-country road trip."

The summit, organized by the National EV Charging Initiative, featured business leaders, clean energy advocates and government agency officials, including a few from the new joint office.

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"Many Americans live in what's called a charging desert, where they can't find any place to plug in, especially in low-income neighborhoods or rural areas and in communities of color," Granholm said. "That is why President Biden is working toward a national network of 500,000 EV chargers."

Biden announced the creation of the joint office in December as part of the administration's EV Charging Action Plan.

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The announcement came after Congress approved Biden's infrastructure bill, which allocated a total $7.5 billion to expanding EV charger access - $5 billion for states working to expand their charging networks and $2.5 billion in discretionary grants.

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According to the White House, the $2.5 billion will fund projects that "support innovative approaches" and meet "administration priorities, such as supporting rural charging, improving local air quality and increasing EV charging access in disadvantaged communities."

"We want to focus these dollars in places where otherwise private investment wouldn't go, and think about environmental justice issues in communities and...people that don't have easy charging at home," Michael Berube, the deputy assistant secretary for Sustainable Transportation in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, told reporters.

During the summit, Berube and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said the administration is moving quickly to send money to states and local communities for EV charging, and she predicted they would get the money "in the coming months."

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The possibility of surpassing Biden's 500,000 charger goal was also raised, particularly with Biden's goal of having 50% of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.

That goal and further industry growth "will require more than 500,000 chargers," Berube said. "So this is a huge down payment, a huge start to that but we anticipate significant ongoing private investment."

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Berube noted the joint office will release guidance detailing the EV charger rollout. Trottenberg said it should be out by mid-February.

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