The Biden administration said on Thursday that it would require states to submit proposals to line highways with electric vehicle chargers, part of a $5 billion plan to fill a gap in the infrastructure needed to support booming sales of battery-powered cars.
Electric vehicles have been surging in popularity, accounting for almost 9 percent of new cars sold worldwide last year. But America lags Europe in the number of places where an owner of a battery-powered vehicle can recharge.
On Thursday, administration officials detailed how they aimed to address the deficit using $5 billion that Congress allocated as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Biden in November.
That money, to be spent over five years, will not nearly be enough to build the charging network that experts says is needed to serve the growing fleet of electric vehicles. But administration officials hope the plan will act as a catalyst, encouraging utilities and private operators to build additional chargers.
The administration outlined a relatively speedy timetable for deploying an initial installment of $615 million. All 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, would be required to submit plans by the beginning of August, at the latest, explaining how they would install high-voltage chargers along or very close to major highways.
The chargers must be no more than 50 miles apart, and states are encouraged to place them at rest areas or other places with food and other services. Federal officials must decide by the end of September whether to approve the states’ plans.
Later, the administration plans to spend another $2.5 billion on chargers in rural areas or other communities where private sector operators may be less inclined to invest.
The money “will help us win the E.V. race by working with states, labor and the private sector to deploy a historic nationwide charging network that will make E.V. charging accessible for more Americans,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
Administration officials billed the interstate charger plan as a way to create jobs for electricians and other workers. Mr. Biden has been portraying the switch to electric vehicles as part of his effort to revive manufacturing in the United States. One fear is that, because electric vehicles require far fewer workers to build, they could lead to job losses at auto manufacturers and suppliers.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden appeared at the White House with Jane Hunter, the chief executive of Tritium, an Australian manufacturer of charging equipment that announced plans to build a factory in Lebanon, Tenn., that would employ 500 people.
“We’re seeing the beginnings of an American manufacturing comeback,” Mr. Biden said at the event.