Why are so many people hesitant to switch to all-electric transportation? Many pundits insist it is because of range anxiety. However, another argument can be made that, rather than concern over the distance an EV can travel, it is the unfamiliarity of charging that is a barrier to greater EV adoption. Isn’t it time to demystify EV charging?
EVs have evolved from the emerging technologies “Innovators” phase to the “Early Adopters” phase and are now entering the “Beginning Mass Market” phase. Current EV drivers embrace lifetime cost savings, superior performance, and a smaller carbon footprint of their all-electric transportation.
Where did these EV owners start, though? For those of us who now drive an EV, what gave us the comfort to leave behind the internal combustion engines of our youth?
Like much technology, EVs require modeling — one person demonstrating to another person how the vehicle works. Many of us who are today’s EV drivers probably had the opportunity to get up-front-and-personal with an EV through being whisked along in a buddy’s all-electric sports car or at a community EV show-and-drive day.
Then our plunge into owning our first EV occurred. We started with a used second car that offered low range and which balanced the newness of electric transportation with less financial investment. A limited risk ownership helped us to gauge any adjustments we’d need to make to our daily lifestyles by driving an EV, like switching from filling up at a gas station to charging. We came to realize, as Statista confirms, that the average US driver travels about 26 miles a day — and that’s round trip. Somehow, people are under the impression that it’s much more.
So now we charge as needed as part of our daily routines.
We who drive an EV know that charging is easy, low cost, and convenient. Most of our EVs are plugged in at home — we recharge our cars for a couple hours after work or while we sleep. How long it takes us to charge depends on the charging equipment we’re using and the size of the car’s battery and its available charging capacity. Most of us like the clean convenience of a quick charge and have a 240-volt, Level 2 charger at our home.
Even for those of us who don’t have home charging capacity because we live in an apartment or condo, workplace and public chargers are now available to us in communities nationwide.
If EV charging is so simple, why is there such resistance to it? What can we do to demystify EV charging?
Forget Fueling — Charging is So Better in So Many Ways
Last century drivers have a mental map where fueling is preferred because it is familiar. It’s time to deconstruct that cultural norm and help the next generation of EV drivers to learn how much easier, safer, cleaner, and cheaper it is to re-energize with electricity.
The expected scenario: It’s a warm Sunday afternoon, and Dad has chauffeured Mom and the two children — one male and one female — for a ride in the country. A picnic under the pines resulted in some poking and bickering, and Dad has grumbled and Mom has thrown her arms up in dismay. At the end of the jaunt, Dad detours to a gas station. He pumps gasoline into the vehicle and returns to the driver’s seat, smelling slightly of fumes and complaining about the rising cost of (US subsidized) gasoline.
The soon-to-be-normal scenario: Two dads/ two moms/ single mom or dad/ a heterosexual couple and their mother-in-law have spent the afternoon dropping off and picking up a car-full of kids for their sports, visiting, mall, movie, and/or gaming. They either drive home without recharging — having already charged the previous evening at their home charger — or have already filled up at a store-side charger between stops while the kids were otherwise engaged.
Gasoline-powered car drivers have become so accustomed to the fill-up that they consider it a norm. If their gas tank gauge heads to the big “E,” it catches their attention, but usually fails to engender any stress. A gas station of some sort — ultra-modern with food and bathroom facilities or Backwoods Walter’s Gas-n-Go or somewhere in-between — is nearly always available.
An exhibit at the Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida, relates a different story about early 20th century drivers, who strapped gas cans onto their vehicles because they couldn’t know when or where they would next be able to fill up. It took decades for gas stations to become commonplace in every city and town.
Today, in the second full decade of EV personal transportation, we’re somewhat beyond that stage of each-woman-for-herself. Instead of waiting to reach empty and then visiting a gas station once a week, we top off our EVs in the same way we plug in our smartphones before bed. We make mental notes about our EV charging level and plug in at the end of our errands. In that way, we’re ready for the next excursion with a full charge.
We will likely never stop at a gas station again, and, moreover, have an unlimited supply of fuel available at home or wherever we normally park.
What Will It Take to Create a Cultural Shift to EV Charging?
While it may seem that there will be a one-to-one exchange for gas station to EV charging station, it’s unlikely to end up so. Because most people will charge near or at their homes, that’s where the majority of future chargers will be needed.
EV charging happens in the background, not the foreground, and that’s a behavioral shift for new EV drivers. When we take longer trips away from home, we build in charging stops. Our “So what?” perspective about charging is the opposite of naysayers who support all-things-fossil-fuel and who perpetuate the concern of EV range anxiety. Nearly every EV that is driven daily makes it successfully to its destination without difficulty.
Sure, the US will need to improve access to EV chargers through making them as ubiquitous as gas stations. The infrastructure spending package signed into law by President Biden that allocates $7.5 billion could help expand the number of EV charging points of all types across the US.
The US power grid will need work to accommodate much more EV charging.
Wouldn’t it be great for the US to someday have a charging network that includes decentralized, sustainable, scalable, and mobile solar-powered EV charging systems? Solar-powered charging units don’t require connection to the grid, so they can be placed where people find them most useful. Furthermore, as needs change, including unforeseen events like weather-caused blackouts or economic-related shifts in travel patterns, solar-powered charging systems could be repositioned as needed.
Maybe someday, whole roadways will become wireless chargers. All we’d have to do is drive over the pavement and the vehicle would get recharged.
Until then, we who drive an EV need to become emissaries to help others understand understand how clean, efficient, inexpensive and, most of all, convenient EVs can be. We’ve become comfortable with charging, and we can show others the way.
Governments can certainly help to spread the word by informing the public about the benefits and practices of EV charging. So, too, can EV automakers and infrastructure providers; dealerships, which are the familiar sites to purchase personal transportation, are an ideal site to provide EV charging information campaigns.
Yes, the shift to charging versus filling up at a gas station will take some getting used to, but, then again, so did the advent of horseless carriages. Man, were the blacksmiths surprised.