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For anyone who drives one of the 2.5 million electric-powered vehicles in the United States, taking a cross-country trip isn’t as simple as packing upand hitting the highway. There are just 53,000 charging stations from coast to coast, and even if someone manages to plot a course that covers recharging for the entire trek, they still might run into trouble. A recent survey of charging stations in the Bay Area—a part of the country with plenty of electric vehicles (EVs)—revealed that 23% of chargers did not work. It’s no surprise that nearly half of U.S. consumers cite battery and charging troubles as their main concern about buying an EV.

There is clearly a long road ahead to electrifying the nation’s highways. However, the journey is beginning to look a bit less bumpy thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $7.5 billion to help build a nationwide network of 500,000 publicly accessible charging stations by 2030. It’s a bold goal that may not be bold enough. According to estimates from McKinsey, the United States will need 1.2 million public stations and 28 million private at-home stations by the end of the decade to accommodate demand.

“There are so many more EVs on the road today, where five years ago, there was much less of an appetite for this,” says Mark Borosky, vice president of operations for Sevan Multi-Site Solutions, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, which has worked on EV-related projects in the United States and the United Kingdom. “People heard about the incentives and knew it was coming, but never saw many electric vehicles on the road. Today, we see vehicles in all parts of the country, and I think that’s letting people know it’s here to stay.”


The movement is indeed here to stay, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Rich McNulty, chief executive officer of Maryland-based Blue Whale EV, an end-to-end charging advisory and service company, says there is a major hurdle standing in the way of breaking ground on new charging stations. “The piece that will slow you down is the permit process,” McNulty says. “There are so many thousands of these [stations] going in across the country now. It’s a brand-new product, and it’s putting tremendous pressure on the permit departments. So, don’t think you’re going to go down to the permit office today and start the project tomorrow. It can take months.”

Delays are especially bad in major metropolitan areas, where the number of people and buildings compounds the challenges of doing anything on an accelerated timeline. While less-populated regions of the country are much further behind in EV adoption—most nonurban areas have fewer than five registered electric vehicles per every 10,000 people, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute—McNulty says that this actually puts the construction companies in these parts at a big advantage. “If I needed to get a permit in western Maryland or somewhere in rural Illinois, the electrician probably knows the permit person,” he says, “and it may go more smoothly on that one-by-one basis.”

No matter where a project is located, engineered drawings are essential, as every local jurisdiction will require them. “This is all changing,” McNulty says. “Last year, we called it the Wild, Wild West. There were no rules. Now, it’s becoming regulated as federal dollars are coming in, and local leaders are writing the code and the rules as we go.”

Accessing those dollars involves navigating a maze of tax credits, rebates and grants—no simple task, according to McNulty, who says there is a process for qualifying for and actually securing rebates. He recommends that construction companies hire someone to handle the complexities of the work. “We actually contracted with a firm that monitors the grants, tax incentives and rebates that are available to us on a daily basis,” McNulty says. “These rebates are updated annually, but the challenge is that they all cycle at different times of the year. And the reality is that this is such a new industry, these rebate programs are being written as we speak. Get some help in this area, because 99% of people couldn’t afford to do this without those rebates.”


As the EV market matures, another key piece of the puzzle involves reaching passengers who are years away from getting in the driver’s seat. State funding in Colorado, Maryland, California, New Jersey and Connecticut is helping school districts purchase electric buses for transporting students to the classroom, and they will soon be joined by plenty of other districts. In New York, for example, a new state law mandates that schools must purchase electric buses in 2027 and that each district’s entire fleet transition to electric by 2035.

“It is an incredible opportunity for contractors,” says Christopher Wojciechowski, senior consultant at the Bonadio Group. “In New York alone, there are more than 700 school districts that have to redesign their transportation centers over the next 12 years. I’m estimating that, on a school-district level, there will be $20 billion spent on infrastructure here, and that doesn’t count charging stations throughout the state that are located off school property.”

While some charging stations for passenger vehicles may be relatively cheap and easy to install—Level 2 chargers only cost around $6,500, according to McNulty—school buses are a different story. “Ideally, a school district should start planning five years out,” Wojciechowski says. “You have to construct a whole new facility, because right now there are some pretty dilapidated buildings that house the transportation department and a giant diesel tank. With electric vehicles, there need to be charging stations, incoming power and fire-suppression systems put in place.”

