NREL Moves EV Charging, Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure Ahead

May 05, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

Four projects aiming to expand electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure across the U.S. move forward with assistance from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been selected to assist four regional projects that will add electric charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles across the United States. NREL will contribute its vehicle and infrastructure data and other analysis tools to help with network planning, site design, and energy requirements. 


future highway charging site

This image from National Grid’s Electric Highways Study depicts a future highway charging site incorporating fast charging for light-duty EVs (1) and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (2), and access to high-voltage electric transmission systems (3). Image used courtesy of National Grid


Targeting the most heavily trafficked corridors, the four infrastructure projects were among seven in February 2023 to receive $7.4 million in federal funds as part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plan to build a network of 500,000 EV chargers.  

The partnership comes as more medium- and heavy-duty trucking providers and other market segments are switching to battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell models, including trucks, cement mixers, delivery fleets, transit buses, and other high-weight vehicles. So arises the growing demand for alternative fueling infrastructure. 


EV Charging, Hydrogen Refueling Needs

Most of America’s EV charging infrastructure serves light-duty cars, though some stations can juice up medium-duty vehicles overnight. According to 2022 data from the DOE, around 53,500 charging sites and 72 hydrogen fueling stations are in operation nationwide, including both public- and private-run facilities. And as of this writing (April 28, 2023), the country has 135,741 public electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) ports. 


Designated electric vehicle charging corridors

Designated electric vehicle charging corridors across America’s highway networks. Image used courtesy of the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center


The U.S. Department of Transportation and the DOE are working to build a national network of highway system corridors for alternative fueling. To qualify as such a corridor, public charging stations must be 1 mile from a highway with 50 miles between sites and only direct-current fast-charging stations with at least four EVSE ports with CCS connectors, each supporting a power output of at least 150 kilowatts. 

The hydrogen corridor designation requires 150 miles between stations and is limited to retail stations that accept payment at the point of sale. 


Map of hydrogen refueling corridors

Map of hydrogen refueling corridors. Image used courtesy of the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center


The four projects receiving NREL assistance will expand these corridors by adding new stations along the East Coast, Midwest, New England, and Utah’s Salt Lake City. They received over $1 million each as part of the DOE funding allocation earlier this year. 

Following are mini-profiles of the projects. 


East Coast Charging & Hydrogen Corridor from Georgia to New Jersey

California-based nonprofit CALSTART received $1.25 million from the DOE earlier this year to build an East Coast commercial zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) corridor along Interstate 95, stretching from Georgia to New Jersey. The project will assess goods movement, energy demands, and relevant funding needs for charging and hydrogen refueling sites. 

NREL will contribute its EVI-X suite of EV charging infrastructure analysis tools to help with network planning and site design. The suite covers several data points, including charging demand modeling, infrastructure analysis based on daily and long-distance travel, operational and economic analysis for fleets, and more. 

The project has a lineup of corporate and nonprofit partners, including Virginia-based power company Dominion Energy, Chicago-based electric utility Exelon, and local Clean Cities chapters along the East Coast. 


Adding Charging & Hydrogen Fueling Stations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio

Indiana-based engine maker Cummins received a $1.25 million award for medium- and heavy-duty ZEV infrastructure planning, focusing on the I-80 Midwest corridor spanning its home state, Illinois, and Ohio. In its announcement last February, Cummins noted the project would develop a two-phase charging and hydrogen fueling plan in under two years. It aims to support 30% of the medium- to heavy-duty fleet expected to use ZEV models by 2035, serving millions of drivers in 23 states. 

The NREL will supply its Fleet DNA data clearinghouse to provide information on vehicle duty cycles alongside its EVI-X modeling suite and H2FAST hydrogen analysis tools, covering relevant infrastructure requirements. NREL will also contribute its expertise in grid interconnection and EV charging analysis at strategic charging and refueling sites, such as truck stops. 

Other partners on the project include CALSTART, truck stop chain Pilot Travel Centers, the Indiana Motor Truck Association, and public agencies. 


Hydrogen fueling

Hydrogen fueling. Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock

USU Project in Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Front

Utah State University was awarded $1.22 million in DOE funding for its Wasatch Front electric corridor plan in the greater Salt Lake City area. The project aims to improve air quality in communities impacted by high-density traffic along the Wasatch Mountain Range. 

Results from a few pilot projects funded by the State of Utah and Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility Rocky Mountain Power will be used to inform this effort, including wired and wireless charging projects for trucks, one with Switzerland-based Stadler to build a battery-electric train, and one involving multi-modal charge management tools. 

NREL will lend its operational data on commercial vehicle duty cycles, EV charging, grid interconnection analysis, and hydrogen infrastructure requirements via its EVI-X and H2FAST analysis tools. 


New England Freight Corridors

National Grid U.S., an electric and natural gas utility serving the Northeast, received $1 million from the DOE to plan electric freight corridors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. The NREL will assist in developing a model of truck operations along New England’s freight corridors and will then use the data to simulate future electric truck operations, locations, and expected energy usage. 

As with other projects mentioned above, the researchers will use NREL’s EVI-X modeling platform and other tools to gauge the cost-effective deployment of large-scale EV charging. NREL will share that data with National Grid to expand its grid infrastructure. 


National Grid’s 2022 Electric Highways Study

National Grid’s 2022 Electric Highways Study, estimating charging demands across 71 sites spanning New York and Massachusetts. Image used courtesy of National Grid


This project is an expansion of National Grid’s earlier Electric Highways Study, published in November 2022, which examined fast-charging needs for 71 highway sites in New York and Massachusetts. The study found that on the busiest hours of the year, highway-fast charging can require the same level of electricity as a sports stadium, factoring in demand from heavy-duty vehicles across private and public fleets.