Democrats are pushing for an electric car infrastructure bill as a solution to rural gaps

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Democratic proposals for a statewide program to accelerate the construction of electric vehicle charging stations have some Republican support in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. But backers must convince the state’s powerful budget committees that the plans are worth millions in new spending.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles “is going to happen, frankly, whether we like it or not,” Del said. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, to the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources on Wednesday. “And what we need to do is make sure we’re prepared.”

Sullivan and Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, are introducing legislation establishing the Driving Decarbonization Program and an associated fund this year. Both lawmakers also require that $40 million, spread over the next two years, be added to the state’s biennial budget.

Under the program, which would be administered by the Virginia Department of Energy, private developers could apply for grants to install charging stations across Virginia. Developers proposing projects in “historically economically disadvantaged communities” would be eligible for funding to cover 70 percent of their non-use costs, while developers with projects elsewhere could receive grants covering 50 percent of those costs.

The program would be capped at $20 million per year, with a quarter of that earmarked for historically economically disadvantaged communities, a designation borrowed from the Virginia Clean Economy Act, referring to low-income communities and those where the Majority of the population people are color.

Democrats and supporters of the proposal are selling the idea to Republicans largely because of the benefits it could bring to rural areas where charging stations are few.

“Ultimately, the question will be, will rural Virginia be left behind when electric vehicles begin to take over the market?” said Greg Habeeb, a former Republican delegate from Salem who is campaigning on behalf of electric vehicle infrastructure development company Carbon Solutions Group for the proposal. “Because it’s not going to happen naturally that charging stations will pop up in rural and underserved parts of Virginia without a nudge. It’s just not going to happen.”

Virginia began rolling out electric vehicles during the 2021 session. Under democratic control, the legislature enforced laws State commitment to California vehicle emissions standards (rather than less strict federal) establishment a rebate program that is not funded and the demand for a study on the charging infrastructure. The party views the replacement of gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles as key to reducing the state’s carbon emissions, about half of which come from the transport sector.

However, Republicans have been openly skeptical of policies encouraging electric vehicle use, with many members presenting the technology as a benefit to the wealthy.

Earlier in this session, Senator David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, ret Fines for parking a gas-powered vehicle in a spot designated for charging electric vehicles as “again having a different effect on people who are less affluent and don’t have high-end vehicles that charge a fee.”

However, in the same debate, Senator John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, told lawmakers that “we all know the future of transportation is in electric vehicles, and we’re going to need more and more of these charging stations.”

Cosgrove was the only Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee who voted in favor of the Driving Decarbonization Program and Fund.

The bill gained more Republican traction in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee, where it received three Republican votes from Dels. James Edmunds, R-Halifax, Buddy Fowler, R-Hanover, and Danny Marshall, R-Danville. The larger committee is expected to be cleared next week.

House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, has also signaled his support for providing funds for EV infrastructure.A budget change The proposal, tabled by the influential Republican, would allocate $15 million to expand EV infrastructure in “rural and underserved areas.”

Kilgore’s office didn’t respond to a question about whether his proposal was connected to the Driving Decarbonization Program.

While EV sales have risen in Virginia — EV registrations rose 44 percent between June 2020 and June 2021, and hybrid vehicles increased 12 percent — charging infrastructure remains limited in many parts of the state.

according to a Dashboard maintained by Virginia Clean Cities, a nonprofit organization that is part of the federally sponsored Clean Cities network that aims to promote alternative fuels, Virginia has 1,162 charging stations. But while clusters of stations can be found in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, infrastructure in rural areas is far more sparse.

“We have infrastructure gaps almost everywhere in Virginia,” said Alleyn Harned, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities. “There is a great opportunity to continue investing in chargers for rural Virginia.”

Harned said a nationwide approach to infrastructure development could be “very helpful”.

“There needs to be a planning and ethical framework for chargers to reach all sectors and not just the profit centers,” he said.

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