Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Outlook and Principles for a Successful Development

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EV popularity has grown rapidly in the last few years. Registrations of EVs increased by up to 60% in Q1 2022, accounting for 4.6% of all newly registered vehicles within the United States. The inconvenience with the rapidly increasing popularity of EVs in the U.S. is that the EV charging infrastructure is still in its early stages and considerable investment is required to achieve a healthy charging ecosystem for EVs.

Understanding the importance of a well-structured Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is key in developing the right steps to achieve equal EV charging opportunities for EV drivers. In this article, we will explain the importance of this charging infrastructure, the future panorama, the key stakeholders playing a role in that infrastructure, and the basic principles that should be considered when creating it.

Building The Electric-Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

As EV registration increases even further and at a rapid pace, a better and more advanced EV charging station infrastructure will be required to provide charging options for EV drivers across the country. The Bipartisan Law (BIL) is designed to help with this by designating $7.5 billion to install 500,000 new public chargers by 2030 and strengthen this EV charging infrastructure, but this achievement will be far from the worldwide goal for EV chargers.

According to the World Economic Forum, the required investment to achieve a worldwide healthy EV charging ecosystem requires $500 billion in investment. This amount can help create a worldwide electric vehicle charging infrastructure that features around 290 million charging points worldwide by 2040.

The key to achieving this worldwide goal that attempts to create a healthy EV charging infrastructure is by ensuring the infrastructure is public-private and not only subsidized by the government (public). Incentivizing the private sector to invest in this business opportunity will result in financial benefits for key stakeholders and better charging opportunities for EV drivers.

The Outlook for EV-Charging Infrastructure

The U.S. EV charging infrastructure was worth $3.1 billion in 2021, which was still a low amount. However, the overall worldwide charging infrastructure is expected to grow by around 10 times that value.

Considering how the US President has already passed the BIL and many states submitted plans to use their share of the money, the U.S. will be doing its part to grow o the EV infrastructure. According to the BIL, $5 billion of the $7.5 billion are planned to be used in highway chargers, while the remaining amount will be destined for community charging stations.

Private stakeholders are also doing their part for the electric vehicle infrastructure, Tesla is expanding its Non-Tesla Supercharger pilot and the Tesla exclusive Supercharger stations will open their doors for public (non-Tesla) usage. Alternatively, Charge Point is participating with companies like United Airlines, Volvo, Coulomb Technologies, and others to expand the EV infrastructure around the country.

Charging Infrastructure Terminology

Learning about the most important EV charging infrastructure terms can be helpful to better understand the subject. In this section we introduce the most important terminology:

  • EV Supply Equipment (EVSE): Electrical equipment designed to deliver AC or DC power to charge an EV battery.
  • EV Charging Station: Common term used to refer to EVSEs.
  • EV Charging Level: Categories used to classify EVSE by power rate or charging speeds and required electric vehicle charging infrastructure. These divide charging stations into Level 1 (1kW at 120V), Level 2 (7kW – 19kW at 240V), and Level 3 (50kW – 350kW at three-phase 480V)
  • DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations: Additional term used to refer to Level 3 EV charging stations.
  • EV charging station infrastructure: Electrical infrastructure designed to power an EVSE.
  • e-Mobility: Mobility solutions implementing electric powertrain technology, used to refer to EVs.
  • EV Driver: A person who drives an electric vehicle and uses EV charging stations to charge their car.
  • EV Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM): Companies that manufacture original EV charging equipment. Used to refer to EV automakers and high-end electrical equipment manufacturers that produce EVSE.

Charging Equipment

Learning about the parts of an EVSE can be of great help to understand the electric vehicle charging infrastructure and how these devices work. In this section we explain the most important components:

  • EV Charging Cable: The EV charging cable connects the EV charger to the electric car, transferring power to charge the car battery. EVSEs may come tethered (with a built-in charging cable) or untethered (with no built-in charging cable, it requires connecting an external cable).
  • EV Plug: EV plug standards slightly differ from one country to another. North America uses the Standard J1772 plug for AC charging and the CCS1 for DC charging, while Tesla EVs use the Tesla plug. EV plugs in other countries include the Mennekes, the GB/T, and the CCS2.
  • Charging Stall: The charging stall is the main charging device that demands power from the grid or an alternative power source and delivers it to the EV. This device is usually placed on a pedestal or wall-mounted structure and may deliver AC or DC power.
  • AC power source plug: The AC plug is the standard 120V or 240V plug that is connected to the EV charging station infrastructure and powers the EVSE. Level 1 EV chargers use 120V outlets, Level 2 EV chargers use 240V outlets, and Level 3 EV chargers require a three-phase 480V outlet.
  • AC-to-DC inverter: AC chargers convert AC-to-DC power directly in the on-board inverter at the EV, but DCFC stations convert the power externally. The external AC-to-DC inverter is in charge of converting power from AC to high DC power to rapidly charge the EV battery.
  • Auxiliary electrical equipment: EVSEs need to have auxiliary electrical equipment installed for different reasons. Some include breakers, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), and fuses for electrical protection, while others include CT clamps, Smart Meters, Energy Management Controller devices such as the EVMC, and others for extra functionality.

