Charging into the Future: Exploring the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program

ACEC/MW Transportation Committee Chair and Vice Chair, Sean Rousseau and James Thomas, discuss the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program and the insights shared at our NEVI Roundtable in January.

To further educate the consultant community about the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program, ACEC/MW hosted a Roundtable discussion with local and federal agencies on January 31, 2023 in Washington D.C. Bringing together panelists from VDOT, DDOT, MDOT and the Joint Office on Energy and Transportation, this moderated discussion centered on the NEVI Formula Program, introduced as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which provides funding to states to strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and to establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability. The panelists included R. Earl Lewis Jr., MDOT Deputy Secretary for Policy, Planning and Enterprise Services; Matthew Gaskin, DDOT Transportation Planner, Project Delivery Administration, Planning & Sustainability Division; Chris Berg, VDOT Director, Office of Transportation Sustainability; and Monisha Shah, Equity Lead for the Joint Office on Energy and Transportation.

The panelists provided insight on the current development of the NEVI program within the region, as well as on a federal level. A major theme was that this is a brand new program, which began in 2022, and that the agencies are in learning mode while simultaneously working to meet the required milestones for funding. Several panelists stated that course corrections will be necessary as the programs are developed and rolled out, and that perfection cannot be the enemy of good!

Community engagement and education will be an important aspect for the success of the NEVI program in the region and beyond. DDOT, MDOT and VDOT have all begun public outreach at various levels, and they will continue to engage the public to ensure the program is rolled out in an equitable manner. Deputy Secretary Lewis noted that when broadband internet was originally implemented there were many communities left behind during the initial push, and all the agencies agreed that they do not want a repeat of that situation as they determine how the NEVI funding will be used. Monisha Shah challenged the audience “to get creative guys” in terms of exploring different business and mobility models, different energy sources, thinking about workforce and small businesses, and working with the community to define what the future looks like to make certain the NEVI program does not adversely impact disadvantaged communities; basically, how to remove barriers. However, the panelists did acknowledge that there are strict requirements for the NEVI program to initially fund projects that fill gaps on the State's Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs). This somewhat restricts where development will take place at first, but all panelists agreed that their agency's plans included a focus on shifting outside of the AFCs as soon as the funding requirements allow. 

Resiliency related to flooding, impacts to the power grid, and requirements for future expansion of the network were discussed across the panel. All the agencies are working on developing resiliency requirements with the intention of building that into future contracts for development where possible, and on the federal side, a Joint Office is being stood up to address reliability issues. VDOT, MDOT and DDOT are working with utility providers at various levels to map future grid demand and minimize impacts.

Planning and zoning requirements are additional potential roadblocks, and one audience question posed the potential for leasing of public lands for privately run charging facilities. None of the States had any current plans for allowing private uses of public lands, but this could be an option in the future, and, as was discussed many times, all options are currently on the table and being discussed. Chris Berg acknowledged that this requires development of a very thoughtful process.

Collectively, panelists expressed excitement over the future of electric vehicles and anticipated their usage to continue to grow as the transportation industry and the public's attitude towards EV's are at an inflection point. When asked what keeps them up at night about the rollout of the NEVI program, Matthew Gaskins was succinct in stating a sentiment with which all the panelists agreed, “we don't want to mess up.” Although there are growing pains, they were all excited to be at the frontier of this new program and shift in federal policy, and to continue the inter-agency and industry discussion as the NEVI programs advance across the region.


There have been no comments made on this article. Why not be the first and add your own comment using the form below.

Leave a comment

Commenting is restricted to members only. Please login now to submit a comment.