When people stop by a Waffle House in Lakeland, Tennessee, in the near future, they’ll see a new addition to the restaurant’s parking lot: four fast electric-vehicle chargers.
EV charging company EnviroSpark announced that it’s building EV chargers at that Waffle House with the help of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding from the state’s Department of Transportation.
That program provides federal funding to states in order to build up the nation’s EV charging network. According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the state needs 31 fast EV chargers in order to fill gaps along its highways and interstates. Tennessee recently announced its first round of NEVI funding, allocating $21 million for projects led by 10 companies that will create 30 new, fast EV charging stations across the state. (The Waffle House installation, located on U.S. Highway 64, will cost more than $880,000 for the four chargers.)
The EV charger project at Waffle House is the only one of those funded to bring chargers to a restaurant parking lot. Other projects will add EV chargers to gas stations, convenience stores, and truck stops.
NEVI funding, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, comes with a few requirements for the EV charging stations. Along with rules around the chargers’ power levels and payment methods, they must be available 24 hours a day, year-round. Also, states are encouraged to place these chargers at locations with restroom access, sheltered seating, and food and drink options. As a chain, Waffle House is famous for being open 24 hours and never closing (unless during an extreme natural disaster—a measurement known as the “Waffle House Index”), and so it makes for a fitting location for EV charging access.
By 2030, EVs could make up more than 60% of vehicles sold—totaling, by some estimates, 26 million electric cars on U.S. roads. That influx means we’ll need access to many more public EV chargers. Businesses, including Starbucks and Ikea, have been installing fast EV chargers to meet that demand and help their customers cut emissions.
The federal government, though, is primarily concerned with providing EV charging along major highways to support long-distance road trips. Though the EV projects announced by Tennessee total $21 million, that’s not the end of the state’s EV funding: NEVI has allocated $88 million in federal funding for Tennessee over five years. Across the country, NEVI will give $5 billion to EV chargers on major highways as part of the Biden administration’s effort to build a public network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030.