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Arizona electric vehicle infrastructure plan gets federal approval

Bob Palrud of Spokane, Wash. speaks with a fellow electric vehicle owner who is charging up at a station along Interstate 90, on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Billings, Mont. Palrud says distances between EV charging stations are always on his mind during lengthy journeys across the U.S. West where such infrastructure remains sparse. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

Updates: Corrects word in 10th paragraph to show that fossil fuel emissions contribute to the formation of smog, not fog. It also corrects the statement in the 13th paragraph to say that the sales of new gas-powered vehicles will be phased out by 2035, not the complete phase-out of all gas-powered vehicles in the state. Quotes in paragraph 14 from Deborah Kapiloff are updated and her title is correction to say that she is a Transportation Electrification Policy Analyst with Western Resource Advocates.

The Federal Highway Administration announced Wednesday that 35 states, including Arizona, had their infrastructure plans for electric vehicles approved, which allows for construction of charging stations along highways across the state. 

The federal government gave Arizona $76.5 million through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The goal of this plan was to build more electric vehicle stations across the nation. This will help alleviate any anxiety or hesitation many people have about switching to electric vehicles. Many people previously feared being able to charge their vehicles on long distance trips. Now, EV chargers will be stationed along alternative fuel corridors in Arizona.  

According to a statement from the Arizona Department of Transportation, $11.3 million will immediately be made available to implement the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Plan. Another $16.3 million will be made available in October. The rest of the money will be implemented to Arizona over the next five years through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

IIJA was signed into federal law in 2021. Its purpose was to improve nationwide transportation and water infrastructure. It included $7.5 billion to deploy nationwide charging stations. According to The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, the plan will add about 1.5 million jobs per year. 

Diane E. Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization focused on speaking out for public health, safety and wellbeing, predicts IIJA will help perk up the Arizona job market. Many of these jobs will be related to constructing and maintaining the charging stations.  

Construction for the new charging stations is expected to begin in the fall of 2023. The current plan is to build one station every 50 miles. Many of these stations will be constructed near existing buildings, including truck stops, rest stops, restaurants and shopping centers.  

 It is expected that this plan will help to reduce a phenomenon known as “range anxiety.” Many people are hesitant to buy electric vehicles or drive them on long distance trips. This is because, unlike everyday commutes, where they will have access to parking lot charging stations, they may have to go hundreds of miles. They may be fearful of being stranded without a place to charge, and eventually running out of power. 

The current plan includes Interstates 8, 10, 15, 17 and 19. These highways account for 20% of miles driven in Arizona. Locations for charging stations along non-interstate highways are still being determined. The next update to the NEVI plan will be announced in August 2023.  

Unlike traditional home charging stations, which may take hours to fully charge a vehicle, these corridor charging stations can charge your car in under 30 minutes, according to Deborah Kapiloff, Transportation Electrification Policy Analyst with Western Resource Advocates. This makes the stations more ideal for long distance travelers. 

According to Brown, benefits of switching to electric vehicles include improvement to public health and air quality. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, fossil fuels emitted by gas-powered cars and trucks contribute to air and water pollution. This contributes to the formation of smog and acid rain. 

The burning of fossil fuels, and the impacts on the environment also have an impact on human health. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute says the burning of fossil fuels can lead to asthma, cancer and heart disease. These health impacts will cost Americans up to $886.5 billion a year. Low-income communities and communities of color are impacted by these health effects at higher rates.  

Many people are intimidated by the upfront cost of electric vehicles, but according to Brown, “Electric vehicles are more cost competitive with gasoline vehicles at the dealership level. Electric vehicles over their lifetime, save consumers money through operating and maintenance costs.”  

Despite the positives of electric vehicles, many people are still hesitant. California is now pushing residents to move toward electric vehicles. The sales of new gas-powered vehicles will be phased out by 2035. Opponents believe that this change is unlawful. Brown thinks this change is unlikely to happen in Arizona, but that the transition to EVs will happen naturally.  

“We are going to continue to see growth in the EV adoption rate, especially with California’s most recent commitment to phasing out the sale of new fossil fueled vehicles by 2035,” Kapiloff said. “More and more car manufacturers are shifting their business models, away from internal combustion engines towards EVs. We are at the point where business and policy are aligning for an electric vehicle future, so I think we’re going to see massive growth in EV adoption. That is really exciting, but it also necessitates sound policy to ensure that the electric load from these vehicles is managed responsibly in a way that actually puts downward pressure on electric rates for consumers.”




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