EV charging network slow to advance because of red tape


Two years after the Biden administration convinced Congress to approve $7.5 billion in the name of placing electric vehicle chargers along the highways and interstates across the nation, including in Oklahoma, not a single charger has been installed under the program.

Don’t look for them anytime soon. What’s the hold up? In many cases, pure and simple—red tape. Politico recently reported that fewer than half of the states have started taking bids from contractors.

None of the promised EV chargers have been installed in Oklahoma either. Oklahoma’s Transportation Department completed an update of the Oklahoma Electric Infrastructure Deployment Plan which was posted on the website,  Oklahoma.gov/evok.html. Comments were taken until mid-July.

Oklahoma was set to receive $66 million over 5 years to improve and expand its statewide network of electric vehicle charging stations. Funding is coming from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Money is to be applied to installation along the Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFC) within Oklahoma’s Interstates and highways.

The first year funding is $22.9 million, money meant for construction of the charging stations along the interstate highways in Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma will be allocated $66 million in federal funding over five years,” explained Bryce Boyer, Public Information Officer with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“This money will go to repaying private companies who are selected through an RFP process to construct the charging stations.”

The construction of the EV charging stations will not be carried out by ODOT but rather the selected companies. Construction proposals from the potential construction companies were turned into ODOT in September and are being reviewed. Boyer said selections are being made and later this month, awarding of the funding will be made for proposed site locations.

“Work would be expected to being in 2024 – however I want to point out that all construction will be done by a private company as part of a public-private partnership,” he explained.

Oklahoma is following requirements of the federal NEVI plan. Phase one will be the construction of the charging network along the interstate system. Phase two will involve building the charging infrastructure along alternative fuel corridors (OKDOT NEVI Planning Map (arcgis.com))

The third phase is for community placement which will be determined based on survey feedback, public involvement and public outreach meetings.

Oklahoma is like most states as the construction won’t begin until the new year. Reports suggest Americans don’t want to buy electric vehicles because there isn’t charging infrastructure in place on the nation’s highways. And that’s impeding President Biden’s goal of having half of the vehicles sold in this ccountry to be electric by the end of the decade.

Just in the past week, Xcel Energy and Ford Motor Co. announced their own plans to create 30,000 EV charging ports for business fleets in eight states. But the installation won’t happen until 2030, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The first of the EV ports will be built in Colorao, sometime in 2024. Xcel, based in Minneapolis is behind the project because it would sell the electricity to the EV charging stations. However, Xcel pulled out of a plan to install hundreds of public charging stations in Minnesota. Instead, it replaced it with a smaller EV initiative and joined the effort to create a large fleet of public charging stations in Colorado.