Last week the president Biden brought together executives from America’s three largest automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (which makes Fiat-Chrysler vehicles) —at the White House. Biden was able to happily drive an electric Jeep for the occasion. More importantly, the three companies have jointly pledged that at least 40%, and up to half of the vehicles they sell by the end of the decade, will be zero-emissions.
Across Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress was busy making this lofty goal easier to achieve. A bipartisan infrastructure bill, the details of which are not yet final, would allocate $ 7.5 billion to strengthen the national network of electric vehicle charging stations. This is badly needed money, experts say, if the United States is to reduce its carbon emissions, and increasingly horrible effects on the planet. Twenty-nine percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, and more than half of these come from light vehicles such as passenger cars.
A lot of things need to fall into place if the United States is to meet the White House’s electric vehicle targets by 2030. Last year, about 2% of cars sold in the United States were electric. of which almost half. in California, which means that sales will need to be multiplied by 20. Even so, that would mean that only 10-11% of cars on the road in 2030 would be electric.
Sufficient charging infrastructure will not be the only obstacle to achieving the goal. Automakers will have to keep their promises to offer more electric vehicles at lower prices. Utilities will have to shoulder the additional burden of supplying transport at a price that people can afford. Americans will just have to get used to the idea of ditching the kind of cars they’ve always known.
But creating more charging stations, and especially more accessible to the public, is “the holy grail,” says Mike Nicholas, senior researcher who studies electric vehicles at the International Council for Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research organization. A recent analysis by Nicholas and colleagues estimate that the country will need 2.4 million public and workplace chargers by 2030 if it is to meet its goals. Today, it has 216,000.
Biden initially requested $ 15 billion, which the White House said provided 500,000 charging stations. Congress cut the proposal in half, meaning there would be enough money for 250,000 fast chargers; if the money is used for cheaper chargers, it could fund more. Taking into account the charging stations that private industry could build, “that wouldn’t cover everything, but it’s a good start,” says Nicholas.
Here’s the funny thing: Most EVs, especially early in the transition, will likely be recharged at home, away from public gas station-style fast chargers. This charging at home will be slower, probably taking all night to recharge the battery. For the two-thirds of Americans who live in single-family homes, with their own garages and driveways, this might be OK. They come home from work, plug in their car and are ready to go the next day. This is especially true now, when EV owners tend to have higher incomes, be more educated, have more than one vehicle, and live in single-family homes.
But research suggests that people with great charging options at home feel nervous about the lack of public charging infrastructure, even if they don’t need it that often. Today’s most popular electric vehicles have a range of 250 miles. What happens, potential owners wonder, if they have to drive 300 miles a day? What kind of chargers are there to support them then?
On the one hand, it sounds like a silly concern. The average daily commute is less than 40 miles round trip, which an EV would easily handle. But drivers want to know they won’t get stuck, especially if, for example, someone has to go to the hospital and they forgot to plug in the car last night.