‘Revving Up’ EV Adoption: The Road to a Nationwide Charging Network
It may not be immediately apparent when you look around, but a remarkable transition is taking place on America’s roadways. Internal combustion engine vehicles—once a prized status symbol—are increasingly conceding the fast lane to zero-emission electric alternatives. More than 915,000 light electric vehicles (EVs) were purchased in 2022 alone, two and half times the number just four years prior. Despite this, EVs only represent 8% of current vehicle sales, far lower than what’s needed to align with federal electrification and net zero goals. Even more jarring for the industry, fewer than one-quarter of Americans say they’re likely to go electric with their next vehicle purchase. Clearly, a new approach to accelerate EV industry growth is needed.
So, what would get us moving more quickly on EV adoption? Let’s start with improving the scale and quality of charging infrastructure, which consumers overwhelmingly cite as their chief complaint with the industry. In fact, the majority of Americans believe the US will fail to deliver the necessary charging infrastructure to support the growing number of EVs on the road. To overcome this sentiment, the EV industry must rapidly build out a nationwide charging network that drivers can count on, something the private sector is uniquely positioned to facilitate through cross-party collaboration.
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The State of EV Charging
Today, there are roughly 1.7 million EVs on the road—a number that is expected to grow to more than 25 million by 2030. Despite this anticipated surge, there are fewer than 60,000 public charging stations available throughout the entire United States. The distribution of these charging stations further complicates the situation, as they tend to be concentrated in urban areas in just a handful of states. As a result, large parts of the country are completely shut off from the critical charging infrastructure needed to support widespread EV adoption.
This imbalance not only hinders the ability of EVs to reach new markets but also perpetuates common misconceptions, including that EVs are limited by geographic viability. Consumers in areas that are underserved by EV chargers are likely to remain hesitant to make the switch, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Additionally, some charging stations—often dating back to the earliest days of EV adoption—lack the necessary conveniences that drivers have come to expect from refueling stations. Amenities including washrooms, food and beverage kiosks, trash disposal, and adequate lighting go a long way toward improving the charging experience.
The industry also suffers from a damaging lack of integration, as some charging providers opt in favor of brand exclusivity, resulting in a patchwork of incompatible charging options. This fragmentation is a significant headache for EV owners and poses a major challenge at a time when convenience is king. To help resolve these obstacles and steer consumers towards a future powered by EVs, the industry must band together to build out an equitable, reliable, and inclusive charging network that spans all corners of the country.
The Beginnings of a Nationwide Grid
With growing recognition of the need to improve the EV charging experience and support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, many EV companies have declared ambitions to develop extensive networks.
For example, General Motors (GM) has committed to spending $750 million by 2025 on an accessible fast-charging network throughout the US and Canada. This infrastructure will be installed, maintained, and operated by GM’s partner, EVgo, and will prioritize locations where EV drivers already spend time (such as grocery stores, retail centers, and city centers) to maximize convenience. As a part of its wider effort to invest $1 billion into charging infrastructure by 2030, BP plans to roll out an advanced fast-charging network to some of the US’ largest population centers, including Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, and Boston.
In addition, Electrify America—one of the largest charging providers in the US—has committed $2 billion over 10 years to enhance charging infrastructure and plans to double its network size by 2025. New states will be added to the company’s coverage, including West Virginia, Wyoming, Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
While these commitments represent a positive start, the EV industry needs to recognize the importance of an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to deliver on the promise of a nationwide charging network.
Taking the Next Steps Industry-Wide
If EVs are to dominate the roadways of the future, every community, whether urban, suburban, or rural, needs access to reliable charging infrastructure. Given the magnitude of this effort, there is a clear need and opportunity for greater private sector collaboration. This means partnerships between charging distributors, suppliers, O&M providers, and installers, which will enhance product and service offerings.
Intra-industry collaborations offer the chance to break down EV development and deployment bottlenecks, whether technical or financial, and can help bridge charging gaps to deliver greater quality infrastructure. They enable valuable information and technology sharing, leading to more efficient and user-friendly innovations that not only meet, but exceed the needs of consumers. Additionally, new partnerships—and the capital that drives them—can spur efficiencies by tapping into economies of scale. Greater collaboration is the most effective way for the EV industry to promote standardization, interoperability, and the development of a cohesive and reliable charging network.
The road ahead may present challenges, but through greater collaboration, EV market players can overcome these roadblocks to deliver the charging experience consumers want—and the growth the industry needs.
If you would like to connect with leading EV charging players, including distributors, suppliers, installers, O&M operators, and more, register for Intersolar North America and Energy Storage North America’s flagship 2024 industry event here, taking place January 17-19 in San Diego, California.