EV Use Is Growing, But Where Are The Chargers?

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Electric vehicle interest is growing, despite short supplies. However, even when vehicles are available, a lack of charging infrastructure or “range anxiety” keeps many customers from taking the leap. How can we help potential EV owners face this hurdle? The simple answer is to build out more charging infrastructure. The reality is, of course, more complicated. 

Last month, the Biden Administration approved plans for all 50 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to build a network of charging stations along interstate highways using $5 billion in federal funding over the next five years. However, these projects often run into roadblocks caused by outdated or even nonexistent permitting practices. Surprisingly, a Fuels Institute’s Electric Vehicle Council survey found that most states and cities have little to no public policies for public EV charging. 

“You’ve got zoning requirements and permitting processes that are not designed for this type of equipment, and so they’re trying to take outdated programs and apply it to this,” says John Eichberger, executive director at the Fuels Institute.

The guidelines can be difficult and time-consuming to navigate in areas with public policies for charging infrastructure. In some cases, charging stations can take as long as two years to complete. That’s nowhere near fast enough to support an influx of EVs. Currently, there are around 120,000 public EV chargers nationwide, serving around 1.5 million EVs. That’s only one charger for every 12 cars! Clearly, we need to move more quickly to accommodate EV growth. 

A lack of available charging isn’t the only barrier either. Sadly, some motorists find that even when public charging is available, they may not have a compatible charging card or smartphone app. This can create a scary scenario when drivers face the possibility of running out of battery power before finding a charging station. 

EV owners who rent their homes face further difficulties. Because they often don’t have access to residential charging, these drivers are wholly reliant on public charging stations, which, as we’ve stated, aren’t a sure thing. 

What can be done to fix these issues? Firstly, we need increased interoperability across systems, creating industry standards and enabling all EVs to connect at all types of charging stations. Secondly, state and local governments need to streamline the process for EV infrastructure permits and update zoning requirements to create more charger-friendly areas. Additionally, we’ll need up-to-date building codes to allow more chargers to be built. 

EVs will be an essential part of our future, but they won’t become mainstream until policymakers get in front of the transition to ensure “range anxiety” becomes a thing of the past.