Waffle House hosts federal EV fast-chargers, bucks gas-station trend

The first new EV charging site in Tennessee funded through the Biden administration’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program bucks the trend of co-locating chargers with gas pumps.

Installed by Atlanta-based charging infrastructure firm EnviroSpark, the new chargers are being hosted by a Waffle House restaurant in Lakeland, Tennessee. Of the NEVI-funded sites in the state, this is the only restaurant project and one of only two not located at a gas station or convenience store, according to an EnviroSpark press release.

Porsche Taycan charging

Porsche Taycan charging

Tennessee documents show this location as costing $889,144, with $702,423 of it covered by the federal government. Construction is scheduled to start later this year. Tennessee’s initial grant awarded contracts for 30 new locations throughout the state, covering $21 million in federal funds.

The location may not be the first NEVI station that’s at a Waffle House. And as Inside Climate News pointed out, the first NEVI station in the nation is “two doors down from a Waffle House” in Ohio. But any restaurant location is noteworthy—especially one at which the coffee’s always on.

NEVI rules call for charging stations along major corridors to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While Waffle House meets that requirement, it’s more likely that many more gas stations will be open 24/7 rather than other restaurants.

7-Eleven 7Charge EV fast-charging station

7-Eleven 7Charge EV fast-charging station

Another option is convenience stores, which have been pitching their locations as a way to bring EV charging to rural America. The 7-Eleven chain even announced its own charging network last year.

That said, multiple projects envisioning the road-trip charging of the future arrive at something that looks more like a roadside rest-stop—including a restaurant or diner, lounge areas, and more.

For now, it appears it’s simply easier to meet the federal template with gas stations than diners. But whether or not that was the intent may be up to officials to clarify as the program moves along.

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