The Apples & Oranges of EV Charging Infrastructure
The number of EV vehicle charging stations needed in the United States are apples and oranges. Some may even refer to the requirements as fuzzy math. We sort out what is important and might not be considered in the calculations.
USDOT and USDOE announce that $5 Billion will be available to states over the next five years for a national EV charging network. In addition, under the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program established by the new Infrastructure Law, the US government will support the buildout of the electric vehicle charging network to make electric vehicle charging more available across the country.
Individual states must submit an EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan before accessing funds. All 50 states and Puerto Rico have been approved. However, the number of stations to meet electric vehicle demand is daunting. It has taken decades for gas stations to increase to their current number.
The adoption of electric vehicles is accelerating at a rate that demands a rapid expansion of the EV charging infrastructure.
How many EV charging stations will the US need
The great debate is how to estimate the demand for commercial EV chargers and where they will be needed along our nation’s highways. Alternate fuel corridors is an emerging term where states identify their most traveled route and placement of new EV charging stations.
Often, this type of planning leaves underserved rural areas where there isn’t as much traffic, tourist, or local industry. A separate grant program is available to further increase the networks in underserved areas.
The US government launched a new website Drive Electric to provide information on the government program and what it means for everyone.
The numbers discussed provide chargers across 53,000 miles of highways in the US. It is estimated the US will need to build 1.5 million charging stations for the predicted 35 million EVs to be on the road by 2030.
An interesting number is that to meet that number, 478 charging stations will need to be built every day for the next eight years!
Gas stations vs. charging stations - apples and oranges
The NACS, the association for convenience and fuel retailing, reports more than 145,00 fueling stations across the country. One hundred twenty-seven thousand five hundred eighty-eight are convenience stores selling gas. There are more than 100,000,000 million automobiles registered in the US.
The number of charging stations needed is often compared to gas stations. The numbers are not apples and apples, more like apples and bananas. A typical gas station has multiple pumps, more recent additions as many as ten bays to fuel 10-20 cars at a time. The average is more like 6-12 pumps per station.
Hence there are about 1,270,000 gas pumps for 100,000,000 automobiles, or one pump for every ten cars. But, of course, this number does not include trucks or commercial vehicles. And we all know that most days, the gas pumps are idle.
The EV charging station term is often used for one charging port or Telsa’s ten charging port locations. One charging port can handle one vehicle at a time.
It takes 5-10 minutes to refuel most internal combustion automobiles or trucks. Recharging an EV currently with a fast DC commercial charger takes a minimum of 30 minutes. 3-5 gas-powered vehicles can be refueled in the time it takes for one EV to be changed. Does that make the number of EV ports required five times that of the corresponding gas pump for the same number of EVs as gas-powered vehicles?
EEI predicts there will be 26 million EV vehicles on the road by 2030. If we use a similar ratio for gas-powered cars and fueling pumps, the US would need 2.6 million EV charging stations. However, if we take the time to consider ten times longer to charge, we need almost one charging station for every registered electrical vehicle, or 26 million.
Home charging upsets the apple cart.
The number that throws the rest of the calculations out the door is home charging stations. Unless we live on a farm, few homeowners have their own gas pump. On the other hand, 75 - 80 percent of electric vehicle owners will have a charging station at their homes. (I made up that statistic).
The number of home chargers means that public or commercial charging stations will only be needed for individuals traveling beyond their vehicle range. For example, the average person travels 40 miles per day. Another source has a distance of 29.2 miles per day.
Depending on the time of the year, Americans drive 12 million trips of 100-500 miles daily. If these were all-electric vehicles, each trip would require at least one charge or one commercial charging port. Divide that into daylight hours, say 12 hours per day, and 30 minutes per charge or 24 charges per day per port.
Three hundred sixty charge slots per day divided into 12 million are 33,000 charging ports required to charge all electric vehicles on long trips!
Very fuzzy math!
Gas stations turn into charging stations.
With 127 thousand plus convenience stores selling gas in the United States, you can bet their operators will begin adding EV charging stations. The ROI may be better than selling gas or will it? They will be able to charge for electricity and the convenience of using their electric infrastructure.
