US Senate Votes to Reject ‘Buy America’ EV Charging Waiver

US Senate Votes to Reject ‘Buy America’ EV Charging Waiver – The U.S. Senate, with a vote of 50-48, opposed President Joe Biden’s move to waive certain “Buy America” rules for government-backed electric vehicle charging stations. However, the White House stated that President Biden intends to veto the measure, contending that the Republican bill would completely remove the domestic manufacturing mandate for government-funded EV chargers, potentially causing harm to domestic manufacturing and American jobs.

Senators Sherrod Brown, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and independent Kyrsten Sinema, along with Republicans, voted against the regulation. In February, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) granted a waiver on certain requirements until July 2024, citing the need to facilitate the immediate progression of “EV charger acquisition and installation.” 

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Congress has allocated $7.5 billion to support electric vehicle charging stations, a pivotal component of the Biden administration’s efforts to boost electric vehicle sales. The White House stated that the legislation aiming to revoke the waiver would also reverse the FHWA’s choice to extend Buy America regulations to EV chargers. 

This implies that the exemption from Buy America requirements for EV chargers, established during the 1983 Reagan administration, would be reinstated, leaving EV chargers without Buy America coverage, according to the White House. Republican Senator Marco Rubio countered this, asserting that the administration could independently nullify the 1983 decision whenever it chooses. 

Rubio said the waiver would allow government funds to “go into the hands of Chinese companies to build electric vehicle charging stations.” According to the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, infrastructure projects such as EV chargers must source a minimum of 55% of construction materials, including iron and steel, from domestic and U.S. manufacturers. 

The 55% requirement won’t be enforced until July 2024, and EV chargers manufactured by then can secure funding if their installation begins by October 2024. Essential components of EV chargers, such as the internal structural frame, heating and cooling fans, and the power transformer, rely on iron and steel. Chargers with cabinets containing the product may require even more steel, constituting up to 50% of the total charger cost in some instances.

States and corporations in the U.S. are cautioning that the worldwide demand for EV chargers is placing immense pressure on the supply chain, creating challenges in meeting made-in-America standards and impeding the prompt construction of new chargers. This strain on the supply chain is raising concerns about potential delays in the expansion of charging infrastructure, which is critical for supporting the growing adoption of electric vehicles.

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The increasing demand for EV chargers, coupled with supply chain constraints, underscores the need for strategic planning and collaborative efforts to overcome these challenges and ensure the efficient deployment of charging stations across the country. Addressing these issues becomes imperative for sustaining the momentum in the transition to electric vehicles and achieving broader environmental and energy goals.

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