Charging Forward: A Toolkit for Planning and Funding Rural Electric Mobility Infrastructure
Rural EV Toolkit
The rapid growth in electric vehicles (EVs) today is part of a fundamental shift in consumer preference towards cleaner and more affordable mobility options, a change that promises substantial economic, public health, and environmental benefits to individuals, businesses, communities, and the entire Nation. All Americans, regardless of where they live, should have the opportunity to benefit from the lower operating costs, reduced maintenance needs, and improved performance that EVs provide. All communities—including communities of color, Tribal communities, underserved communities, and environmental justice communities—should have access to the economic opportunities and improved mobility and air quality that EVs offer. The entire Nation will benefit from the successful nationwide adoption of EVs as one important element in the Federal Government’s strategy to eliminate climate-related emissions from transportation, including through investments in electric transit and micromobility as well as pedestrian networks to give Americans real choices in how to travel.
In rural parts of the country—home to 20 percent of Americans and almost 70 percent of America’s lane miles—EVs can be an especially attractive alternative to conventional vehicles. Rural residents drive more than their urban counterparts, spend more on vehicle fuel and maintenance, and often have fewer alternatives to driving to meet their transportation needs. In the long run, adoption of EVs—integrated with holistic regional land use and transportation planning—can help residents of rural areas reduce those costs, minimize the environmental impact of transportation, and improve accessibility and quality of life in their communities.
The Federal Government has set a goal to make half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, and to build a convenient and equitable network of 500,000 EV charging stations to help make EVs accessible to all Americans for both local and long-distance trips. On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), also referred to as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which contains $7.5 billion in new funding for EV charging stations, makes EV charging infrastructure eligible for additional Federal funding programs, and provides funding for numerous other EV-related initiatives. This funding will benefit rural communities across the country by providing a ready source of capital for EV infrastructure projects. More recently, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which will be the largest investment in addressing climate change in U.S. history and includes several funding programs and tax credits for EVs and EV charging infrastructure.
Publicly accessible charging stations will play a key role in achieving a large-scale national transition to EVs. While most drivers of personal EVs will primarily charge their vehicles at home and at work, many individuals and businesses will also depend on public charging, micromobility, and transit. Various electric mobility solutions are needed to better serve renters, residents of multifamily housing, visitors, individuals without personal vehicles, and EV drivers without access to chargers at home. For EV users, increasing the availability of affordable public charging, including at community and cultural sites, will help give rural Americans—and anyone who travels in rural America—the confidence that they will be able to recharge when and where they need to, just as reliably as they can refuel a conventional vehicle today.
While there is significant information available on how to plan and develop EV charging stations, these resources are spread across Federal agencies and do not specifically address the unique needs of rural communities. Similarly, funding programs for EV infrastructure are distributed across numerous Federal and State agencies, making it difficult for rural stakeholders to determine which programs they are eligible for.
This toolkit is meant to be a one-stop resource to help rural communities scope, plan, and identify ways to fund EV-charging infrastructure. A rural organization or individual—such as a property owner, business, town, Tribe, or planning or transit agency—can use the toolkit to identify key partners for a project, take advantage of relevant planning tools, and identify available funding or financing to help make that project a reality.
Armed with the resources in this toolkit, rural communities will have the tools and information they need to start planning and implementing EV infrastructure projects and ultimately realize the benefits of electric transportation.
Progress toward EV Readiness
To prepare for the growing number of EVs on the road, State, Tribal and local leaders can advance their communities’ EV readiness by developing EV-related infrastructure, policies, and services. While the path to installing and operating EV chargers varies across States, Tribal Lands, and utilities, to date, several organizations and initiatives have made strides in advancing EV readiness in rural communities across the United States. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved formal plans submitted by all States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for their use of allocated National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funds, created under BIL, to build out EV charging infrastructure along major corridors. Other organizations have developed related tools and guidance, like the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) compilation of readiness planning resources for communities.
