No Double-Dipping Here: EV Charging Programs in Reconciliation are Uniquely Essential
Programs to help deploy EV charging infrastructure are featured in both the bipartisan infrastructure deal (the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, IIJA) and the reconciliation package proposed by the House (the Build Back Better Act, BBBA). However, there is no “double-dipping” between these two policy vehicles. The programs in BBBA fill distinct needs from those in IIJA, and all are essential if we’re going to build out EV charging infrastructure quickly and equitably so that we can meet our climate goals and ensure everyone can charge up their car wherever they need to—all while creating jobs in manufacturing, installation, and operations & maintenance.
The IIJA and BBBA programs are designed to do different things. IIJA will help us jumpstart public-private partnerships to map out where alternative fueling corridors will have the greatest benefit at a national scale and to build out a “charging highway” system across the country using the combined expertise of federal and state governments. The BBBA programs, on the other hand, provide funding to build out charging infrastructure within our communities—including cities, rural areas, and disadvantaged communities. State and local entities—public and private—are best positioned to determine where the “hot spots” for charging will be within their communities and can use this funding to address residential, commercial, and workplace charging needs.
Key Differences between the IIJA and BBBA Programs
Where the infrastructure goes
The IIJA contains two complementary grant programs that are important for charging infrastructure deployment: The Grants for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure program provides $2.5 billion dollars for a variety of alternative refueling infrastructure that includes EV charging stations as well as hydrogen, natural gas, and propane. Half of this funding would go towards infrastructure along the highway system, while the other half would go towards infrastructure at publicly accessible locations off the highway system (such as in parking lots of public buildings, but not in workplaces or multi-unit dwellings (MUDs)). The National Electric Vehicle Formula Program provides $5 billion that is guaranteed for EV charging infrastructure, focusing on building out charging capacity along the national highway system.
But supporting a national network of EV chargers along our highways isn’t enough. That’s why the distinctive programs included in the BBBA designed to help deploy chargers throughout communities, including in homes and workplaces, are also critical. The vast majority of charging will take place at home or at work, so we need a robust buildout of charging infrastructure at workplaces and in MUDs; the BBBA’s EV Supply Equipment Rebate Program will provide $2 billion for EV charging at workplaces, MUDs, and publicly accessible locations within communities. This is particularly important for the many vehicles that don’t have regular access to a garage or other off-street parking space. This is also important from an equity standpoint, as lower-income Americans are less likely to have dedicated off-street parking.
Who’s eligible to participate
Both IIJA programs provide funding exclusively to governments or other public entities, which is appropriate given those programs’ focus on deploying charging infrastructure at a national scale and along state-maintained highways. The BBBA programs are also open to businesses, non-profits, individuals, and in the case of the EV Charging Equity Program, utilities, housing authorities, and colleges/universities. It is critical we provide funding to these entities if we’re going to build out EV charging infrastructure at workplaces, MUDs, school and grocery store parking lots, and other convenient locations near where people live and work.
Who will benefit from the buildout
Equity is a stated goal of the Biden Administration and needs to be front and center in our EV infrastructure buildout. The IIJA Grants for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure program gives priority to rural, low-income, and other historically underserved areas—but there’s no guarantee this will lead to EV charger buildout in these communities because EV charging will be competing with hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling infrastructure for funding. The BBBA’s EV Charging Equity Program will ensure historically underserved communities, which have borne the brunt of air pollution from our current transportation network, won’t get left behind in our transition to EVs by providing money specifically to build EV charging stations in these communities.
There is going to be a lot of debate over the next few weeks about what should be included in the reconciliation package and whether certain programs constitute “double-dipping” with programs in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. The EV charging programs included in the House’s Build Back Better Act fill different needs from those included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Congressional Democrats should fight to maintain these programs as the reconciliation package moves forward. All of them are essential if we are going to build out the charging infrastructure we need to meet our climate goals, create construction and manufacturing jobs here in the U.S., and ensure every driver can access EV charging wherever they go.