This is part two of a three part series on the development of EVs and their supporting infrastructure in the United States.
It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In terms of the transition away from internal combustion engines towards electric vehicles, charging stations are the said “weakest link.” As essential as gas stations used by their ICE counterparts, EV charging stations are a fast developing but greatly lagging piece of the EV adoption puzzle in the United States. According to the White House in February, there are currently about 130,000 charging stations across the country which service three million or so EVs. Five years ago, the number was a little over half of that. While growing steadily for the last 10 years, the need for car charging stations is on the cusp of an explosion. The Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) actively encourages and incentivizes the mass adoption of both light EVs and medium/heavy duty commercial EVs, which will require significantly more powerful and larger charging stations. If the US is to expect tens of millions of new light EVs, medium duty EVs, and heavy duty EVs to hit the road by 2030, substantial steps need to be taken to make sure that there are enough charging stations to meet the massive demand.
The first step will be to provide funding for companies to build the required number of charging stations to meet this demand. S&P Global, a NYC based financial analytics company, estimates that by 2027, the United States will need 1.2 million level 2 chargers and 109,000 level 3 chargers to meet the EV electricity demands. This is a stark increase from current capabilities, and at an estimated need of a 10 to 1 ratio of EVs to charging stations, it will take quite some time to reach these goals. Fortunately however, the Biden administration just this past week announced that over $2.5 billion in funding will be made available to local, city, and county governments for the express purpose of building more EV charging stations and expanding the availability of chargers to underserved areas. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in the White House press release that “extending EV charging infrastructure into traditionally underserved areas will ensure that equitable and widespread EV adoption takes hold,” and will ensure “that charging stations more visible and accessible in our communities addresses the concerns many American drivers have when considering making the switch to electric.” So already, steps are being taken in the right direction to meet infrastructure demands.
The second step for EV charging will be to fix the chronic reliability issues that plague the current charging network. According to a J.D. Power study and recently reported by Automotive News, between Q1 2021 and Q3 2022, failed charging attempts rose from 15% to 21%, and in the last year, nearly 2 in 5 charging attempts were unsuccessful. If the average American is expecting to be able to rely upon an EV to get them from point A to point B, a near 40% failure rate to “refuel” their car will not be sustainable. Reasons for these failures can include out of service chargers, vandalism, software problems, and payment processing issues. These errors are partially caused by the volume of traffic received by each station, with some stations having nearly no downtime at all because of availability issues. This creates a vicious cycle in which there are not enough charging stations, so the ones that do exist are strained to the point where they break, therefore causing less charging stations to be available overall, and so on. To fix the overall problem, some of the resources dedicated to building the new charging stations need to be used to shore up the already existing charging infrastructure dotting the US.
The EV charging station situation is not optimal or perfect by any means, but when a revolutionary new technology enters the market, there are always bound to be some bumps along the road towards implementation. Continued investment from private companies and at all levels of government will be required to fix the problems outlined above, but fortunately great funding and emphasis is already being put into this widely acknowledged problem. The goal of the US government is to create a seamless transition to EVs in which charging a car has the same level of convenience as filling a car up at a gas station, and by dedicating a combined total of $7.5 billion to doing so, it shows that the necessary funding and support exist to make it a reality. Stay tuned in two weeks for Part 3 of AMA’s story on the development of EV infrastructure in the United States.
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