Building Charging for Electric Vehicles Can Create Good Jobs

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Originally published on NRDC Expert Blog.
By Patricio Portillo, Transportation Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy Program

A booming clean energy economy is a persistent bright spot in the pandemic economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Building the infrastructure network required to charge electric vehicles (EVs) at a scale needed to dramatically reduce both local and global warming pollution means even more clean energy careers. New analysis informed by industry experts calculated the jobs supported by state and national charging infrastructure goals and reveals:

  • Charging infrastructure needed to meet California’s EV goals could support approximately 71,500 job-years over the next decade.
  • If the Biden administration’s goal of deploying 500,000 EV charging stations is met with public fast charging stations, it could support about 30,000 job-years.

The message is clear: if you want jobs, electrify transportation. However, not all jobs are created equal. Nor is the work likely to be equitably distributed. Deliberate policies are needed to ensure job quality and accessible channels between priority communities and skilled, high-paying, upwardly mobile careers.

For example, it’s now the law-of-the-land in Nevada and California that charging stations that receive public or utility-customer funding should be installed by electricians who have undergone the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program certification. This also helps ensure high-powered electrical equipment is installed safely.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

To get a flavor for the number and type of jobs supported by building charging infrastructure, the table below lets you calculate the number of workdays created by job function for a given number of chargers. A key distinction is between “Level 2” and “DC Fast” chargers, which refers to their power, and therefore charging speed. Level 2 charging that uses the same type of 240 volt wiring as clothes dryers, is best suited for locations where vehicles are parked for multiple hours (like homes, workplaces, or parking garages). Direct Current (“DC”) fast chargers can get a driver back on the road more quickly (15–30 minutes depending on the power level and battery). Although these chargers have similar job creation potential, the higher power and complexity of a DC fast charger requires more electricians.

Estimated effort by job-role in person-days for Level 2 and DC Fast charger installations.
Carr, E., Winebrake, J., Winebrake, S. (2021). Workforce Projections to Support Battery Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Installation. Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC.

Those estimates are based on real-world charging installations. Most of the “DC fast charging” stations operating today are less powerful (and slower) than the higher-powered stations the industry is moving toward to get drivers back on the road more quickly, which means there will likely be more job creation potential going forward as well given the additional complexity of those higher power requirements. The analysis also shows installing solar panels on site to help power those chargers with clean and cheap solar electricity supports even more job-days for electrical contractors.

Applying these estimates to the Biden administration’s goal of deploying 500,000 EV chargers nationwide (assuming all are DC fast chargers better suited to enable interstate travel), the report shows the following:

Workforce estimates in job-years in order to build 500,000 public DC Fast chargers from 2021 to 2030. Carr, E., Winebrake, J., Winebrake, S. (2021). Workforce Projections to Support Battery Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Installation. Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC.

The job-years created from building chargers in California gets bumped up further when medium- and heavy-duty (M/HDV) electric trucks and buses are included:

High scenario workforce estimates to meet medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle infrastructure demand in California from 2021 to 2030. Carr, E., Winebrake, J., Winebrake, S. (2021). Workforce Projections to Support Battery Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Installation. Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC.

Inclusionary Practices Are Needed For Targeted Communities

To build charging stations you need electricians, general contractors, and planners, among others. Once stations are built, they need to be serviced and maintained by electrical workers. Many of these careers start with a high school diploma but, unlike many service-sector jobs, provide a wage that can support a family. Importantly, the skills and knowledge to build EV infrastructure are also useful in other fields, opening up more opportunities for trained workers. Also, there are a variety of job types associated with charging infrastructure including sales, marketing, permitting, and construction.

Access to apprenticeship programs could help connect people from priority communities to high-road jobs. But including these communities will require a targeted approach. Recruitment partnership with high schools, veteran organizations and organizations serving vulnerable populations can help connect priority communities with apprenticeships and high-road jobs.

Let’s Get To Work Building A Better Future

The persistent unemployment caused by the continuing pandemic has revealed many workers don’t want to go back to low-wage service jobs. This workforce report shows that zeroing out tailpipe pollution from cars, trucks, and buses needed to slash local and global warming pollution can also provide a better future for Americans struggling to find meaningful and valued careers.

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