Leveraging Public Funding to Bring Charging to your Community
Building on the growing support for EV adoption and expanding charging infrastructure in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Transportation formally issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program (CFI) on March 14. As part of this funding opportunity, the CFI program will competitively award up to $700 million in federal grants to eligible public entities for the installation of public EV charging and alternative fueling stations.
What is the CFI program?
Created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the $2.5 billion CFI program will provide federal grant funding for EV charging and alternative fueling infrastructure. Unlike the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program, which is administered by state departments of transportation (DOTs), CFI grants will be awarded directly by the U.S. DOT on a competitive basis. Eligible applicants include public entities like cities, states, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), tribal governments or other public authorities with transportation functions, such as port authorities.
The first round of this funding program is now open for applications and closes on May 30, 2023.
Update: The application window for the first round of funding has been extended and now closes on June 13.
What types of projects are eligible for CFI funding?
One of the unique features of the CFI program is that funding is split equally between the CFI community program and CFI corridor program, with $350 million allocated to each.
The community program intends to support the expansion of public charging infrastructure in the areas where people live and work. Eligible locations include public facilities like libraries or parks, as well as privately managed parking facilities such as grocery stores or shopping centers. Under the community program, recipients may (but are not required to) partner with private entities for acquisition, installation, and/or operation of charging equipment. Projects can include either DC fast charging or Level 2 chargers.
The community program prioritizes projects that expand charging infrastructure in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, or communities with minimal access to private parking or a high share of multifamily housing.
Similar to the $5 billion NEVI formula program, the corridor charging program aims to supplement the buildout of publicly accessible charging infrastructure along designated interstate highway corridors. You can read more about the NEVI program in EVgo’s recent blog.
Unlike the community charging program, corridor program projects can be within 5 miles of a highway, as opposed to the 1 mile required by NEVI. Evaluation criteria for both community and corridor projects emphasize environmental justice considerations, safety, community engagement, workforce development, and equity.
A key facet of both programs is that they enable eligible applicants within the public sector to partner with experienced charging networks like EVgo to install, own, operate and maintain the charging infrastructure. These mutually beneficial public private partnerships are being pursued across the country in the NEVI program and can provide similar benefits to you as you apply for CFI funding.
Best Practices for CFI Applicants
The CFI program provides many unique opportunities and approaches for public entities seeking to deploy charging infrastructure. Given the range of potential project types, developing a successful CFI application will require significant planning and coordination. Prospective applicants will need to consider not only potential project locations and charging solutions, but also factors like traffic safety, equitable access to charging, and future scalability. Given the short window of time available to prepare and submit the required materials by the May 31 deadline, the following best practices can help applicants develop successful, well-targeted proposals.
1. Right-size Projects
Eligible projects under the community charging program cover a broad mix of use cases and geographies. When developing proposals, applicants may be considering whether to focus on Level 2 or DC fast charging. Applicants can right-size projects by considering intended use cases for charging and defining clear project goals.
Level 2 charging can be an appropriate fit for locations where visitors spend a considerable amount of time, such as workplaces or residential garages, as well as public facilities like libraries, parks, and schools. High-traffic locations with lower dwell times, like grocery stores and shopping centers are typically better suited for DC fast charging.
Providing convenient public fast charging will be particularly important for projects intending to serve residents without access to home parking. A study of EV charging data from the University of California, Los Angeles found that residents of multifamily housing units rely largely on public infrastructure for their charging needs.
2. Be Flexible and Coordinate with External Stakeholders
While project goals and use cases are important considerations in developing well-tailored proposals, it is best to avoid being overly prescriptive as many factors inform the exact location, design, and power levels for a given site. Trusted experts like EVgo can help determine the appropriate power capacity, projected utilization, and physical site characteristics or constraints. Allowing flexibility to fine-tune siting and technical specifications will ensure that projects are not only feasible, but also meet their intended purpose.
For example, project proposals can identify broad geographic target areas or preferences (i.e., proximity to existing multifamily housing or desired site amenities) rather than limiting scope to strict boundaries or specific parcels. For projects intending to develop charging on publicly owned facilities, applicants can consider a portfolio of candidate sites that can be further evaluated based on feasibility. Early proactive engagement with the private sector can help applicants vet ideas and solicit technical expertise on site development and network planning.
3. Utilize Competitive Solicitations to Select Contractors
DC fast charging programs are typically competitively bid—a best practice in and of itself. To date, all released solicitations for the NEVI program will select private sector partners on a competitive basis. Recipients of CFI grants should continue this practice, and include an explicit, points-based score card to evaluate applications. By prioritizing private partners with demonstrated qualifications, experience and cost effectiveness, administrators can ensure the project is completed on time and on budget.
4. Take an Incremental Approach to Jumpstart the Market
By issuing or only applying for a small amount of CFI funds in the first round of the program, communities can address their immediate charging needs and incorporate learnings into future rounds. For example, increased multifamily developments in a community or fleet electrification could alter charging needs in the next five years.
Upon award, localities may consider distributing CFI funding for projects using an RFP process that includes a scoring mechanism that captures the desired outcomes identified in their CFI application. These factors may include expanding access to multifamily residents, site amenities, and location or proximity to targeted communities. This approach can ensure that CFI applications have a clearly identified set of goals and outcomes while providing flexibility in identifying specific sites or selecting private partners.
When you’re ready to apply for CFI or other public funding, EVgo is here to help. Email our team of experts at firstname.lastname@example.org to help build your proposal. You can also find additional best practices on program design by visiting our Connect the Watts program page.