$56M grant sparks San Joaquin Valley EV infrastructure

Valley Air District, WattEV receive federal funding to build two electric vehicle charging stations equipped for heavy-duty vehicles along Interstate 5

With the $5.6 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is partnering with WattEV to construct two charging stations for high-power electric vehicles along the Interstate 5 corridor. (spiritofamerica on Adobe Stock)
With the $5.6 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is partnering with WattEV to construct two charging stations for high-power electric vehicles along the Interstate 5 corridor. (spiritofamerica on Adobe Stock)
Serena Bettis
Published January 23, 2024  • 
11:30 am

CENTRAL VALLEY – The Valley Air District has received a whopping $56 million from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to drive transformative infrastructure changes, aiming to combat air pollution caused by heavy-duty freight traffic in the vibrant heart of the San Joaquin Valley.

Announced by the FHWA on Jan. 11, the funding will go toward the construction of two charging stations for high-power electric vehicles (EVs) along the Interstate 5 corridor. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (Valley Air District) is partnering on the project with WattEV, a company based in Long Beach working to electrify freight transport.

“This influx of infrastructure funding is critical to support the ongoing effort to transition the heavy-duty transportation and goods movement sector in California to zero-emission and improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley,” the Valley Air District said in a Jan. 16 press release. 

The grant comes from the FHWA’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In a Jan. 11 press release, the FHWA said the CFI program is part of the Biden Administration’s goal to ensure electric vehicle drivers can charge their vehicles through a network across the country that is convenient, affordable and reliable. The administration hopes to have at least 500,000 publicly-available chargers by 2030. 

Electric vehicle infrastructure

The charging stations will be located off I-5, one in Kern County east of Taft near the interchange with Highway 119 and one in Merced County west of Gustine near the interchange with Highway 140. 

Heavy-duty and passenger vehicles will be able to access high-powered charging at both stations, and the project plans to include travel amenities for the public as well, including public bathrooms and a rest area.

According to a Jan. 17 press release from WattEV, the two I-5 charging stations will feature a total of 175 Combined Charging System (CCS) chargers and 17 Megawatt Charging System (MCS) chargers that can annually serve over 46,000 and 38,000 trucks, respectively. 

“WattEV is leading the industry in adoption of the new MCS charging standard, enabling rapid recharging at our depots for semi-trucks, with as much as 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes,” WattEV CEO Salim Youssefzadeh said in a press release. “We anticipate that the rollout of MCS charging will fundamentally shift the way that truck drives view the viability of electric trucks for longer freight routes.”

Combined, both sites will have 63 acres of solar panels and will integrate 5.5 megawatt hours of battery electric storage systems. WattEV said that “this strategic inclusion aims to ensure grid stability and optimize overall pricing for WattEV’s customers.”

The $56,008,096 grant is one of 10 awarded to projects in California through the CFI program; other projects awarded within the state further the development of EV charging infrastructure, both within individual communities and along transportation corridors. 

FHWA awarded just under $623 million to 47 projects across the country in this first round of funding. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated a total of $2.5 billion spread out over five years to the CFI program. 

Improving air quality

The Valley Air District said the I-5 corridor between Southern California and Northern California “is recognized as one of the nation’s busiest freight corridors,” and that 45% of all truck traffic in the state occurs in the San Joaquin Valley. 

By contributing to EV infrastructure on this busy route, the Valley Air District aims to encourage the transition to zero-emission vehicles throughout its eight-county jurisdiction of Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and portions of Kern counties.

“Overall, in the San Joaquin Valley, we know that our largest source of pollution that remains — that we’re trying to tackle — are mobile sources,” Heather Heinks, outreach and communications manager for the Valley Air District, said. “Knowing that, it’s incredibly critical that we continue to invest in cleaner alternatives when it comes to powering our vehicles.”

Heinks said that in order for drivers of both passenger and heavy-duty vehicles to make that change to cleaner alternatives, the infrastructure needs to be in place first. 

According to the Valley Air District, mobile sources are the single-largest source of multiple pollutants, including ozone- and particulate matter-forming nitrous oxides, toxic diesel particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions in the Valley.

“Reducing emissions from these mobile sources, including both heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles, is a critical component of the district’s overall strategy to attain stringent health-based federal air quality standards,” the air district said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter