EV Charging Infrastructure a Hurdle for Widespread Adoption
The transition to electric vehicles, overall, is a positive for the industry. It promotes innovation and, depending on who you ask, will provide auto manufacturers more efficient ways to produce faster and more reliable vehicles. The transition is also inevitable -- President Biden's executive orders mandating half of all new car sales to be EVs by 2030 and OEMs investing massive amounts of resources into that push all but guarantee that.
That transition, however, has proven to be a fairly rocky road at times. There are no shortage of hurdles to widespread acceptance of electric vehicles, both here in the United States and around the world.
High cost, a perceived lack of reliability and other large accessibility issues continue to plague the EV industry, even as the federal government and major OEMs continue to throw their weight and resources behind widespread adoption.
Those issues, though, will resolve with time. As EV technology becomes more commonplaces, prices will fall and the systems used to power and run those vehicles will become more reliable. A more pressing yet seemingly undervalued issue facing the EV industry is the lack of consistent, reliable charging infrastructure.
A quick look at the U.S. Energy Department's EV charging station location map reveals large clusters of EV chargers near densely populated urban centers and large, empty spaces in between. Even as battery technology becomes more robust, most EVs are topping out somewhere right around or below 300 miles of range on a single charge. While that proves to be a non-issue for urban drivers, longer drives become almost impossible when combining the range and the hours-long charge times required to completely re-energize a vehicle.
The key issue here is short-term feasibility and profitability versus long-term adoption. In order for consumers to be more comfortable purchasing EVs with regularity, the infrastructure has to already be in place. It can't happen the other way around.
That's going to cost a lot of money and won't provide an immediate return on investment. A recent study from AlixPartners cited in a Car and Driver report shows that a fast-charging station with market-priced rates will take upward of 25 years to earn back its initial investment.
Recent legislation from Congress looks to help shoulder some of that cost. The recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill sets aside around $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure. Earlier this month, a group of 28 U.S. House Democrats asked for a significantly larger allocation of $85 billion to be included in a highly contested $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal. Though that measure is less likely to pass, it still shows a willingness to discuss more substantial EV infrastructure upgrades. Private companies such as Tesla making their charging universally available also helps adoption.
The bottom line, though, is there needs to be a significant investment in equitably distributed charging stations on a national scale in order to make the transition to EVs as smooth as possible.