Texas DOT Releases Draft Infrastructure Bill EV Charging Plan, & It’s Pretty Good

Since the passing of last year’s Infrastructure Bill, states have been preparing to use the federal funding they’re going to get to expand EV charging infrastructure. To get the funding, every state had to come up with plans on how they’d spend the money, and then have the plans approved by the federal Department of Transportation.

What The Feds Wanted

Fortunately, federal DOT doesn’t expect state DOTs to fire in the dark and hope to get approval. They told everyone what the expectations were, starting with the need to cover all interstate highways with:

  • Gaps of no more than 50 miles between chargers, and chargers within a mile of the interstate.
  • At least four 150 kW or higher rate chargers, with CCS connectors.
  • Ability to simultaneously charge four vehicles at that rate or greater.

Exceptions are available for any of these rules on a case-by-case basis (unavailability of electricity, etc.), but funding can be used to prepare a site for stations by adding power generating capacity, etc. So, even if you’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t get power on a stretch of road, some of the money could be used to build a solar-powered charging station.

After interstates are covered or they’ve gotten exceptions, the state can then work on building out charging stations on other highways and in other parts of the state (including urban charging). There are some rules for that, but they’re pretty flexible unless a state totally drops the ball (in which case federal DOT just does it).

The Texas Plan For Highway Charging

Unlike Arizona and New Mexico (other states I’ve been covered during the process of implementing the Infrastructure Bill), Texas has some very specific plans at this point that it has already sought a lot of public input on. You can download the complete PDF here.

Some of the state’s high-level goals are:

  • Support for 1 million EVs in Texas
  • Fast charging stations no more than 50 miles apart on interstate highways
  • Fast charging stations no more than 70 miles apart elsewhere in Texas
  • Multiple options for routes and charging on all trips
  • At least four plugs in pull-through spaces for people pulling trailers (this one’s a big deal!)
  • Locations known on multiple third-party applications (so people can find stations and plan trips)

Wondering what this looks like on a map? Texas provided that information! Here’s a map of rough locations they want for interstate highway charging:

As you can probably see, they already included existing Electrify America stations in their plan. This is great because it puts them part-way there and leaves a lot less work for these corridors to be easier to use for EVs. It also means there will be money left for other charging stations (we’ll get to that in a minute).

When it comes to roads I’ve driven on around Texas, the plan looks very reasonable and seems to have incorporatedd terrain, especially around El Paso (where there’s a lot more terrain to consider than in the rest of the state). Looking elsewhere in the document, they gave some latitudes and longitudes for these points, so I decided to check and see how specific they were or whether they only had a town in mind.

The document does say, “Lat/Long provided for reference, not a specific site. NEAREST (mi) is Geodesic length to next DC location on corridor.” so it’s obvious that they don’t have a specific host business in mind.

The answer in the case of Fort Hancock, Texas, is that they picked out a freeway exit that they want it near. But, this is good because it gives us an idea of ​​what thought went into locating the station, and it was actually thought out a bit. Fort Hancock is basically the last chance before a very steep climb leaving the Rio Grande valley, making it possible even for shorter range EVs to make the trip across Texas, even with a trailer.

So, if you own a business near one of the points on the map, be sure to get in touch with DOT and see about getting a station.

The plan covers a lot more than interstates, but they’re planning on doing this at stations the years after installing interstate. The map is littered with dots, just as it needs to be.

The plan seems to be to give every county at least one station at the county seat, allowing for travel along state, US, and interstate highways in the state after 5 years.

More About Pull-Through Charging

I wanted to know more about their thinking on pull-through charging, and the draft plan provided:

“Each DC Fast Charge station on the Alternative Fuel Corridors or near county seats can have at least one pull-through space for light duty vehicles pulling trailers or RV campers when space is available at the host location. Locations will not include spaces for heavy duty freight trucks or trailers. Freight charging will be addressed guidance from FHWA in the fall of 2022. Light duty panel trucks or delivery vans pending could utilize pull through spaces if they can safely navigate the location.”

Not only is this a good thing, but it’s very “Texas.” People pull trailers in Texas, so you need to make it so people can pull trailers in Texas. I’m glad that they thought about this and made it part of their plan.

Some Small Shortcomings

While I’m very impressed, I do think there are some shortcomings in the plan that will need to be addressed in some way, perhaps through private companies. Realistically, the infrastructure bill will put us far ahead of where we are today, but won’t cover a full EV transition. There will be a lot more work to do.

That having been said, I think far west Texas is kind of getting the shaft here (as usual). By “far west Texas,” I’m talking mostly about El Paso and the nearby counties. It has been very common over the years for Texas to leave El Paso out, probably because they keep voting for the minority party (Democrats), who then just never have the political influence to ask for things in Austin.

Every little tiny square county with 500 people got a charging station in the plan, but the big counties like Hudspeth only got one (Culberson got zero new stations), despite having multiple highway corridors going through them. Specifically, US 62-180, or the “national parks highway” that goes from El Paso to Carlsbad, New Mexico, got completely ignored in the plan. I think this was a big mistake because there’s both Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park (the latter just over the state line) along that road. It’s a lonely, barren stretch, but it’s important for tourism and for traveling around “oil country.”

Another national park that got left out was Big Bend. Marfa, Alpine, and Fort Davis are all supposed to get a station, which is great, but we’re talking about a 240-mile round trip from Alpine to that park, not counting any driving around in the park. With Texas highway speeds (75 MPH on that kind of highway) and the need for RVers to tow, Big Bend will be for gas cars only in many cases, and people will get stranded out there. There is an RV park there with hookups, so Level 2 charging will be possible, but the park really needs a DC Fast Charger.

Other than those shortcomings, it’s actually a pretty decent plan.

Featured image: Screenshot from the TXDOT Draft EV Charging Plan.


 


 

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