Pennsylvania Prepares for a Future Filled with Electric Vehicles

EV charging stationCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — Electric vehicles are the future of transportation, and Pennsylvania is leading the charge! On Wednesday, officials from the Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation (PennDOT) and Environmental Protection (DEP) – along with partners from Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities, Sheetz, and PPL – highlighted the commonwealth’s progress in its work related to electric vehicles. They also outlined plans to maximize new funds available to support EVs through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Pennsylvania has made great strides in making electric vehicles (EVs) and EV chargers more accessible to more people. As part of the BIL, PennDOT will receive and distribute $171.5 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula funds for EV charging infrastructure over the next five years. Additionally, $2.5 billion is available in discretionary grant funding. There are more than 31,000 EVs registered in Pennsylvania, nearly triple the roughly 9,700 that were registered in March 2019. Every EV on the road reduces the amount of air pollution coming from tailpipes, which makes for cleaner air and a healthier environment. Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Joe Adams said, “Pennsylvania has made tremendous progress towards making electric vehicles and EV chargers more accessible to more people.” This is good news for the environment and the health of Pennsylvanians.

The BIL requires all state DOTs to submit a state EV infrastructure deployment plan to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) by August 1, 2022. The Pennsylvania NEVI Plan has been submitted, and it outlines PennDOT’s approach to the strategic deployment of a convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable EV charging network to support range confidence for Pennsylvanians and visitors over the course of the NEVI Formula Program. The Plan was developed through a series of stakeholder meetings; an in-depth review of existing electric vehicle literature, plans, and programs; and engagement with other state DOTs across the country.

The Pennsylvania NEVI Plan was informed by a public survey that garnered over 4,400 responses and public comments. This feedback led to the development of an entirely new goal to address environmental benefits and consider multiple transportation modes for electrification. In addition, the feedback received spurred additional consideration for first responder training in EV response, appropriate signage and location identification, ensuring small and diverse businesses are included as potential partners or sites, and ensured early utility coordination.

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Pennsylvania’s EV Mobility Plan, which was created with input from various stakeholders, lays out a 5-year plan for installing new EV charging ports and expanding the existing infrastructure. The first phase of the plan includes the installation of at least 5,000 new charging ports at 2,000 sites across Pennsylvania. This initial investment will be leveraged to attract additional funding from private sources and cost-sharing mechanisms. Ultimately, the goal is to have a statewide network of EV charging stations that will make it easier for drivers to switch to EVs and help Pennsylvania meet its emissions reduction goals.

Following guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will use the EV Equity Guiding Principles to help evaluate EV proposals. The principles, developed collaboratively with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, aim to increase accessibility to the infrastructure and maximize benefits for all Pennsylvanians. They fall into five categories: making EVs more affordable; making EV charging more accessible; investing in fleet electrification; investing in traditionally underserved, low-income, persons of color and otherwise vulnerable population areas; and increasing EV awareness, education, and technical capacity. By using these principles, PennDOT states it will be able to ensure that EV infrastructure projects are designed and implemented in a way that maximizes benefits for all Pennsylvania residents.

In the United States, the transportation sector produces the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. According to Rick Price, executive director of Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities, many of these emissions come from passenger-duty vehicles. As a result, driving electric cars is one of the best ways to reduce these emissions. With NEVI funding, Pennsylvanians will be able to drive electric cars throughout the state. This will help to combat the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and make it easier for people to adopt electric cars as their primary mode of transportation.

The BIL funding will support the expansion of EV charging stations along the previously designated Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs). The Federal AFC criteria were updated earlier this year, and they now require that AFC designated corridors have charging stations no more than 1 mile from an Interstate exit or highway intersection. This is a significant change from the previous requirement of 5 miles. Additionally, the new criteria state that there must be no more than 50 miles between each charging station. This will help to ensure that drivers have access to charging stations when they need them.

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Pennsylvania currently has over 1,800 miles of Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs), and is required to follow guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) when using NEVI formula funds for EV charging infrastructure. This means that any EV charging equipment must be located along a designated AFC and meet U.S. DOT minimum standards and requirements. However, should PennDOT determine that the AFCs are fully built out, Pennsylvania may then use funds to build EV charging equipment on any public road or in any publicly accessible location, including but not limited to parking facilities at public buildings, public schools, and parks. This would provide greater access to EV charging infrastructure for Pennsylvania residents and visitors, helping to promote the use of EVs in the state.

Pennsylvania is dedicated to promoting the use of alternative fuel vehicles. Through the Driving PA Forward program, DEP has installed more than 1,500 plugs for electric vehicles since 2018, with another 500 in development. Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, and DEP has awarded 8,384 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebates totaling $10.6 million to Pennsylvania residents since July 1, 2015. In addition, DEP has awarded grants totaling $28.7 million to 205 projects by municipalities, businesses, and organizations for alternative fuel vehicles and fueling infrastructure, including a growing number of electric vehicle and charging projects. Pennsylvania is committed to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and promoting the use of clean, renewable energy.

Pennsylvania’s 511PA traveler information system has been enhanced to include EV charging station locations as an option on its traffic map. This is in response to the growing number of EV drivers on the roads. Data from the U.S. Department of Energy is used to show locations across Pennsylvania by connector type, including CCS, J1772, CHAdeMO, Tesla, and NEMA. There are currently over 2,800 public charging ports at over 1,200 locations statewide. This information will be helpful for EV drivers in planning their trips and finding a place to charge up when needed. It is just one more way that Pennsylvania is working to support the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road.

Pennsylvania is home to Sheetz, a chain of gas stations/convenience stores that has been in operation for over 50 years. In that time, Sheetz has become known for its commitment to being a “one-stop-shop” for customers, offering a wide range of products and services. This commitment has now extended to electric vehicle (EV) chargers, which are now available at 90 Sheetz locations across the state. With the support of PennDOT and the funding available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Sheetz intends to give customers to ability to choose the company as a preferred charging destination, regardless of where they are in Pennsylvania. This will not only make it easier for EV owners to recharge their vehicles, but it will also help to boost Pennsylvania’s economy by supporting the growth of the EV market.

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Pennsylvania is preparing for a surge in electric vehicle adoption, thanks in part to the efforts of utilities like PPL Electric Utilities. The Regional Affairs Director for PPL, Maggie Sheely, has stated that they anticipate a “significant” increase in EV adoption over the next few years. To help accommodate this growth, PPL has been working with state agencies like PennDOT and DEP on EV charging plans. They are also members of multiple EV coalitions, including the EEI National Electric Highway Coalition. This coalition is made up of 17 utilities from across the country that are committed to supporting the development of a nationwide network of rapid EV charging stations. As EV technology continues to develop, PPL is staying engaged with its customers and giving them the support they need to make the switch to an electric vehicle. Thanks to the efforts of Pennsylvania’s utilities, the state is well-positioned to meet the demand for EVs in the years to come.

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