School districts in different geographic areas will have unique challenges. “For example, in Long Island, there isn’t a lot of property that schools can purchase, so they have to work within the constraints of their current location,” Wojciechowski says. “That means figuring out how to condense the giant footprint required for this kind of infrastructure into a smaller space.”

Additionally, a lot of these developments are capital-expense projects that will require voter approval. “There are some areas of the country—and even in certain parts of New York State—that are not the biggest fans of transitioning to electric school buses,” Wojciechowski says. “There is a lot of community pushback that can hold up a project.”

While some voters are unconvinced of the need to invest in EV infrastructure, many school administrations that are tasked with making it happen likely will be overwhelmed by the task ahead. “The people making decisions about electric school-bus infrastructure are going to be the school officials and superintendents of school districts,” Wojciechowski says. “They are the ones that will hire all the contractors, and they are going to need someone to hold their hands and walk them through the process. For construction companies, having a strong project manager is going to be key."

One of the top priorities for that project manager will need to be establishing a close relationship with the local utility provider. “It’s really important to have a sense of the utilities that are in your area,” Wojciechowski says. “In Virginia, for instance, Dominion [Energy] has been really integral in starting the transition to electrification of school-bus fleets. If you can understand what the utility in a given area is doing, you can figure out how to partner with them from a funding standpoint.”


While the EV market is still in its infancy, construction companies should already be thinking ahead to next-generation technology even as they break ground on projects today. As businesses try to determine what type of charging station to install, Borosky expects that a number of the Level 2 chargers that are already in the ground—using a 240-volt source to provide 20 to 30 miles of range per hour of charge time—will need to be converted to Level 3—direct-current fast chargers (DCFC) that utilize an industrial-grade, 480-volt source—in the near future.

“The industry is realizing that customers typically don’t want to spend a few hours charging to go a few more miles,” Borosky says. “If we’re going to make [the energy transition] happen, it needs to feel like the fueling mechanism they’re accustomed to.” In addition to converting those already-in- stalled stations, it’s important to note that all stations will require regular reconfigurations to keep up with technological advancements. “Just like your computer software, these systems will have upgrades and updates,” McNulty says. “If something better comes along, in terms of the actual charger, though, it’s a rip-and-replace. If you build your infrastructure correctly and power it correctly, you will be able to put another charger there for a limited cost.”

It’s not just about how the station is built, either. One of the most critical pieces is picking the right product that will be able to be upgraded. “Not all charging companies are the same,” McNulty says. “For electrical construction companies, you want to make sure you’re picking a partner that will pass the test of time. Some companies are just here to put chargers in the ground. It’s a race to consolidation in this market, so it’s important to work with a manufacturer that plans to be here for the long haul along with their product.”


Speaking of products, the components that support all this EV infrastructure will need to be manufactured somewhere—and construction companies are already capitalizing on the opportunities and breaking ground on facilities across the country. General Motors is spending $760 million to prepare its Toledo, Ohio, propulsion-manufacturing factory to produce drive units for electric trucks, while in De Soto, Kansas, Panasonic is spending $4 billion on a lithium-ion battery production facility. And in Stanton, Tennessee, Ford is investing $5.6 billion to create BlueOval City—a 3,600-acre “megasite” that the company says is “the largest, most advanced auto production complex” in its 119-year history.

These projects are all part of an explosion in EV infrastructure, with a price tag that makes the federal government’s $7.5 billion investment look like pocket change. According to analysis from Atlas Public Policy, there is a staggering $128 billion in development for EV plants, battery plants and battery recycling—a reminder that electric vehicles are poised to electrify the economy. No wonder the Biden administration followed up the infrastructure bill with the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax credits for EV purchases as well as $3 billion to electrify the

U.S. Postal Service’s truck fleet, along with the U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, which supports the White House’s goal of “cutting all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.”

“The EV market is a phenomenal business opportunity,” McNulty says. “It’s almost like the early days of cellphones. Everybody wanted a cell tower for communication and safety, and there was a major push to get them deployed across the country. Charging stations are the new cellphone towers.”


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