States are also collaborating to improve regional EV readiness, as seen in the revised 2019 Regional Electric Vehicle (REV) West memorandum of understanding. More recently, in 2021, the Western Governors’ Association released its Special Report of the Electric Vehicles Roadmap Initiative to improve the planning and implementation of EV infrastructure projects in Western States.
Still, as concluded in the 2021 National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) Electric Vehicle Charging Needs Assessment for the intermountain west region, further EV readiness in rural communities requires ongoing coordination among local governments, transportation planning agencies, electric service providers, and other stakeholders. For instance, State, Tribal, and local governments may need to work together to further develop the rural EV workforce for EV maintenance and charging installation.
Funding and innovative financing opportunities for EV-related initiatives also continue to develop. Many States and utilities offer funding and financial incentives for EV infrastructure, showing a continued commitment to EV readiness. There is also growing support at the Federal level: the White House formally affirmed its support in April 2021 for accelerated deployment of EVs and charging stations. Additionally, the 2021 BIL contains significant new Federal funding for EV charging stations as well as provisions for a new interagency Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which combines resources and expertise from USDOT and DOE to provide guidance and technical assistance to States, Tribes, and localities in the planning and implementation of a national EV charging network and the deployment of electric school buses. Funding and financing opportunities from several U.S. government agencies, including programs created through the BIL, are discussed in Section 6: EV Infrastructure Funding and Financing for Rural Areas.
This toolkit is intended for a variety of rural entities, including States, local communities, Tribes, transportation providers, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals. While the toolkit includes some resources for individuals interested in charging their personal EVs at home, the majority of information in this toolkit is most relevant to rural entities seeking to install charging stations for broader public or private use1. The toolkit focuses on infrastructure for light-duty electric passenger vehicles (such as sedans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks), but also addresses funding opportunities and planning considerations for other types of electric vehicles and devices, including micromobility, transit and school buses, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and agricultural equipment such as tractors. As such, this toolkit generally uses the term “EV” to refer to light-duty electric passenger vehicles and clarifies where applicable when “EV” refers to other types of electric vehicles (e.g., electric buses).
This toolkit covers the stages of EV infrastructure development in the following sections:
Electric Mobility Basics
Electric Mobility Basics provides a brief overview of types of EVs; the three levels, or speeds, of charging stations; and an overview of electric micromobility and electric transit. .
Benefits and Implementation Challenges of Rural Vehicle Electrification
Benefits and Implementation Challenges of Rural Vehicle Electrification introduces the benefits to rural communities and individuals associated with EVs and EV charging infrastructure, as well as some of the challenges and evolving strategies for rural communities to be able to realize those benefits.
Partnership Opportunities discusses key partners and stakeholders for rural EV infrastructure projects, including regional and local coalitions, planning and transit agencies, utilities, Tribal Governments, and site hosts.
EV Infrastructure Planning for Rural Areas summarizes the different scales of EV infrastructure planning, provides a walk-through of the key technical considerations in planning a new charging installation, including for transit and micromobility, and discusses methods to support an equitable planning process.
EV Infrastructure Funding and Financing for Rural Areas provides information on Federal funding programs and other funding-related resources that may reduce the financial burden of implementing EV infrastructure. At the end of this section, a Rural EV Infrastructure Funding Table provides a comprehensive list of Federal funding programs applicable to different types of rural EV charging projects.
Resources for EV Infrastructure Planning provides an annotated list of planning support tools and other resources.
Environmental Statutes and Executive Orders discusses regulations relevant to EV infrastructure planning.
Toolkit Structure and Sequence
Sidebars throughout the document provide relevant examples and highlight key concepts.
Many of the activities described in this toolkit can—and often do—happen in parallel, so the user can expect to jump between sections as needed. Toolkit users are encouraged to treat this document not as a sequential list of instructions, but as a constant companion in the process of completing a project.
Disclaimer: The contents of this toolkit do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide information to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.
1Public charging stations allow the general public to charge their EVs. In contrast, private charging stations have restricted access. For example, a charging station installed at a workplace is private if only employees can charge but public if it is available for visitors, community members, and other EV drivers to use as well.