img Proposals

Expanding EV Charging Infrastructure
ONC Editorial

Jan 26, 2023

Electric vehicles are making rapid gains in popularity. Our infrastructure needs to reflect that. (The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, whose information can be found below.)

Big Picture:

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining popularity worldwide. As stated in a 2021 report by Pew Research Center, in America, almost 2 million EVs were registered as of the year 2020.  The proliferation of EVs demands expansion of charging infrastructure-like stations, which are still unevenly distributed and poorly maintained. Few of the designated “alternative fuel corridors” (AFCs) have been completed, and even in the Bay Area – an EV hotspot – 23 percent of stations were found broken, according to a 2022 survey conducted by the nonprofit organization, Cool the Earth, and retired bioengineering professor at UC Berkeley, David Rompel, as reported on by Niraj Chokshi for The New York Times.

Operative Definitions:

  1. Charging ports: An individual plug that charges one EV at a time. These ports are divided into three levels, with level 3 Superchargers being the most effective and the only viable option on long-distance travels.
  2. Alternative fuel corridors (AFCs): Federally designated sections of highways along which level 3 charging ports can be found every 50 miles and thus continuous EV travel can be guaranteed.
  3. National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program: A federal program established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that would provide $1 billion annually in funding the construction of EV charging infrastructure between FY 2022 and 2026.
  4. Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program Act of 2022: An act introduced to the House in February 2022, which will create a $50 million grant that funds, on a competitive basis, projects to build, install or improve wireless EV charging projects.

Important Facts and Statistics:

  1. By Sept. 21, 2021, there were 109,307 charging ports in the United States, but only 19,932 of them were level 3 Superchargers. Of the fast-charging ports, 13,000 belong to Tesla, 3,300 to Electrify America and 1,700 to ChargePoint and EVgo.
  2. A majority of national AFCs are pending, which means there is some charging infrastructure, but at inadequate intervals or suboptimal locations. Sections that meet all criteria are under “ready” status.
  3. In FY 2021, more than $40 billion in federal funding was allocated to building and improving U.S. EV infrastructure, including $23.1 billion from the National Highway Performance Program and $10.2 billion from the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program.
  4. According to a 2022 survey by JD Power, 1 out of 5 respondents did not charge their EVs after locating a public charging station. Among them, 72 percent said the reason was due to stations malfunctioning or being out of service.

Five-Point Plan:

(1) States should designate a specific body or agency to regulate and inspect EV charging infrastructure within their jurisdiction. Regulatory regimes concerning EV charging systems vary across states and tend to be incomprehensive. For example, California’s Division of Measurement Standards is in charge of labeling and standardizing electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) including the ports, while the California Energy Commission oversees all government investment into this sector. However, no authority is explicitly responsible for inspecting charging infrastructure once it is installed, leading to a high ratio of broken or inoperable ports. By establishing such authorities, EV charging stations can be more efficient and their maintenance improved.

(2) Allow more EVs to be able to use more charging stations, either by standardizing ports or making adapters more easily accessible. There are currently three connector models for level 2 EV charging and two for level 3. Since each EV is only equipped with one charging inlet, it needs adapters to access a large number of charging stations. There are three solutions to this problem. First, a national standard can be devised and enforced to make all new charging ports identical, or new regulations can be drafted  to demand  that all new charging stations have different port outlets to accommodate various EV models. Moreover, NEVI and other governmental grants can subsidize the manufacture of adapters, incentivizing their standardization and reducing their prices.

(3) Prioritize funding alternative fuel corridors along major freight corridors. Federally designated “major freight corridors” are some of the busiest highway segments in the country. By prioritizing NEVI and other fundings to build and improve EV charging infrastructure along them should maximize their effects, making cross-country travels by EVs more convenient and paving the way for electrification of commercial truck fleets.

(4) Incentivize state utilities commissions to refurbish trailer or mobile-home parks with better chargers. In the U.S., there are roughly 43,000 manufactured housing communities and more public campgrounds, all with electric chargers. Compared to EV chargers, these outlets are more common in rural areas, which complement specialized EV charging infrastructure. However, they tend to be of different voltages, which makes EV charging slow and inefficient. By investing in better charging equipment, states can provide EV drivers with a plentiful alternative source of power.

(5) Fund and subsidize EV wireless charging projects. A potential alternative to charging ports is wireless EV charging, which replaces ports with an inductive system built into the ground. Estimates say a wireless charging system costs $2,000 to $3,000 compared to a port’s $1,000 to $1,500, but it requires little routine service while a commercial charging port costs up to $400 annually to maintain. Therefore, by replacing existing stations with wireless stations, the long-term costs of building and keeping charging infrastructure can be greatly reduced. However, applicable wireless charging technology has not been widely available in the U.S., but governmental subsidies for research and adoption of this technology might promote this industry. Supporting the Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program Act of 2022 (H.R.6546) would be a viable method of testing pilot projects and their viability.

Why This Initiative Is Important:

Broad adoption of EVs is essential for the United States and other countries to build a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. Nevertheless, without a widely accessible charging infrastructure, EVs will be unable to compete with fossil fuel-powered cars outside major cities or on long-haul trips. Therefore, the expansion of public charging stations is vital for the national popularization of EVs, especially in the South and the Midwest, where accommodative infrastructure has been lacking.

To see all sources consulted/reviewed/interviewed for the purposes of writing this article and/or to learn more about this article's author, click HERE.

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