The U.S. government owns about 1,100 charging stations. It may need more than 100,000 charging stations to support widespread EV use in the next decade, according to testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday.
The testimony, which was first reported by Reuters, mainly delved into the U.S. Postal Service’s efforts to transition its fleet to EVs and federal fleet transition issues. GAO found that federal agencies like USPS held certain incorrect assumptions about the cost and benefits of using gas versus electric vehicles, namely that USPS used gas prices that are about $2 per gallon less than the current national average in its estimates, and assumed maintenance and acquisition costs that are higher than the reality.
GAO has identified charging infrastructure costs and installation as a key challenge to acquiring EVs for federal fleets.
Last month, President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled a plan to award nearly $5 billion over the next five years to build thousands of EV charging stations. The plan, which falls under Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, is the first tranche of a total $7.5 billion approved by Congress in November to be used for funding 500,000 EV charging stations.
Biden also signed an executive order in December that would see the government ending purchases of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. The order said light-duty vehicles purchased by the government will be emission-free by 2027. It’s important to note, though, that the White House’s definition of emission-free includes plug-in hybrids, so maybe someone should tell them that hybrid cars are still gas powered?
Despite these lofty goals, few moves have been made yet toward electrifying America’s government fleets. The General Services Administration (GSA) said that as of March 10, federal agencies have only ordered an additional 1,854 zero-emission vehicles since its prior report.
The U.S. government usually purchases about 50,000 vehicles annually. The federal fleet currently has about 657,000 cars, SUVs and trucks, out of which less than 1% are currently electric, according to GSA data.
The Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program offers technical support to federal agencies looking to buy EVs and install EV supply equipment (EVSE), which can be purchased at a discount through the GSA EVSE blanket purchase agreement. GSA negotiates discounted prices for many EV models. Last year, GSA was able to secure Chevy Bolts for almost $10,000 below market price. That said, the only other pure electric vehicle available last year under GSA’s scheme, the Nissan Leaf, is offered at a discount of around $1,000.
Correction: A previous version of this article included a typo that said Congress awarded $7.5 million to fund EV chargers. The number is actually $7.5 billion.