Who Are The Stakeholders of EV Infrastructure?

Aside from the U.S. government, there can be several stakeholders playing a key role in the development of the electric car infrastructure. Some of the most important might end up being the EV Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) like ABB, Siemens, Wallbox, EVBox, ChargePoint, Tesla, and a few other ones, but the list can be expanded to private investors, incentivized communities, local governments, and workplaces looking to accommodate EV drivers in the company.

Stakeholders will always appear in cities and other highly populated areas, but it is also important to include rural areas with low population density. In any case, no matter the stakeholder or the location, it is always important that electrical utilities are involved in the process since they will provide helpful advice to deploy this EV charging infrastructure and additional inputs to consider when creating it.

The Basic Principles of Infrastructure for Charging Electric Cars

The basic principles of the EV charging infrastructure are important considerations that will guide the country, its leaders, and the citizens during the creation of such infrastructure. Here we explain some of these principles.

1. Access to Public EV Charging Should Be Ensured for Every EV Driver

Most EV charging stations are exclusively located in densely populated areas and high-income ones. This creates a gap for EV drivers who want to access a public charging station.

Ensuring public charging around all states no matter how densely populated or the income of the area should be one of the basic principles of the electric car infrastructure. This should always consider rural areas because they are usually discarded by most stakeholders.

2. EV Chargers Should Be Able to Meet the Needs of EV Drivers

Every EV charging station in the country is to be equipped with the right type of devices or chargers to meet the time and power needs of EV drivers. This electric vehicle infrastructure requires installing high-power rated Level 2 EV chargers or preferably, DC Fast Charge (DCFC) stations that can rapidly charge the battery of an EV.

3. Electricity Charging Rates Should Be Affordable

The U.S. Government wants to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions with an ambitious goal, which is why incentivizing EV charging is of utmost importance. One of the best ways to achieve it is by ensuring lower electricity prices for EV charging stations. This makes the switch from combustion vehicles to EVs even more attractive. Some utilities already have programs and special tariff rate schedules for EV owners connected to the grid, this should spread across the country as well.

4. Finding EV Charging Stations Should Be Easy

An important aspect of having access to a proper EV infrastructure is being able to find said charging stations. Creating a detailed registry, maps, or apps of all available EV charging stations will help EV drivers find the closest one to them, no matter where they are or how familiar they are with the place.

5. The Grid and the Charging Infrastructure Should Operate Hand-by-Hand

EV charging stations will represent a considerable demand of power from the grid, but they can also represent an advantage. Instead of only demanding power, EV charging stations can also install clean energy generation systems, battery storage systems, or both.

Other solutions such as bidirectional EV charging, where the electric vehicle is no longer just a passive load, but can also become an active element in the grid by acting as a battery storage source that can be used to power house loads are critical for a successful development and integration of EVs to the future smart grids.

6. U.S. Government Should Pave the Way for New Stakeholders

New stakeholders have to be incentivized to invest in EV charging stations that will help the country to create a healthy EV charging infrastructure. The best way to achieve this is by setting up incentives, tax credits and benefits for retail EV charging stations installed around the country. This will reduce the installation costs for charging stations, reduce the Return on Investment period, and more.

7. There Should Be a Portion of the Infrastructure Dedicated to Public Transportation

Around 27% of the GHG emissions are generated by the transportation sector, which is why this is an extremely important subject to deal with on the road to Net-Zero Emissions. Reducing these emissions by replacing the public transport sector with electric buses and similar, will help reduce these emissions, which is why a portion of the EV charging station infrastructure should be dedicated to these vehicles.

8. Informing the Public about the Benefits of E-Mobility Is Vital

Teaching the public about the benefits of e-Mobility will promote the acquisition of EVs around the country, but it will also promote the creation of new EV charging stations from interested stakeholders. As the public starts to be aware of these benefits and the incentives, programs, and other benefits, the deployment of EVs will increase and so will the demand for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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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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