Taking charge: Alabama’s EV infrastructure plan ready to expand

You may have noticed a huge increase in the advertising and promotion of electric vehicles (EVs) as many new models are entering the market. At the same time, with more EVs on the road, we’ve also seen an increase in recent months in public EV charging stations available throughout Alabama. As of now, there are more than 30 level 3 stations at various locations in Alabama, and many more are in the process of being installed.

As a quick reminder, level 2 charging uses a 220 V outlet and provides approximately 20-40 miles per hour of charge, while the level 3 is the fast-charging station that can charge a vehicle up to 80 percent in roughly 30 minutes. The fast-charging connector could be one of three types – Tesla, CCS/SAE (Combined Charging System certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers and used on European and American EVs) and CHAdeMO (charging system designed for Japanese EVs) – as determined by the vehicle manufacturer.

Importantly, the increase in EVs on our roads today has launched planning efforts for the future of EVs. The Alabama Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan was completed in January 2022 by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and the EV Advisory Group, which is made up of multiple state agencies and organizations. The plan will guide the deployment of resources for the EV infrastructure and help serve as a resource for agencies in Alabama.

It is estimated that by 2030, approximately 20 percent of vehicles sold in the United States will be electric, requiring the infrastructure to be robust enough to handle this increase in EV numbers.

One of the factors that’s most likely to hinder people from the purchase of an electric vehicle is “range anxiety,” or the fear of the electric vehicle running out of charge before arriving at the desired location. Accordingly, increasing the number of charging stations, in optimal locations, will be at the forefront of interest for potential drivers. The Alabama EV Infrastructure Plan will not only help strategically identify the best locations, but it will also provide funding to organizations and groups to install these fast chargers in a timely manner to help limit range anxiety.

In addition to residents purchasing EVs, Alabama will continue to play a key part in the automotive manufacturing market with car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Hyundai and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing bringing EV models to plants already located here or expanding their operations for their EV models. And feeding into these manufacturers are numerous suppliers of essential EV parts such as batteries.

To date, Alabama has created three programs to administer the funds and help spread the word on EVs. The first is the annual registration fee for EVs to help offset the cost of road and bridge projects as well as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) projects.

The other two programs are the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program and the EV Technology Education Program. The former serves as the avenue to fund the EVSE projects from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The latter created the brand “Drive Electric Alabama” to promote awareness and benefits of electric transportation throughout the state.

In addition to increased local usage, Alabama is also a prime stopping point for charging stations for out-of-state travelers. With both the need to accommodate added growth coming with EVs within our state and to continue to attract travelers, manufacturers expect to see EV charging infrastructure increase throughout 2022 and beyond.