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Massachusetts moves to add more EV charging on highways, but not from Tesla

An EV charger at the Natick rest stop on the Mass. Pike.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Massachusetts on Friday named three companies to start building dozens of federally subsidized EV charging stations along the state’s major highways. But uncertainty at Tesla, the leading charging station builder in the state and the country, is keeping the company on the sidelines for now.

To start, the state’s EV station building team will be Applegreen and Global Partners, which both operate gas stations and convenience stores statewide, as well as construction and engineering firm Weston & Sampson, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said. The three will be able to draw on about $60 million of subsidies available to Massachusetts under the 2021 federal infrastructure law.

EV drivers in Massachusetts can already use more than 800 fast charging ports, capable of adding hundreds of miles of range to a vehicle’s battery in as little as 15 minutes. But with the state aiming to have almost one million EVs on the roads by 2030 to meet its climate goals, thousands more chargers are needed.

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Other states have moved much more quickly to build charging stations with the federal subsidies, including Maine, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which already have some up and running.

Tesla was in talks with Massachusetts last month to be included in the subsidized charging station effort under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program created by the infrastructure law. But at the end of April, Elon Musk laid off the company’s entire charging station team and its leader, Rebecca Tinucci. That has thrown many of the company’s construction projects into chaos and led to pullbacks in other states. Tesla was the leading recipient in the country of subsidy funds under the program, according to research firm EVadoption.

Tesla applied for the Massachusetts highway subsidy program and was initially selected to be included. But after the sudden layoffs, Tesla has not “decided if they as a company wanted to continue or not,” Hayes Morrison, the state’s undersecretary of transportation, said in an interview. “But they still could.”


With a stock market value of more than $500 billion and annual operating cash flow of $13 billion last year, Tesla would be the station builder with the most resources by far compared to the other three companies selected by the state. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The next step in the process will require the three participating companies to select sites and submit plans to MassDOT. Once plans are approved, building stations can take anywhere from six months to two years.

The NEVI program requires that EV fast charging stations be built with at least four chargers every 50 miles or less along major highways. In Massachusetts, qualifying roadways include Interstates 84, 93, 95, 395, and 495, US Routes 3 and 6, and state highways 2 and 24, according to the state’s 2022 plan filed with the Federal Highway Administration. The Massachusetts Turnpike, which predates the federal highway system, does not qualify for funds under the program, however, the state has said.

The 2022 plan estimated the subsidies could fund more than 90 fast charging ports at 10 to 18 locations to fill in all gaps of 50 miles along major highways. Federal funds can cover up to 80 percent of charger costs, and leftover money after all of the 50-mile gaps are covered could go towards operating and maintenance expenses or building more chargers, the plan said.


A MassDOT official said in November that the state planned to prioritize Route 2 and Interstates 91, 495, and 195 as the areas most in need of additional charging. But now the state is planning to rely on the three selected firms to decide where to build stations, undersecretary Morrison said.

“Sites are selected and prioritized based on competitiveness, financial sustainability, reliability, and equity,” she said. “The sites, as long as they meet our criteria, ... then they are pre-approved.”

Critics have said the state’s process is overly complicated and, since it is working with just a handful of companies, could be more costly and slower than other states.

“Bidding for individual sites allows for more competition,” EVgo chief executive Badar Khan said in an interview. The charging company has been selected to build more than 50 NEVI-funded stations in other states but was not selected in Massachusetts. “I’m not completely sure why Massachusetts has gone the direction it has,” he said.

MassDOT’s Morrison said her agency’s goal was to build stations more quickly by not having to negotiate separate state contracts with too many builders. “We like to refer to it as front loading the work,” she said. “We are much closer to breaking ground at kind of the end of a process than it may seem.”

Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him @ampressman.