Democratic Senator Slams Biden Official for ‘Pathetic’ EV Charging Stations

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 07, 2024

Senator Jeff Merkley didn’t hold back in a recent Senate hearing when he called the progress of a $5 billion federal initiative to deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging stations “pathetic.” 

Despite the 2021 launch, only seven stations have been installed so far, a shockingly low number given the Biden Administration’s ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions through increased EV use.

Roadblocks at Rest Stops

During discussions, Senator Merkley highlighted an unexpected snag: current federal regulations bar EV charging stations at highway rest stops. 

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Official portrait of Senator Jeff Merkley, a middle-aged Caucasian man with gray hair and a serious expression, wearing a dark suit and tie

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This rule creates a significant gap in the necessary infrastructure, making it tougher for EV drivers to find convenient charging options during long trips.

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State Struggles with EV Infrastructure

Shailen Bhatt, the head of the Federal Highway Administration, voiced his frustrations at the slow deployment of EV chargers, noting the complexity caused by states juggling multiple programs. 

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Official portrait of Shailen Bhatt, a bald South Asian man smiling in a dark blue suit with a blue tie, standing in front of the American flag

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His comments at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing painted a picture of bureaucratic hurdles stalling progress.

Bipartisan Concerns Over EV Program Execution

The slow deployment of EV chargers hasn’t gone unnoticed across party lines. 

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Two blue signs indicating electric vehicle charging stations beside a building under construction

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In February, Republican lawmakers voiced concerns, noting “little progress has been made” in the expansion of the nationwide charging network. 

Optimism from the Top

Despite the setbacks, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm remains hopeful. 

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a Caucasian woman with short blonde hair, speaks at a podium outside with trees and street lamps in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She predicts about 1,000 EV charging stations will be operational by year’s end, funded through the federal program. Granholm acknowledged the challenges, especially in regions lacking existing electrical infrastructure.

The Drive for 500,000 Charging Ports

Imagine driving without worry, with a charger always within reach. That’s the dream as the White House aims for a network of 500,000 charging ports. 

A modern electric vehicle charging station featuring two chargers with digital displays

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This ambitious goal intends to place high-speed chargers no more than 50 miles apart on major highways, facilitating a smoother transition to EVs nationwide.

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Rapid Growth in Charging Infrastructure

Since the start of the Biden administration, the number of fast-charging ports available to the public has surged by 90%

President Joe Biden, wearing a blue pullover, smiles while speaking at a podium with a presidential seal

Source: POTUS/X

Bhatt expressed his confidence that this momentum will help meet the half-million port goal, a key component in supporting the growing number of EVs on the road.

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Push for Policy Change

As demand for more accessible EV charging options climbs, the prohibition on installing these facilities at rest stops is increasingly called into question. 

A street view of an electric vehicle charging station painted with colorful, abstract designs. The station has multiple chargers and is marked with green paint indicating electric vehicle parking only

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Adjusting these rules could significantly accelerate the expansion of the national charging network.

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Senate Committee Takes Action

Chaired by Tom Carper, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is considering scheduling more hearings specifically to tackle the sluggish EV charger deployment. 

A modern electric vehicle, colored tan, charging at an indoor EVgo fast charging station, located in a showroom with promotional banners in the background

Source: Oxana Melis/Unsplash

This proactive stance aims to ensure that federal efforts align more closely with the urgent need for infrastructure growth.

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Federal Discontent with Slow Progress

The pace of EV charger installation has been a source of considerable frustration at the federal level. 

Close-up view of a black electric vehicle charger connected to the charging port of a car

Source: John Cameron/Unsplash

Bhatt openly criticized the current rate of deployment, highlighting the need for a more streamlined and effective approach to meet the infrastructure demands of EV users.

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Future-Focused Federal Funding

Carper emphasizes the importance of correct fund allocation. 

A vibrant green-painted ground marking with a white icon of an electric car and a plug

Source: Michael Marais/Unsplash

“We want to make sure that the federal money that we have allocated is being used for the right purposes,” he stated, highlighting the need for oversight and effective use of resources in expanding the EV charging framework.

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Envisioning a Connected Future

The U.S. government’s plan to build a comprehensive EV charging network is ambitious. 

A man in a dark coat plugs a charging cable into an electric vehicle, focusing intently on the connection

Source: Maxim Hopman/Unsplash

By providing reliable, efficient, and widely available charging solutions, this network will support the increasing adoption of electric vehicles.

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