Rapid growth in EV adoption, bolstered by government initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions, has created an immediate need to build EV charging infrastructure to support the growing demand for EV charging. One study found that up to 6.8 million public EV charge points are needed to meet the EU’s proposed 55% CO2 reduction targets for passenger cars by 2035.
In the US, the Biden Administration’s goal of having chargers every 50 miles along designated highway corridors by 2030 translates into building 500,000 new charging stations over the next seven-and-a-half years. That number, while helpful, will fall far short of the estimated 1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private chargers required by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company.
In this blog, we look at four factors that will impact building the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support growing demand for EV charging between now and 2030.
1. Charge anxiety emerges
As more electric vehicles (EVs) come on the market with driving ranges of 300+ miles on a single charge, consumers are shifting their focus from “range anxiety” around everyday use to “charge anxiety,” particularly around travel. That’s the fear there won’t be a functioning charger available at the right time and place to charge an EV, potentially leaving a driver stranded with no power.
To address “charge anxiety” as well as to accommodate the surging adoption of EV vehicles, most countries find themselves in need of significant investment in building the EV charging infrastructure to support growing demand.
It’s true that most EV charging will continue to be done at home, at a fleet depot, or at work.
However, EV owners expect to charge while in route, whether that is overnight at a hotel or while at a destination such as shopping at a mall or eating at a restaurant. That means building out charger networks today to meet tomorrow’s future demand.
2.EV chargers’ distribution and availability
Depending on where you are located, “charge anxiety” around long trips may be well founded.
- In the EU there are more than 330,000 public charging points, but 69% are concentrated in the Netherlands, Germany, and France, and only about 10% are fast charging stations.
- In the UK, there are more than 32,000 public charging points with 1,800 ultra-rapid chargers, distributed relatively evenly across the country except for a high concentration in London
- In the US, there are more than 47,000 charging locations in the US, with about 6,000 ultra-fast charging stations. Current charger installations tend to be clustered in higher income and population-dense areas. California leads with 34,000 total public charging points, followed by New York (6,547) and Florida (5,644).
Mere presence of public chargers does not, however, guarantee that you will be able to charge up your car. Anecdotal evidence of frequent public charger failures is now backed by studies that show high rates of charger outages. Physical issues with chargers require onsite visits by technicians. But charging networks that operate with smart EV charging management can achieve operational excellence that delivers a stable charging network and high charger availability to meet EV driver needs.
3. Levels of electric vehicle charging and charging times
Another aspect of EV charging that is important to EV drivers is the time it will take to charge light-duty (passenger and light truck) electric vehicles. There are three levels of EV charging and charging times, each associated with a specific charging need or use case.
- Level 1 slow charging: 120-volt AC
Connectors used: None or J1772
Charging speed: Up to 20 hours for a full charge, or 3 – 5 miles of range per hour
Use cases: Home charging
Level 1 slow charging is the simplest approach for home charging — just plug the car (or the car’s charging equipment) into a common household outlet. While it takes a long time for a full charge, it’s worth remembering that most EVs, like most ICE vehicles, are parked the majority of the time. Daily use is typically between 25 and 45 miles, so a full charge is seldom required for everyday driving.
- Level 2 slow charging: 208-240-volt AC
Connectors used: J1772
Charging speed: 5 – 6 hours, or 12 – 80 miles of range per hour
Use cases: Home charging, work charging, multi-family unit charging, public charging
Level 2 slow charging is the most common type of charging used today. Level 2 charging equipment can be installed at home or at work. Level 2 is also used for charging at multi-dwelling units, hotels, some destinations, and public charging facilities. At home, it requires a dedicated 280-240-volt dedicated circuit and a heavy-duty supply line from the breaker box.
- Level 3 fast charging: 400-volt to 900-volt DC
Connectors used: CCS (Combined Charging System), CHAdeMO
Charging speed: 15 (ultrafast) – 45 (fast) minutes, or 3 – 20 miles of range per minute
Use cases: Public charging
Level 3 direct current (DC) charging is the type of charging consumers are coming to expect from public charging, and is the focus of new charging infrastructure installations across Europe and the US, particularly at gas stations and for highway charging networks that will be used by EV drivers on long trips. It provides the speed that EV drivers want, but comes at a high price, with DC fast and ultrafast chargers costing tens of thousands of Euros/Pounds/Dollars. That means a high cost of investment today, with long-term payoff over the next years of EV growth.
4. The grid and the growing power demand for electric vehicle charging infrastructure
Setting up more charging stations is not the only consideration. Both the International Energy Agency and McKinsey & Company project that the grid can accommodate most of the Level 1 and Level 2 charging requirements through 2030. However, the highway locations where the bulk of the new Level 3 EV charging infrastructure will be built are seldom located close to the high-power grid lines they need, which means costly grid upgrades will be needed. That can become a bottleneck to growth.
Moreover, as McKinsey notes, “few grids can deliver large amounts of electricity to many EVs at high rates at the same time.” That’s why smart EV charging and energy management will be critical to the success of EV charging infrastructure buildout. Smart energy management balances the needs of the EVs being charged with the capacity of the grid.
More importantly, it makes possible a range of solutions that can extend the capabilities of the existing grid. It can incorporate local renewable energy and local energy storage to avoid spikes of use at peak times, which can stress the grid. It also enables V2G technology that uses parked EVs as “batteries on wheels” to feed unused, stored energy to the grid when it’s needed. And smart energy management balances response and demand, reducing the consumption of energy at peak demand periods.