Ensuring our power grid can fuel the influx of EVs coming down the pike

View of a white Tesla Model X, a white Tesla Model S and three blue Tesla Model 3s, parked in a parking lot and charging at a Tesla Supercharger electric charging station.

The American people are charging ahead toward a cleaner energy future as more consumers are choosing to buy electrical vehicles (EVs) and more manufacturers and states are beginning to leave old internal combustion engines behind in favor of a new generation of cleaner, greener rechargeable cars, trucks and buses that will reduce pollution at home while protecting Americans from foreign oil price shocks. 

In 2021, more than 400,000 people bought electric vehicles in the United States. New data from the Alliance for Automobile Innovation shows EV sales were roughly double the level of market share at the start of 2021 compared to the prior year.  

America stands on the precipice of a clean energy revolution, and a decarbonized future in the transportation sector is essential to getting us there.  

But in order to keep up with demand and ensure a smooth transition to the scaled-up use of electric vehicles, the federal government must invest wisely in charging infrastructure now and have a smart roadmap to ensure the nation’s energy grid is prepared and America can meet its electric mobility goals. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law championed by Democrats in Congress and signed into law by President Biden delivered $15 billion in federal investments to help states and communities achieve full scale EV adoption. These new policies, along with state initiatives, will result in more affordable EVs for consumers, a robust charging infrastructure network and more advanced battery technology manufactured here in the United States. 

One of the most notable trends at this year’s Washington, D.C., auto show was that nearly every major car company in the United States rolled out a battery electric vehicle model. But EV manufacturing alone won’t be enough to make our vision for a cleaner energy future and a stronger, more resilient economy a reality. Our path to energy independence, emissions reduction and lower costs also depends on ensuring our power grid and EV charging infrastructure is ready to manage the surge of electricity needed to keep up with demand and keep our economy moving forward.

What does the grid of the future necessary to sustain our transition to EVs look like? What promising technologies should our nation be investing in to get us there? How do we ensure the latest chargers are interconnected? What about for light duty vs. heavy duty vehicles, or urban vs. rural areas?

To get to the bottom of these questions, we introduced the Electric Vehicle Grid Readiness, Improvement, and Development (EV GRID) Act in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The EV GRID Act would direct the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct a study and develop a plan to prepare the grid for the influx of electricity demand related to EV adoption.

Under our bill, the Department of Energy would release a study identifying geographic areas in which greater investment in the electric system would be necessary to ensure chargers could be prevalent and connected to the grid by assessing electrical generation, transmission and distribution capacity needs. The Energy Department would then develop a plan to bolster our electricity system at the scale necessary to meet the anticipated increase in demand — and provide Congress with recommendations on what actions we must take to meet this moment legislatively.  

The EV GRID Act will ensure our electrical grid is prepared for the influx of electric vehicle chargers we will need to combat climate change, achieve energy independence and revitalize our manufacturing sector. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and actions taken by states leading the charge on clean energy innovation serve as a great down payment on our path toward a clean energy future. But unless we take action to meet increasing electricity demand from EV charging infrastructure, we’ll have a real problem on our hands.  

Preparing our grid for the EV transition by advancing the EV GRID Act is a vital step on the path to achieve a clean energy economy so that we can pass on a livable planet for our children, lower energy costs for Americans, achieve energy independence, and create thousands of good-paying, union jobs. 

The surge in EVs is already happening and the U.S. government must ensure our power grid can fuel all those EVs coming down the pike. Passing the EV GRID Act will help accelerate that progress.  

Sean Casten represents the 3rd District of Illinois and is co-chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition Power Task Force. Paul Tonko represents New York’s 20th District and is chair of the Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. Jack Reed is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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