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How Many EV Chargers Does America Need? S&P Global Says “Lots”

How many EV chargers does America really need? The answer may depend on public perceptions about electric cars.

S&P Global is a consulting organization, one of those businesses that peer into the future and tries to predict market trends. In its latest report, it focuses on how many EV chargers America will need as the EV revolution moves forward. “The transition to a vehicle market dominated with electric vehicles will take years to fully develop, but it has begun,” says S&P Global mobility analyst Ian McIlravey. “With the transition comes a need to evolve the public vehicle charging network, and today’s charging infrastructure is insufficient to support a drastic increase in the number of EVs in operation.”

Even though many EV owners charge at home, the total number of EV chargers available to motorists will need to quadruple between 2022 and 2025 and grow more than eight-fold by 2030, the S&P Global report says. Today, there are more than 140,000 Level 2 and Level 3 EV charging stations across the United States plus 16,822 Tesla Superchargers and destination chargers. There are just under 2 million electric cars on America’s roads today, but that number is expected to climb to 7.8 million by 2025 — just three years from now. By 2030, nearly 30 million EVs will be plying American highways and byways.

“To support that vehicle population, we expect there will need to be about 700,000 Level 2 and 70,000 Level 3 chargers deployed, including both public and restricted use facilities. By 2027, we expect there will be a need for about 1.2 million Level 2 chargers and 109,000 Level 3 chargers deployed nationally. Looking further to 2030, an estimated 2.13 million Level 2 and 172,000 Level 3 public chargers will be required — in addition to the units that consumers put in their own garages.”

Graham Evans, S&P Global mobility research and analysis director, says “For mass market acceptance of BEVs to take hold, the recharging infrastructure must do more than keep pace with EV sales. It must surprise and delight vehicle owners who will be new to electrification, so that the process seems seamless and perhaps even more convenient than their experience with gasoline refueling, with minimal compromise on the vehicle ownership experience. Developments in battery technology, and how quickly EVs can receive power, will be as critical to improvements here as how quickly and plentifully infrastructure can provide the power.”

Public Vs Private EV Chargers

GM EVgo EV Chargers

Image credit: GM

Currently 35 states have signed on for federal assistance under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $7.5 billion for EV chargers and related infrastructure. President Biden has pledged that the government will fund the installation of 500,000 charging stations, but that is just a starting point.

McIlravey says, “In states following the California Air Resources Board’s path to zero emissions vehicle sales, the faster growth of consumer demand will push private investment and more rapid charging infrastructure deployment. However, in states where EV adoption happens gradually, charging station deployment will not need to happen as rapidly and may also need a bit of a push.”

The four US states with the highest number of vehicles in operation and highest new vehicle registrations traditionally are California, Florida, Texas, and New York. California, which embraced EVs early, is the largest EV market with 36% of total US light vehicle EV registrations from January through September 2022. Florida is in second place with 7.4% and Texas is not far behind with 6.4%.

Texas has about 5,600 Level 2 non-Tesla and 900 Level 3 chargers, but S&P Global forecasts that by 2027 it will need about 87,500 Level 2 and 7,800 level 3 EV chargers to support the 1.1 million electric cars expected to be on the road in Texas by that date. Florida currently has about 5,600 Level 2 non-Tesla chargers and 955 Level 3 chargers, but is expected to have 1.06 million electric cars in 2027. To support these vehicles, S&P Global forecasts that Florida will need to grow its charging infrastructure to about 77,000 Level 2 and 6,800 Level 3 charging stations.

As EV adoption grows in America, we will see the necessary investment in states that follow the California rules promulgated by CARB, given the public and private support for more EV chargers, says S&P Global. Consumers in large markets outside the CARB compliant states will need to be supported with sufficient public charging infrastructure. “The focus on urban areas follows where EVs are today, but distribution will need to be much wider as vehicles in operation grow, and consumers need to charge along their routes,” McIlravey said.

Better Technology Means Fewer Chargers

The technology that supports EV chargers, battery management systems, and battery technologies is improving rapidly, leading to faster charge times for DC or Level 3 scenarios. Those faster charging times in turn can impact the locations of charging stations.

Battery swapping, wireless charging, and increased deployment of residential DC wall box solutions are three new technologies that could alter the need for EV chargers considerably. In China, the practice of battery swapping is growing rapidly with NIO and CATL both building more battery swapping stations. NIO is trialing the technology in Norway with an eye toward expanding it other European countries but there are no plans for battery swapping stations in the US. “There’s the propensity for home charging, the lack of governmental directive, and the need to homogenize battery packs are holding back a technology like battery swapping,” says Evans.

He adds that the widespread adoption of wireless charging technology has the potential to challenge the current opinions about battery size and range. Evans says consumers will be able to charge more conveniently at home and adopt ‘splash and dash’ behaviors if dynamic wireless charging becomes widespread. However plug-in technology was first to market and is less expensive, which leaves wireless charging to play catch-up regardless of whether it is superior in terms of convenience.

The third technology with potential to shake up our existing assumptions is the rise of residential DC EV chargers. According to Evans, they offer a halfway solution between slow AC chargers and the superfast public DC chargers. Wider deployment of these solutions has the potential to shift the balance in the domestic versus public charging conundrum. Furthermore, there are models available that facilitate vehicle to grid operation, which could change the conversation by allowing EVs to effectively become part of our electric grid system and lead to some financial return for participating consumers.

The Takeaway

Reasonable people may disagree about how many EV chargers the US needs. The correct answer is, enough to significantly dampen the range anxiety many would be electric car drivers have. Consumer education could be key. People fear what they don’t understand. There is a distinct possibility that the US could spend more money than it needs to in order to build EV chargers when more education and targeted information campaigns could substantially reduce the number of chargers needed.

It would help a lot if all those new chargers actually work. Stories about broken EV chargers go rocketing around the internet all the time, scaring people who might otherwise consider driving an electric car. Getting the right number of chargers installed and operating will be tricky. Studies like this one from S&P Global are helpful but not the final word on how many EV chargers America really needs.

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?

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