Charge Up Your EV Infrastructure: Funding to Electrify the Campus

By Greg Gustafson

The Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution is upon us. A recent analysis by EY found that EV sales will outpace all other engines three years sooner than expected. This demand will be further driven by the Inflation Reduction Act with new incentives to encourage domestic EV production and ownership. Campuses need to be ready with convenient access to fast and reliable charging stations to support students, staff, guests, and electrified fleets.

Nonetheless, the installation and management of the charging infrastructure calls for careful and strategic planning. It also requires investment. Many campuses face headwinds due to limited funding, strained resources and aging infrastructure. The good news is that there are a number of federal funding sources and incentives to accelerate the build-out of EV charging stations.

Potential Funding Sources

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is a groundbreaking legislative bill offering a variety of funding opportunities. Through grants and other finance programs, the legislation seeks to establish a national network to accelerate adoption of EVs, reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and position U.S. industries for global leadership in electrification efforts. The BIL includes up to $2.5 billion of support for a

Discretionary Grant Program for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure.

Some of the programs and grants now available to help fund EV activities include:

  • The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI), which provides funding to States to strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and to establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability.
  • The Low-No Emissions Grants Program for Transit, which offers funding to State and Local authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities.
  • The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program, that seeks to strategically deploy publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling infrastructure in along Alternative Fuel corridors and in community locations such as parking facilities, public schools, public parks, or along public roads.
  • The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over the period of FY 2022-2026 to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. The EPA is authorized to provide funds to cover up to 100 percent of the costs of the replacement bus, as well as provide funding for charging infrastructure.

Each of these programs and grants have unique eligibility, deadlines and submission requirements that must be reviewed and managed carefully.

Finding the Right Partner

For public universities looking for an EV expansion (or first-time installation), teaming up with companies that can work with many suppliers is crucial. This collaboration ensures that everything related to the charging stations fits together well. Some suppliers might not be willing or able to work together, but a compatible partner ensures smooth teamwork. Since EV charging varies, it's important to match vehicle types and fleet operations with the right charging station.

Different fleets can require chargers from different vendors, so using open software protocols helps them communicate effectively. A partner with links to various charger makers offers better overall value, performance, and future readiness for the fleet. Also, having good service and support is vital for the ongoing success of the charging project. Partnering with a national company that has experts in different platforms safeguards the project's success.

An experienced partner can also help create a holistic electrification strategy. By combining EV charging stations with innovations in solar and energy storage, campuses can reduce energy spend, stabilize electricity costs, and create new revenue streams.

A More Collaborative Approach

Collaborative efforts through cooperative contracts are becoming popular among public universities aiming to obtain EV charging stations. This approach aims to simplify the procurement process, addressing the time-consuming nature of the site-specific request for proposal (RFP) process. Cooperative contracts offer the advantage of expediting this process significantly. Several states have their own procurement agencies that support EV charging equipment, making it easier to include them in these contracts. Additionally, various cooperative purchasing groups are available for both government and non-profit organizations. However, it's important to note that pricing complexity can arise, particularly for requirements beyond level II chargers.

Federal funding has made the acquisition of charging stations more affordable for higher education campuses. To expedite the acquisition of campus charging infrastructure, an experienced partner adept at maneuvering through intricate requisites, mediating among diverse vendors, and optimizing funding incentives can be a strategic asset.

Greg Gustafson is a Senior Business Development Manager with ABM eMobility & Electrical Infrastructure.  He develops and delivers turnkey solutions for the full spectrum of eMobility needs, from future-proofing infrastructure design to upgrading parking and transportation program.  He has over a decade of experience in power distribution, storage, sustainability, and eMobility solutions.