EV Charging In Rural Areas — Different Balance, Different Focus (Sometimes)

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We are well versed in the need for EV charging stations for road trips, for urban residents who don’t have garages or dedicated parking spaces with electricity outlets next to them, for workplace charging, and for topping up at popular hotspots. However, there are more charging infrastructure needs than all of that if we want to get to 100% EV adoption. In particular, this week, we’re taking a closer look at rural electrification for transportation. Tomorrow, we have a live webinar with ABB and Dominion Energy Virginia to talk about this subject. Today, I want to run through a few issues regarding the purpose and planning of rural EV charging stations.

Whether you’re looking at EV fast chargers or slower destination chargers, if the private market is funding the stations, there’s a clear desire to get a return on the investment. A critical piece of every calculation on this topic is station utilization. The higher the utilization, the lower the charge can be to break even in a desired timeframe (or at all). With a low utilization rate, you either have to charge a lot or just eat the cost and not expect a return on investment. In a high-density urban environment, breaking even is no guarantee (and is said to be quite difficult). In a low-density rural environment, well … it’s either got to be a hub of sorts, subsidized by a generous party, or somehow serve a broad geographic area.

In the end, you have a few different objectives in rural areas that can be somewhat in alignment or not at all. You can try to support those living in the rural area and help them go electric, or you can try to support long-distance travel for people going through the area.

Regarding the first objective — supporting EV owners in the area — one of the first things that comes to mind is that most people living in rural areas have a place at home to plug in. So, are public charging stations really needed? Well, while the vast majority of people may well have easy home charging (at least using a normal electricity outlet), they also have to drive quite far to go anywhere. So, charging stations may be more needed in town centers or core regional stores than many of us would assume. But is the demand enough and the business incentive enough for such places to install them? Should these be purely private-sector stations or should they get support from the municipal/county government, state government, federal government, or local utility.

Also, are there different myths, fears, and concerns in rural areas that slow EV adoption? Or are they the same as we in cities and suburbs.

And then there is the topic of EV fast charging connectors for long-distance driving. These may serve local residents very little or may serve both parties a great deal. It’s a different calculus.

For much more on these topics, and perhaps some answers to some of the posed questions, check out our free webinar tomorrow. It should be fun and interesting.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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