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FHWA declines to set truck standards in EV charging rule

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has largely avoided taking into account the concerns of the trucking industry in rolling out its first set of standards and requirements for a nationwide electric vehicle charging network.

The intentional hands-off approach, according to a final rule to be published by the Federal Highway Administration on Tuesday, is meant to avoid getting in the way of evolving technology for powering medium- and heavy-duty (MD/HD) electric trucks.

“The FHWA … cannot regulate minimum standards that have not yet been identified or innovated in the industry,” the agency stated. “FHWA understands that the MD/HD charging industry is very nascent and rapidly evolving. As such, FHWA has not modified the language in this final rule to specifically accommodate MD/HD needs so as not to preempt the pace of technological innovation.”

The agency further pointed out the rule does not specifically preclude MD/HD charging infrastructure and encouraged project sponsors to consider future needs for this trucking sector: “The FHWA will continue to monitor the technological advancements in the MD/HD industry for consideration as to whether further regulation is needed to provide applicable minimum standards and requirements at a future date.”

FHWA’s new charging regulation sets requirements for projects funded under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula program, part of the infrastructure law signed by President Biden in 2021.

The law sets aside $5 billion over five years for the NEVI program apportioned to every state. The legislation — which also includes $2.5 billion for a separate competitive grant program — is aimed at helping reach the administration’s goal of deploying 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030.

The standards and requirements in FHWA’s new EV charging regulation were informed partially by hundreds of comments received in a November 2021 information request and a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in June 2022.

Funding, drive-time impacts for long-haul trucking

Among the trucking-sector concerns was funding: By not addressing MD/HD charging in the proposed (and now final) rule, FHWA effectively discourages investment in trucking sector EV charging.

However, FHWA responded that because the final rule does not impact funding levels, the agency “cannot regulate a set-aside for future MD/HD charging infrastructure.”

Also not addressed in the regulation was ensuring coordination of charging with required off-duty breaks for long-haul truckers, as outlined by the American Trucking Associations.

“Many future electric commercial vehicle drivers may use an interstate charging network to take their required off-duty breaks,” ATA wrote in comments submitted to the NPRM. “Operators may choose EV models that meet their range and operational requirements for battery recharging. ATA recommends the FHWA consider HOS [hour-of-service] limitations as electric trucks become more commercially viable in a wider variety of applications.”

ATA also recommended the regulation should consider dwell-time needs for truckers and ensure that fees do not penalize trucks for the longer dwell times it may take for charging trucks.

No standard charging connectors for trucks

FHWA was also asked to include a definition in the final rule for a Megawatt Charging System (MCS), which is anticipated to serve as the industry standard connector for charging heavy-duty trucks.

“This final rule does not preclude the use of MCS,” the agency said. “However, since the industry standard … has not yet been finalized, FHWA has intentionally not revised this final rule to incorporate MCS in an effort to not inadvertently create restrictions on these emerging technologies at this time.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.