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State boosting EV charging with another $50 million

To meet its climate goals, the state hopes to convince almost 1 million drivers, or about 20 percent of all registered vehicles, to shift to electric by 2030.Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Massachusetts electric vehicle drivers hankering for more places to charge are getting additional help from the state.

State officials announced plans on Wednesday to deploy $50 million from federal COVID relief funds to build more chargers for urban residents who park on the street, as well as for state-owned vehicles, commercial fleet owners, and ride-sharing drivers.

“State and rideshare vehicles contribute a disproportionate amount of transportation emissions, so by investing in the electrification of these vehicles, we can have a much more cost effective impact on emissions,” Governor Maura Healey said in a statement.

Healey has been promising to improve EV charging this year. “This is an area where we need to do more, we’re focused on doing more,” she said at an event in Newton on Jan. 25. “We’ve got to make it easier for people to use electric vehicles. That includes making sure we have charging stations in as many places [as necessary]. We’re not where we need to be.”

To meet its climate goals, the state hopes to convince almost 1 million drivers, or about 20 percent of all registered vehicles, to shift to electric by 2030. But many people and businesses worry that they won’t be able to charge EVs, especially in urban areas. Only 15 percent of drivers considering buying an EV think current charging networks are adequate, while 80 percent see the networks as insufficient, according to a survey by McKinsey & Co. released last month.

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Massachusetts currently has 714 public DC fast chargers, capable of adding several hundred miles of range to a typical EV battery per hour, according to data from the US Department of Energy. The state also has 6,187 slower public chargers known as level 2, which add 15 to 30 miles per hour.

The largest portion of the money, $12.5 million, will go to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a quasi-public agency, to assist cities and towns with curbside charging efforts. About one-third of Massachusetts drivers don’t have access to a garage or dedicated parking spot.

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“We’re excited — curbside charging is a city and state issue,” said Eric Bourassa, transportation director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which represents 101 cities and towns. In addition to directly paying for new chargers in some places, the money will help many towns with technical support and best practices to win other state, federal, and utility program grants, he said. “The problem it’s addressing is a lack of [staff] capacity at the local level.”

Another $9.5 million will go to MassCEC to add chargers for commercial medium-size and heavy-duty trucks and vans.

Some 60 state facilities that garage state-owned vehicles will get $9.5 million for adding charging, with another $1.5 million for lower-priority sites beyond the top 60 sites. Chargers for Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers will get $8 million. And an equal amount will go to study and fund a handful of demonstration products about using EV batteries to send power back to the electrical grid at times of high demand. The state’s Division of Standards, which tests gas pumps, will get about $600,000 for equipment to test EV charging stations. And about $400,000 will be used to study future charging needs.

The new funding will be in addition to the $60 million that the state is getting over five years for building chargers along major highways under the national Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. The state’s utilities are also spending $400 million to improve EV charging.

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The legislature allocated the $50 million to the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Coordinating Council in the 2022 climate law using unspent funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The council spent most of last year conducting an assessment of the state of EV charging in the state, as required by the climate law, before turning its attention to spending the $50 million.

Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him @ampressman.