Tennessee’s EV fast-charging network plan one of first to get federal approval, funds

EV map
A map depicting national priorities for an EV fast-charging network.

By KATE COIL

TML Communications Specialist

The state of Tennessee’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan is one of the first to be approved by federal authorities as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program.

White House officials announced Tennessee is one of the first 35 states and territories whose plans were approved as part of an overarching project to build out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure across 53,000 miles of U.S. highways. With this early approval, these states can now unlock more than $900 million in NEVI formula funding from FY22 and FY23.

Preston Elliott, deputy commissioner and chief of environment and planning for TDOT, said the state will be entitled to $88 million through the federal program in the next five years.

 “Tennessee’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (TEVI) Deployment Plan allows TDOT to move forward with our National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program funding,” Elliott said. “In total, Tennessee will see $88 million in federal NEVI funds which will allow for the successful implementation of a statewide electric vehicle (EV) charging program consistent with national standards.”

Prior to this approval, TDOT has already begun staffing and activities directly related to the development of their plans. With the approval, the state can now be reimbursed for those costs as well as use funds for projects directly related to the charging of vehicles.

“The next step in the process is creating the public-private partnership with EV charging vendors so that Tennessee residents and the motoring public can confidently and reliably make long distance travel throughout the state,” Elliot said. “The first corridors to have such EV charging stations, every 50-miles within a mile of an interchange, is Tennessee’s interstates and other designated alternative fuels corridors. Over the next year we will be working through the procurement process and hope to have stations on the ground by the end of 2023.”

The funds will go toward charging station grants for entities in Tennessee with locations within one mile of the designated alternative fuel corridors, which includes Interstates 24, I-26, I-40, I-65, I-75 and I-81 as well as U.S. Highway 64.

The state will be able to provide partnering entities with 20% of the cost of construction of electric charging stations as part of the project. The grantees will have to maintain these stations for a set period of time with more rules and regulations to be determined.

The use of funds can also include the upgrade of existing and construction of new EV charging infrastructure, operation and maintenance costs of these charging stations, installation of on-site electrical service equipment, community and stakeholder engagement, workforce development activities, EV charging station signage, data sharing activities, and related mapping analysis and activities.

The NEVI formula funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which makes $5 billion available over five years, will help build a convenient, reliable, and affordable EV charging network across the country. Faster adoption of electric vehicles is a critical part of the nation's climate goals as transportation currently accounts for more than a quarter of all emissions. Approved Plans are available on the FHWA web site and funding tables for the full five years of the NEVI Formula program can be viewed here.

FHWA is also working on related efforts to establish ground rules for how formula NEVI funds can be spent. FHWA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on proposed minimum standards and requirements for projects funded under the NEVI Formula Program and plans to finalize that rulemaking expeditiously now that the comment period has closed. FHWA also proposed a Buy America waiver that will allow a short ramp up period for the domestic manufacturing of EV charging; the comment period for the waiver proposal is open through September 30, 2022.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will continue to provide direct technical assistance and support to States as Plans are reviewed and approved, as well as throughout the lifetime of the NEVI Formula Program. For more information on the NEVI Formula program, please visit FHWA's NEVI website and DriveElectric.gov. For more information on President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and investments in electric vehicles, please visit FHWA's BIL website.

For more information on the TN Electric Vehicle Infrastructure plan, visit https://www.tn.gov/tdot/long-range-planning-home/air-quality-planning/tevi.html.