EV does it: can the U.S. meet charging infrastructure targets?
American electric vehicle (EV) sales could grow by 60% this year. However, our EV Index shows a huge disparity between states on infrastructure, suggesting a long way to go.
The United States aims to make 50% of all new vehicle sales electric by 2030. To help achieve that, the ambitious National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI) is providing funding to ramp up the number of charge points across the country.
Despite this, there are still huge disparities between states, as the EV Index by HERE and SBD Automotive shows. Using four criteria, the ranking lists all 50 states and Washington D.C. in order of how well their infrastructure serves the EV drivers that need it.
HERE360 drills down into the data with the help of Ronak Amin, HERE Product Marketing Manager, to find out what they mean for individuals and the country as a whole.
While EV sales are growing, their continued rise depends on drivers being able to get to a charge point when they need it. SBD Automotive, a global research firm, said the U.S. ideally should have an average of one charge point per eight to 12 EVs.
However, geographical differences between the states mean that there can be big differences in how far these are spread out, even when this number is relatively high.
“If you take North Dakota and South Dakota, for example, the number of charge points per road length is low, because the roadways are so long. The data shows that you probably can't get from one side of North Dakota to the other on public charging alone," Amin explained.
“But on the upside, both these states rank highly in overall energy supply, including power grid reliability and use of renewable energy. They produce a lot of power, and you can see here that they have a high proportion of powerful fast chargers."
Florida is another state with “a very capable energy grid," with the ability to meet its EV targets, Amin added. “Compare that to states that don't have this level of infrastructure and are finding it difficult to add an adequate number of chargers, let alone fast chargers, without affecting the reliability of the grid," he said.
Range anxiety, or the fear of running out of power before getting to the next charge point, has long been an obstacle to the uptake of EVs. Another issue for EV drivers is the number of charge points that are either not working, or working but charging more slowly than advertised due to aging, meaning drivers face uncertainty over charging.
On top of infrastructure challenges, some states will also find it difficult to take full advantage of federal programs if they do not have enough demand for EV charge points. The states themselves will have to cover their portion if businesses do not choose to invest in charge points. Despite extensive federal funding, the program still depends on a proportion of state contributions.
In some states, such as New Jersey, the uptake of EVs is relatively high, but the number of charge points has not kept pace. Even though the number would mean that EV drivers are well-served in another state, competition means it could still be difficult to find an adequate charge point.
The idea behind NEVI was to connect the country. Even though some more sparsely populated states will struggle to achieve the same ratio of public charge points to EVs, funding will be available for infrastructure on major travel corridors, allowing for easier interstate journeys.
“Generally speaking, since battery technology and capacity range have come a long way in a short number of years, home charging is the primary means of charging in the city," Amin said, “But there are an increasing number of drivers who don't have access to home charging — think of apartment buildings or city homes without garages. And once you go outside of your immediate area, it starts to get tricky for everyone."
In many cases, he said, it is not that drivers will not be able to find a charger at all, but they may struggle to get hold of the more desirable fast DC charge points, or they will reach the charge point and discover it is out of service or charging very slowly.
One solution that is being discussed is for other vehicle brands to adopt Tesla's North American Charging Standard (NACS) so that their customers can use Tesla's abundant network of reliable, fast chargers.
A consortium of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) recently announced plans to build 30,000 fast charge points across the United States. The location of these will largely be chosen according to areas that have existing entertainment and commerce opportunities. This could tackle consumer gripes of waiting to charge vehicles in areas where there is nothing to do or where they say they do not feel safe.
“There is more federal support to come," Amin said. “The first step was connecting the state highways and interstates. And now the second phase of that program will focus on urban development."
At the same time, automakers are working to figure out faster ways of charging EVs. That would take away a significant part of the burden on existing charge points and increase throughput. In the meantime, technology that accurately predicts range and helps drivers navigate according to where they can charge their vehicle is essential for improving the EV experience.
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