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Today, we’re going to do a little math. With electric vehicle sales on the rise, there’s heightened interest in where EV charging infrastructure stands and where it needs to be moving forward. After all, charging systems enabling as seamless of an EV driving experience as possible are important if the U.S. is ever going to transition away from internal combustion engines and fossil fuels at large.
Let’s start with some stats, most of which come courtesy of this excellent report by Zutobi.
As far as electric vehicles go, California is way out in front of the rest of the United States: The state has the highest number of total EVs (425,300), which represent more than 40% of all electric vehicles in the entire country.
Yet even more important is whether California’s charging infrastructure is keeping pace with the growth of electric vehicles. On this front, there’s been considerable discussion about the number of vehicles per charging station as a metric for how well a given state or country is positioned for a future with more EVs. Currently, California has 12.23 electric vehicles for every EV charger.And though the growth of EVs in the state has outpaced the development of new charging infrastructure—meaning that ratio is widening rather than shrinking—finding a charger anywhere in California isn’t a particularly difficult task, as the state boasts one of the best charger-per-mile ratios (roughly five EV chargers per mile of road).
A quick look at Los Angeles’ charging stations shows that there are almost always plenty of available charging stations no matter where you zoom in on the city. Granted, not all of these options are the level 3 DC fast chargers, but plenty of them are. According to figures provided by the mayor’s office last year,L.A. has more than 11,000 commercial charging stations and nearly 63,000 EVs on its roads—or a ratio of 5.6 electric cars for every one charger. For now, the city seems below its saturation point on EV chargers.
Cathy Zoi, CEO of Los Angeles-based charging giant EVgo, has estimated that the U.S. will need 1 million chargers nationwide if it’s going to reach the Biden administration’s goal of EVs representing half of new car sales by 2030. The infrastructure bill signed by the president last year includes $7.5 billion for 500,000 charging stations. The Edison Electric Institute, meanwhile, estimates that there will be as many as 18.7 million electric vehicles on America’s roads by 2030. For the math-averse, that would mean 37.4 cars per charger under the Biden administration’s plan, and 18.7 cars per charger if we’re able to get 1 million chargers on the grid like Zoi wants.
Thirty-seven is an interesting number, actually: In Norway, the global leader in electric vehicle adoption, there are currently about 36 EVs per charger in the country. So far, the Scandinavian country has yet to experience a notable shortage of places to charge electric vehicles—suggesting that the ratio can probably hit a similar level in the U.S., as long as chargers are deployed strategically and in a way that matches the density of their demand.
Or, maybe QuantumScape or SolidPower or some other solid-state battery company will finally make it to market—and turn all of this math and speculation completely on its head, by inventing a battery that recharges to maximum in just a few minutes, and doubles or triples the range of our best lithium-ion technology today. As ever, only time will tell. — David Shultz
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