Lawmakers Tackle Expansion of State EV Charging Network

Lawmakers advanced legislation to expand electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the state, which could help meet a looming mandate that sales of new gas-powered vehicles be phased out by 2035.

More infrastructure, such as electric chargers, is needed to meet the deadline and growing EV demand.

Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan, D-Fairfax, introduced House Bill 107, which creates the Electric Vehicle Rural Infrastructure Program and Fund. The measure financially assists developers in bringing EV chargers to rural areas that meet established conditions. Areas qualify based on population density, annual unemployment and poverty rates.

Funds would be used to offset nonutility costs, which include construction and some needed parts like breakers, conduits and cables. Developer grants would be capped at 70% of the cost to construct public charging stations.

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, on a 71-27 vote. Sullivan requested $50 million over the next two years for the fund. An employee would need to help manage the fund, on an estimated $50,000 annual salary.

The House budget presented earlier this week reduced the amount to $2 million in the current fiscal year.

“I look at it very positively, and I am hopeful about the bill’s chances,” Sullivan said about the budget. “Virginia is a very big place. We need a lot of EV charging stations around it, so I view this as a good start.”

The number of public EV chargers in Virginia increased by approximately 75% since 2020, per a study recently released by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Senior attorney Trip Pollard is the land and community program leader with the nonprofit advocacy group.

There are still big gaps in EV charger coverage. The state’s transition to modern, more sustainable transportation will not happen overnight and the public needs to be prepared for it, according to Pollard.

A fund to help rural development is important to bridge the gap between EV ownership and its practicality in rural or lower-income communities. Legislation can help ensure no communities are left behind in the transition, Pollard said.

There has been a federal push to increase the spread of publicly available chargers through the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Pollard said. The federal funding appropriates $106 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network. Virginia can also apply for the $2.5 billion dedicated to grants for EV charging.

There is a gap in rural coverage, since most charging infrastructure is centered around major interstates and highways. Many rural areas in Virginia are without the type of public ports needed to charge EVs quickly, according to a study from the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Private charging is the dominant option for EV owners. Roughly 90% of EV owners can install private chargers at their home, according to the study.

“That’s one of the biggest areas that we need to address,” Pollard said. “The majority of EV owners charge at home, but if you’re in a multi-family that can often be very difficult to do.”

EV charging standards for new development

Del. Adele McClure, D-Arlington, introduced HB 405, which tasks the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation to oversee the design standards and requirements to safely bring charging capabilities into new housing developments.

The commission would determine what type of electrical distribution infrastructure is needed to support EV charging facilities in new single-family and multifamily residential units.

When McClure canvassed during campaign season, she heard from constituents who said they wanted to see more EV infrastructure.

“I started thinking about ways where we can ensure that there are more charging stations, especially when it comes to new builds,” McClure said.

The bill stems from conversations between home builders and environmentalists on the best way to remove barriers and lower the costs to build “easy-ready and EV-capable residential communities,” McClure said.

All new vehicles sold must be electric models, starting in 2035. The mandate stems from the state’s Clean Car law passed in 2021, which adopts California’s standard. But 35% of all new cars and trucks sold in Virginia with a 2026 model year must be electric. Lawmakers have attempted to overturn the law, questioning if the state’s infrastructure will be ready and if the vehicles are affordable enough.

Both of the bills are now waiting to be heard in committees, after crossing over to the Senate.

By Sam Bradley / Capital News Service

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