NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Taking a cross-country road trip may be a bucket list item you hope to cross off one day, but have you considered doing it with an electric vehicle?
The Biden Administration wants to “electrify” the great American road trip by 2030 with more infrastructure available for electric vehicles.
But before EVs can run coast to coast, they need to last from city to city.
Tennessee has welcomed companies who have invested in EV manufacturing and infrastructure in the state like Nissan, Ford and General Motors for more than a decade.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development have also been working on bridging the gap between the private and public sector for several years now.
EVs have been manufactured in Tennessee since 2013, when Nissan made the LEAF vehicles.
Since then, almost 200,000 EVs have been manufactured in the state, according to TDECD. As of Q3 in 2022, the State Energy Office (SEO) reported 22,346 registered EVs, with the goal of having 200,000 on Tennessee roads in the next five years.
The state rolled out the Drive Electric Roadmap in 2018, which was created to address the transportation needs that go along with owning and or driving an EV.
So, when the U.S. Department of Transportation asked each state to submit a plan for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program by September of 2022, Tennessee was prepared.
The NEVI program falls under President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar investment infrastructure bill that was signed into law in late 2021.
“It outlined a whole game plan, so to speak, so each state nationally kind of come up with the same basic premise of how it would look as people made long distance travel across the across the country from state to state,” said Preston Elliott, TDOT Deputy Commissioner, Chief of Bureau of Environment and Planning.
State participation in the NEVI program opens the door to $5 billion in federal funding for EV chargers that must meet specific American-made requirements.
“For Tennessee, the infrastructure bill basically sets up about $88 million over that five-year time period for which the state can use to implement electric charging,” Elliott added, “It laid out parameters in terms of where these dollars could be expended on designated corridors. It also has parameters in terms of the spacing and frequency and the level of charge that’s available to the public.”
By August of 2021, Tennessee already had 23 fast charging locations that were put in place in partnership with TDEC and TVA, with plans to add 50 more locations every 50 miles along interstates and major highways under the Fast Charge TN Network.
“The role of our state in the implementation of the NEVI program and funding is to allow for individuals to make long distance travel and not worry about whether or where infrastructure exists for charging,” Elliott said.
Tennessee has at least 700 public charging stations that can be found under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels data center, but most of those are concentrated in urban areas.
Tennessee has about 1,500 miles of what’s called designated corridors made up of two-digit interstates and major highways. The corridors are targeted areas that need EV or alternative fuel infrastructure.
“The more challenging one will be the U.S. 64 because of the sparseness of the corridor in terms of growth and development,” Elliott explained. “Along those routes we estimate there will be about 25 stations that will meet the criteria of a NEVI corridor and then four DC fast charging ports at each of those locations.”
Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration opened applications for a new multi-billion-dollar grant program that will help states construct EV chargers on March 14, 2023.
The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Discretionary Grant Program builds off the NEVI program with two categories of funding, $1.25 billion for the Community Program, and $1.25 billion for the Corridor Program.
While the NEVI program has been designated for states, the CFI program has been geared toward communities, said the Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt.
“If you’re going to church, if you’re going to your grocery store – I used to play hockey in Nashville at the Parthenon, if I leave my car there for an hour or two, is there a place to charge my vehicle? And that’s where these chargers are gonna come in,” Bhatt explained.
This is the first round of funding under the infrastructure laws’ charging and fueling infrastructure program.
Part of the plan also includes having American made components of the EVs and infrastructure. In Tennessee, Ultium Cells LLC, which is a joint venture between GM and LG, has invested in a 2.8 million-square-foot facility in Spring Hill to produce battery cells that will supply EVs.
Ford is building a mega campus in West Tennessee called Blue Oval City, which will build electric F-series pickups and advanced batteries.
“You can see on the private side, there’s a huge transition to the 21st century technologies,” Bhatt continued. “We want to make sure that Americans who are going to buy these vehicles that are made here in America are also then going to have the opportunity to charge them both along are heavily traveled corridors, but also in the communities where they live,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt personally drives a hybrid car that can travel about 33 miles on a full charge. “But with this funding and the funding that has been announced previously, within a year or so, I’ll be able to go across the country on an electric power. And I think that’s the future that we’re looking for.”
For more information about Tennessee’s NEVI program, click here.
For more information about the CFI program, click here.