The Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure That America Needs

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The U.S. Government aims to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions under the Net-Zero Emissions Operations by 2050 as part of the Federal Sustainability Plan to ensure a brighter and cleaner future. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 38% of the energy-related GHG emissions released in the US are caused by the transport sector and 33% by the electric power sector.

Figure 1: Division of GHG emissions by sector

One of the main objectives of the plan is to reduce GHG emissions by 2050. This would be done by lowering emissions caused by the transport sector via replacing gas vehicles with Electric Vehicles (EVs). To achieve this task the U.S. government is preparing a robust plan and an equally strong budget to retrofit the country with a suitable EV battery charging infrastructure to suit the EV charging needs of drivers in the future but is this plan enough?

Charging Infrastructure in the United States

Figure 2: Map of EV chargers in the U.S.

Before detailing the strong and weak points of the U.S. government plan to reduce GHG emissions by 2050, we will analyze the current electric car charging infrastructure of the country. Currently, the EV charge infrastructure has to fit the needs of 1.9 million EVs that can be found on U.S. roads, which represents roughly 0.67% of the 281 million vehicles in operation.

According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center of the U.S. Department of Energy, there are a little under 55,000 EV infrastructure charging stations located in key places around the country. Those charging stations fit 146,302 public EV charging ports distributed among them, fitting roughly 13 EVs for every 1 EV Service Equipment (EVSE). This is already slightly above the recommendation of the International Energy Agency (eia) of 10 EVs for every 1 charger.

The Outlook for EV-Charging Infrastructure in America

Figure 3: EV projection by 2050

If the U.S. government plans to meet its 2050 goals, it should be able to rapidly adapt and grow the EV charge point infrastructure of the country to fit enough EVSE to supply the growing demand for chargers. According to the goal set by President Biden, at least 50% of all new cars sold by 2030 should be electric, meaning that roughly 60% to 70% of all vehicles on the road will be EVs by 2050.

Engineers at the University of Toronto propose something even more challenging. According to the study published, to achieve the required GHG emission reduction and prevent going over the 2°C global warming, at least 90% of vehicles on the roads should be EVs by 2050, which would mean more than 350 million vehicles on the roads of the US in 2050. This means that to follow the current 13:1 EV to charger ratio, there would need to be a combination of public and private EV chargers amounting to at least 27 million EVSE units installed, which is a big gap.

The action taken by the U.S. government to meet the expected growing adoption of EVs was to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The BIL invests $7.5 million in building a national network of EV chargers of 500,000 EVSE distributed across the country. The inconvenience with the BIL is that the number might fall too short for the ever-increasing number of vehicles on the road.

Principles and Trends for Building the EV-Charging Infrastructure

Figure 4: EV Registration by state

The BIL does not simply attempt to fit the right EV charging network in the U.S., but it looks to do so based on the principle of Equity. This law attempts to create a source of jobs for historically disadvantaged communities with low economic opportunities, to improve climate and air quality, and to provide a better quality of life for minorities in general.

Considering the principle of equity, the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles will not only place the e mobility charging infrastructure around densely populated urban areas but will also locate charging locations around rural areas. Derived from this principle, there are many trends to be considered during the creation of the future electric car charging infrastructure in the country.

The trends in the electric car infrastructure consider the growing necessities of diverse communities and address the future challenges that the electric charging infrastructure might face. These are the following:

More Plugs Are Needed — Everywhere

While the BIL will be installing around 500,000 EV charging plugs located around the country, they might not be enough. Currently, there is the problem of the 13:1 ratio for EVs and EV chargers, being above recommended by the eia.

As the electric charging station infrastructure develops, it is necessary to attend to the growing needs of EV drivers in the country. On top of that, it is important to keep maintenance of the current electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Several EV drivers have complained about broken charging stalls, damaged screens, malfunctioning software, and more.

Building Public Chargers Where People Need Them

Currently, Los Angeles is the city with the largest number of EV chargers featuring at least 1,408 EV charging locations. While the current distribution of the charging station infrastructure for electric vehicles aims to address the rising need for charging stalls as U.S. citizens get more EVs, there are certain rural areas and low-income communities that lack electric vehicle charging station infrastructure and EV technology.

Currently, Alaska is the state with the lowest number of EV charging stations, featuring a little over 80 charging locations, followed by North Dakota with more than 150 EV charging stations. If the electric vehicle infrastructure of the U.S. will be based on Equity, it needs to address the EV charging needs of a diverse population that includes rural drivers and minorities, just like providing EV chargers to be used for commercial and multiple purposes.

Matching Charging Speed to Customers’ Needs

The EV charging stations used to build the U.S. EV charging infrastructure should be able to meet the current and future charging needs of EV drivers. Many EV charging locations indeed feature high power rate EV chargers that not only match the charging speed required by most vehicles but go a few kilowatts beyond that, but this might not be so in the future.

Since technology is constantly developing and EVs will come with larger and more capable batteries, the EV charging station infrastructure of the country should be made future-proof by installing sufficient Level 2 and Level 3 EV charging stations featuring a high power rate. This will allow current and future EV drivers to charge their vehicles in little to no time, reducing the impact time of EV charging on their daily routines.

Making Public Charging Affordable

Any EV driver out there knows that recharging an EV using the fast charging infrastructure costs from $10 up to $30 for high-capacity batteries also varying according to the power rates for EV chargers. Charging rates also vary on the time of the day and demand, but these high charging costs can impact EV drivers with no choice but to charge in public stations because they do not have access to an EVSE at home.

As the U.S. EV infrastructure develops, states should ensure that the cost to recharge an EV is affordable and that even EV drivers with lower economic opportunities can charge their vehicles for a fair price. To achieve this, states can subside installation and operations of EV chargers in low-income communities, support the demand for EV chargers, and use many other viable tactics to help low-income EV drivers.

Integrating Chargers with the Power Grid

There is an important concern regarding the number of EV chargers integrated into the power grid in certain communities. While most of the electrical power grids in the country can sustain the load required to charge an increasing number of vehicles, highly populated areas could feature grid constraints when there is a large simultaneous power demand from many fast or ultra-fast EV chargers.

To address this issue, it is recommended utilities analyze the power grid considering the growing electrical load from electric vehicles and the EV charging infrastructure. Installing a residential and public charging infrastructure featuring Vehicle-to-grid integration can also provide flexibility to the power grid and bring it one step closer to the smart grid of the future, fully integrating EVs as bidirectional components of the grid and addressing problems that the grid could face as the load demanded by EV chargers increases.

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Nick Zamanov is a head of sales and business development at Cyber Switching. He is an expert in EV infrastructure space and he is an EV enthusiast since 2012, Since then Nick strongly believed that electric vehicles would eventually replace Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.

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