Building the infrastructure for zero emissions and alternative fuel vehicles

By Mary Ebeling

A variety of electric and alternative fuel vehicles are increasingly available to consumers, which should be good news for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, adoption of these new, cleaner technologies is hampered by inadequate infrastructure needed to support fueling of these vehicles. Recognizing this challenge, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to designate alternative fueling corridors for EV and alternative fuel vehicles. State DOTs and MPOs are key partners to help the federal government identify corridors and create a climate that will increase the speed at which the private sector embraces this new infrastructure.

The Federal Highway Administration has published a notice soliciting nominations from state and local government officials for help in identifying these corridors. The notice defines the nominated alternative fuel corridors as either on the National Highway System or a feeder road connecting to the NHS. Single and multi-state corridors are eligible. FHWA will also develop a guidebook of best practices for building these corridors and signage to alert travelers of available stations.

As a writer for Inside EVs stated in his piece on charging infrastructure, “The elephant in the room is that until prospective buyers know they can add energy to an electric car as simply and effortlessly as they can now with their conventional car, they won’t embrace electric mobility.” These new corridors and supporting policies will help reduce the range anxiety that many potential alternative fuel adopters have. Currently funding is available to develop these stations through existing FHWA programs, including CMAQ and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. There are also additional incentives through the Department of Energy.

In the U.S., transportation is one of the largest sources of GHGs, and these emissions grew more than any other sector of the economy between 1990 and 2014. This ongoing challenge is reflected in the most recent GHG reductions goals in the Paris agreement and a 2014 pledge to reduce GHG emissions in the U.S. by up to 28 percent by 2025, and 80 percent or more by 2050. Reducing the number of gasoline-powered engines on the roads is one way to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

Nominations are due by August 22, 2016. Information on submitting nominations can be found here.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.