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Energy Secretary Granholm talks with FOX4 as White House rolls out electric car charger plan

Florida will get $200 million in federal infrastructure money for more fast-charging stations
Posted at 11:30 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 05:25:27-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla.  — Florida doesn't have many steep hills and that means the 58,000 electric vehicles aren't losing a lot of juice going uphill.

Yet many drivers can face an uphill battle when finding a fast-charging station when driving across the state or in the Panhandle.

On Thursday, the White House released more details about the National Electric Vehicle Charging Network, with billions of dollars in federal money from the recent infrastructure deal that passed Congress.

Across the nation, about 100,000 EV charging stations dot the map and the NEVCN has a goal of 500,000 charging stations, especially more fast-charging stations, known as "direct current" or "DC", where an EV can get fully-charged within a half-hour and not between 8-12 hours as the majority of charging locations are.

In its most recent report, the U.S. Department of Energy notes that Florida has 2,587 station locations with a total of 6,467 ports. Of those 6,467, only 1,379 are classified as "DC Fast", only 21 percent.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke with FOX4 on Thursday as the Biden Administration put out news releases to try and get more attention on this imminent project. Of the major components, a requirement that a fast-charging station is on key highways and are within 50 miles of one other.

"So if you're traveling a long distance, you will know that you will have a charging station every 50 miles and a mile of the actual freeway itself," Secretary Granholm told FOX4. "The charging stations have to be app-enabled so that you can look on your phone to see whether a charging station is occupied and whether you're free to be able to go to each charging station."

The DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center website includes an interactive map to show the locations of charging stations in Southwest Florida, including whether these are fast-charging or not and also the types of connections at each point. For example, Tesla has its own equipment to connect vehicles with charging stations and other makes do not.

Most of the locations in Southwest Florida center around the coasts but there are numerous areas that are lacking. Drivers can find a cluster of charging stations in Naples but only two in Cape Coral, a city of 190,000 people. If driving from downtown Fort Myers to West Palm Beach, the DOE map reveals an EV driver will encounter only one charging station, at a credit union in LaBelle.

"People aren't going to buy an electric vehicle if they don't have access to charging so we want to make sure that charging stations are everywhere," said Granholm, who was also the governor of Michigan during the Great Recession and said that led domestic automakers to look closer into the future of electric cars.

Florida has the second-most registered electric vehicles in the U.S. as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports that EVs made up nearly three percent of all cars sold in Florida last year.

"Florida actually only has 39 locations with EV charging that meet the requirements that that we have been putting out," said Secretary Granholm. "Meaning that they are within 50 miles of one another. So there's a lot of work to do, even though you do have enormous number of charging stations."

Secretary Granholm said each state needs to have its plans in place and set to the Department of Energy by August 1 and that the actual work to put in more charging stations could start by this fall.

The administration acknowledges the gap in up-front cost for electric cars which, typically, cost thousands more new than vehicles that run on gas. However, as the price of gas approaches $5 a gallon in Florida, perhaps more drivers are looking at going electric for the next purchase.

"If you filled up your EV by charging and you filled up your gas tank with gasoline and you have the same size tank, you would save $60 per fill up by going electric rather than using gasoline," said Granholm. "It's very compelling case. But again, to your point, we want to bring down the price at the point of purchase."