WASHINGTON — Federal funding to support a national electric vehicle charging network has prompted Flo to hasten its EV charger manufacturing and deployment strategy in the U.S.
The North American EV charging company entered the U.S. market in 2018, but federal assistance from the bipartisan infrastructure law signed in 2021 and last year’s Inflation Reduction Act have encouraged the Canadian company to more quickly invest and scale up production here, said CEO Louis Tremblay, who called the laws’ EV-related provisions “critically complementary.”
“It’s definitely sped up our need to have U.S. manufacturing,” Tremblay said during an interview here on Tuesday. “We see the U.S. as the biggest North American market.”
Flo, which has a head office in Quebec City, launched production at its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Auburn Hills, Mich., a Detroit suburb, late last year. The company plans to make 250,000 EV chargers by 2028 for the U.S. market.
Requirements, such as reliability standards, for EV charging stations that are built using federal funds provided through the infrastructure law are aligned with the company’s values, Tremblay told Automotive News.
“We see that as a big opportunity for us to keep growing in the U.S. market,” he said.
The company also supports a $2.5 billion funding program to strategically deploy publicly accessible alternative fueling infrastructure such as EV chargers along designated highways, interstates and major roadways as well as in downtown areas and neighborhoods, particularly in underserved and disadvantaged communities.
The discretionary grant program was created by the infrastructure law and provides the multibillion-dollar funding over five years to eligible applicants including states, cities, local agencies and tribal groups.
The Biden administration opened applications for the program Tuesday with up to $700 million available in this first round of funding. The program is designed to fill in EV charging gaps and builds on an additional $5 billion provided to states over the next five years through the law’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program to achieve President Joe Biden’s vision of a cross-country road trip that is compatible with EVs.
“This grant program will play a very important role in helping to expand charging infrastructure access beyond just the highways, and that’s critical if we’re going to build a sustainable electric transportation ecosystem,” said Travis Allan, Flo’s chief legal and public affairs officer.
“We need to make sure that we’re meeting every community where they’re at and providing access in a way that is equitable, affordable and also reliable,” he added. “We think that this funding program is going to deliver on a lot of those items.”
EV chargers constructed with funds from both programs must adhere to minimum standards finalized by the Federal Highway Administration last month.
Those standards, in part, require federally funded charging stations to have at least four 150-kilowatt direct current fast-charging ports capable of simultaneously charging four EVs. The standards also require real-time information on station location, availability and pricing that is publicly accessible through mapping applications.
Each charging port, too, must have an average annual uptime greater than 97 percent, according to the finalized rules.
“The incorporation of a clear uptime requirement is a huge win for EV drivers because it creates a basic standard of assessing performance on one of the most important quality aspects of delivering EV charging services,” said Allan, noting that Flo’s chargers boast a minimum uptime of 98 percent.
All EV chargers funded through the infrastructure law also must be built in the U.S., and any iron or steel charger enclosures or housing must be made domestically, effective immediately. By July 2024, 55 percent of the chargers’ overall cost must come from American-made components.
Flo actively provided feedback to administration officials drafting the minimum standards and “Buy America” rules, according to Daniel Bloom, the company’s U.S. public affairs manager for the Eastern region.
“We were very pleased to see that the Federal Highway Administration incorporated a substantial amount of our feedback,” Bloom said.
The company said its new charger, Flo Ultra, will satisfy requirements under the minimum standards and Buy America provisions when it launches in 2024.
“Our focus as a company has always been on the long term,” said Allan.
“We’re not just putting dots on a map. We’re actively focused on keeping those charging stations going for the intended duration of the product.”