More importantly, rather than a ten-minute stop by a gas-fueled vehicle driver, they will get a 30-minute layover by the electric vehicle driver and family! Imagine how much more money will be spent if the entire family enters the store or restaurant for 30 minutes.
I don’t know about your family, but mine spends money on food and snacks by the minute. The longer people are in the store, the more that is spent. Especially the more significant locations with all sorts of products, toys, car accessories, etc. My bill would be at least ten times what the cup of coffee I usually would get costs me.
Oil companies own very few convenience stores and fueling locations. So it will be to the oil giants' advantage to provide incentives for the operators to install electric chargers to continue their gas business and perhaps make money from the gas and electricity.
There is more to an EV charger than a gas pump.
Today most gas pumps are connected to the internet of things for payment systems and, no doubt, tracking consumption. In addition, newer pumps track performance and perform diagnostics to minimize downtime.
Gas pumps print receipts, and many now have screens to display advertising. In addition, there are probably a few that will let you order from Amazon while you gas up your car or truck.
Ev chargers will need to do much more.
Along with payment systems, EV chargers will deliver data to the charging apps in your car or your phone, letting you know their availability and location. In addition, the port will monitor how much electricity is used to top off your battery and allocate the appropriate charges to your payment system.
The transactions may be done entirely on your phone or car app, but the charger screen will also need to be available like the traditional gas pump. While there is no need for a paper receipt with the IoT systems, a customer may still need one if the internet connection is down or they don’t have phone services at that location.
In the future, EV charging stations will also provide Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections to your phone or car.
Wireless charging is becoming similar to our popular portable devices—no more plugs. As with the standardization of plugs, all of this may be an assortment of systems for a while. However, with the government's bipartisan infrastructure bill, there is already a movement to standardize plugs and interconnectivity of communications & data systems.
How fast can you charge an EV?
It depends on the type of charger and more fuzzy math.
Home EV chargers can be level 1 or level 2.
Level 1 chargers
Level 1 is the type of charger that comes with most vehicles. It runs off a 120V AC outlet found in your home and can charge up to 124 miles in 20 hours. Or 6.2 miles per hour. If you commute and work a typical 8-hour day, you might get 74.4 miles added to your battery by the time your morning commute starts. Hopefully, you can charge it at work also for 8 hours!
This math must come from charging laptops and phones. It takes x hours to charge the device for y hours of use. Suppose you are on a road trip; you probably want to be able to hook up to your relatives’ home charger overnight. Perhaps it will extend your relatives' stay until they charge up their cars.
Level 2 chargers
These chargers are often sold separately with the car but allow a homeowner to hook up to a 240 V AC outlet similar to a washer or dryer. This may get you 3-7 times faster charging times or is it miles per charge? You won’t be able to dry your clothes while charging your car.
In most cases, an additional circuit will need to be installed for a separate 240 V outlet. But you can charge a standard 30-kWh car battery in 4 hours.
Both home charging systems allow you to charge the vehicle at a low cost per watt electricity rate vs. daytime or heavy usage electric rates. In addition, it will be less expensive to charge from home than a commercial charging station.
Level 3 chargers
Level three charges are higher in power using 3 phase 240 volt circuits where the voltage is converted to DC for direct charging of the battery. These charges usually charge a battery to 80% in about 30 minutes. (124 miles for the standard 30kWh battery)
All these times are variable based on the conditions:
- The actual power of the level 2 charger - differs
- The starting charge on the battery pack
- The type of battery pack
- Life or state of the battery pack
- Outside temperature and of the battery pack
Car or battery manufacturer changes the equation also. Some manufacturers suggest charging before the battery is lower than 20%. Others don’t want you to charge more than 80% of the battery’s capacity.
Fortunately, most cars have electronics that keep you informed about battery and charging information. Some, like Tesla, recommend when to go to the nearest charging station and its location before you run out of “electric gas”.
Soon the standard tow truck may have fast level 2 type chargers for those that run out of juice before making it to a charging station.