Laying the electric vehicle highway will require 100,000 recharging stations by 2030

Electric utilities unite in building rechargers along main corridors

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / An "EVGO" electric vehicle charging station is seen outside of the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is joining 52 other electric utilities across the nation to boost the number of fast-charging ports for electric cars by more than tenfold within the next decade to help power the expected surge in electric vehicles on American roads.

U.S. utilities, which have already invested more than than $3 billion in customer projects and programs to recharge battery-powered cars and trucks, are preparing to spend far more to install rapid recharging stations along all of America's major highways in the next couple of years and to work to facilitate the addition of millions of more charging stations at homes and businesses across the country. The Edison Electric Institute estimates more than 100,000 EV fast-charging ports will be needed to support the projected 22 million electric vehicles that will be on U.S. roads in 2030.

"Our member companies are leading the clean energy transformation, and electric transportation is key to reducing carbon emissions across our economy," Edison Electric President Tom Kuhn said in an announcement of the new initiative. "With the formation of the National Electric Highway Coalition, we are committed to investing in and providing the charging infrastructure necessary to facilitate electric vehicle growth and to helping alleviate any remaining customer range anxiety."

The announcement this week of the new national EV recharging project comes 10 months after TVA and local power companies such as Chattanooga's EPB joined with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to announce a $20 million initiative to install rapid chargers every 50 miles along Tennessee's highways and major thoroughfares. TVA spokesperson Scott Fiedler said, so far, 95 of TVA's 153 local power companies have expressed interest in partnering with TVA to develop the EV Fast Charge Network.

"We anticipate the first charger site will be online and operational in January," Fiedler said.

The new charging stations will support the effort by Drive Electric Tennessee to have at least 200,000 light-duty electric vehicles in the state by 2028. At the end of last year, there were 11,034 light-duty EVs registered in Tennessee, but that number is projected to jump with the growing number of electric vehicles being produced in the Volunteer State.

Tennessee is the biggest producer of electric vehicles in the South and one of the biggest EV-producing states in the country. Nissan in Smyrna, General Motors in Spring Hill and Volkswagen in Chattanooga are currently producing electric vehicles, and Ford Motor Co. and the Korean battery maker SK Innovation are preparing to build a $5.6 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in West Tennessee.

TVA and other utilities are part of a nationwide network billed as the National Electric Highway Coalition, which merges the Electric Highway Coalition and the Midwest Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Collaboration and now includes additional participating electric companies from across the nation.

"We are delighted to see this collaboration come together with both regional and national scopes to develop a framework and to provide charging stations across state boundaries," said Phillip B. Jones, the executive director for the Alliance for Transportation Electrification. "EV owners want to charge conveniently and quickly without a fear of running out of electric fuel. ... With scores of new battery-electric vehicles coming to market over the next couple of years, we need to get the charging infrastructure sited, built and funded."

As part of the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, $7.5 billion in federal funding is earmarked for charging networks. Biden's plan includes a goal of 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030, when the administration hopes half of annual vehicle sales will be electric.

That is in addition to major investments by the auto industry, electric utilities and state and local governments.

"The auto industry is committed to vehicle electrification and will invest over $330 billion in the technology by 2025," said Alliance for Automotive Innovation President and CEO John Bozzella. "A record number of EV models are expected to be available in this time frame."

Edison Electric Institute member companies are electrifying their own fleets and, collectively, are on track to electrify more than one-third of all fleet vehicles by 2030.

TVA plans to convert its entire fleet of passenger cars and at least half of its own pickup and light cargo trucks to electric vehicles by 2030. The shift from gas-powered to electric vehicles will comprise nearly 1,200 vehicles and is part of TVA's overall effort to encourage the electrification of transportation to help reduce carbon emissions in the Tennessee Valley.

Contact Dave Flessner at dfllessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.