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The U.S. Needs More EV Charging Infrastructure. A Lot More

Officials from the electric vehicle industry say the nation needs some $87 billion in charging infrastructure investment in the next 10 years to get it on the path to 100 percent EV sales by 2035.

EV charge ports
Electric vehicle charging should be fast and convenient, but perhaps more importantly, it needs to be widely available.

“We need a boatload more chargers,” remarked Amanda Pietz, an Oregon Department of Transportation administrator within the Policy, Data and Analysis Division, which also includes the Climate Office.

The vast majority of EV charging today happens at home, say charging experts. These are electric car early adopters who tend to have the means to charge at home. However, if EVs are to gain widespread appeal, the charging infrastructure needs to be deployed strategically, with apartment dwellers in mind as well as lower-income drivers. This means more workplace charging and a more thorough buildout of high-speed public charging.

“I would say, the key focus right now, in terms of strategy, is getting the chargers out there, and then making them more convenient,” Pietz added in her comments on a panel discussion last week at the Forth Roadmap Conference, which brings together public- and private-sector officials to discuss the future of vehicle electrification.

Lucy McKenzie, director of Atlas Public Policy, pointed to Atlas research showing a need for some $87 billion in charging infrastructure investment in the next 10 years to get the United States on the path to 100 percent EV sales by 2035. The research shows a need for $39 billion for home charging, $39 billion for public charging and $9 billion to support charging needs for light-duty fleet vehicles. The analysis also demonstrates a need for $300 million invested in workplace charging.

“We do know that workplace charging can be convenient for some drivers. It can be a good fit for states with high solar production, especially. And it’s relatively low cost for both employers and employees,” said McKenzie during the charging infrastructure panel.

Electrify America, formed in 2016 as an outgrowth of the Volkswagen emissions settlement, has been leading a widespread buildout of high-speed charging centers across the nation. Today, the company has more than 600 stations across the country, with more than 2,500 chargers. More than 70 stations are now complete and are waiting to be connected to utilities. Another 50 stations are permitted and are in various stages of construction, said Michael Buff, manager of infrastructure planning and product management at Electrify America.

“We’re on track, by the end of the year, to have over 800 stations deployed or in very advanced stages of construction,” said Buff in his comments at the Forth conference. All of the stations feature 150-kilowatt or 350-kilowatt chargers, which can provide up to 20 miles of range per minute of charging.

“What we see from survey after survey, what we see from EV intenders and the general public, more broadly, is that ubiquitous fast-charging and high-powered charging is what they want to see in order to adopt,” said Buff. “It’s all about speed and convenience. And so, our focus has really been to push the needle and push the limits on high-powered charging.”

The company has built out a network across all major interstates. The stations are generally about 70 miles apart. The company is also focused on developing stations in 27 major metro areas. By the end of 2021, Electrify America will have built 70 DC fast-charging stations in the Los Angels region, with 40 in the New York region, 30 in Seattle, 20 in Denver, and others.

“There’s a whole swath of drivers out there who will not have access to home charging, and these stations in and around town are critical to getting those drivers to adopt,” said Buff.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.
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