With the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt gearing up for release, EVs now have their sights squarely set on the mainstream consumer. Tesla’s Model 3 announcement took over 300,000 reservations in under a week. While this is great news for Tesla, EV enthusiasts, and the planet in general, EVs are currently heading for major trouble.
Too Many EVs, Not Enough Stations
EVs have grown a lot in the past 10 years. The price of batteries dropped dramatically, the range on a single charge has skyrocketed, and let's not forget the outrageous acceleration and speed. There is so much to like about the coming wave of EVs, everything is pointing up.
For all the good Tesla, Nissan, BMW, and GM have done in the EV industry these past few years, they have made a crippling oversight when it comes to EVs, powering them. After all what good is a vehicle if you don’t have enough juice to get from point A to point B? Right now the general assumption is EVs can just plug in anywhere, or you could utilize a public charging network. Unfortunately, those assumptions don't live up to their expectations.
Charging an EV isn’t the same as powering your phone, while you can plug them into a basic 110v outlet, referred to as Level 1, you might want to bring a good book because you’re going to be there awhile. Currently, charging a Tesla from zero to full on a Level 1 charge takes around 100 hours. (no that's not a typo) While 220v, or Level 2, is a viable option and the most widely used charging solution, it still takes about 10 hours to completely fill up. Not to mention many home and parking garages don’t have this kind of plug readily available meaning you’ll need to pay for one to be installed. Depending on where you live, and how far away your parking space is from the breaker, it might get expensive.
We are walking into a 1970s style fuel crisis. Except this time, it's not the fuel that’s in short supply but the actual stations themselves.
If you’re thinking no problem I can just utilize a public charging network the problems only get worse. Right now in the US electric vehicles outnumber all charging stations 15-to-1. That’s right 15 EVs for everyone charging station. With the great majority of public chargers being Level 2, you better be ready to settle in for the long haul. Even if every public station were a Level 3 DC fast charger (Currently only 10% are) which takes around an hour to get a full charge, the 15 to 1 ratio still makes charging an extremely undesirable. All this is happening before we go ahead and dump another 400,000+ EVs on the road.
Building The Future
Tesla has put a good amount of the infrastructure burden on themselves, rigorously building out their own private supercharger network at the cost of hundreds of millions. The venture has been relatively successful (depending on which state you live in) but recently Tesla has started to feel the price of success, sending out notices to drivers for “overusing” the superchargers and gently reminding them to find an in-home solution. The problem isn’t overuse but oversupply, with too many Model S drivers on the road the stations can’t keep up.
When we really break it all down, we simply don’t have the chargers needed to handle the demand and are walking into a 1970s style fuel crisis. Except this time, it's not the fuel that’s in short supply but the actual stations themselves. Building out the infrastructure needed is no small nor easy task and you only have to look at Tesla and see why.
Building in open areas close to the power source is fairly easy and while not incredibly cheap it is cost-effective. The problem is the US, as with the rest of the world is it continues to urbanize. Right now 86% of Americans live in urban areas and that makes things a lot more difficult. Why? Gaining additional access to power is no easy feat, couple that with the extremely high cost and you can see why charging stations aren’t everywhere.
The fact of the matter is most buildings, and cities were never designed for the large additional power drain that EVs demand. So for older buildings asking them to install a handful of charging stations could be a multi-million dollar request, especially when we talk about DC fast chargers.
This is why intelligent systems are key, ones that allow the install of additional infrastructure without the crippling costs that normally come with it. With the EVs coming, there isn’t much time to get started, but we do have a small window before they arrive. With such little time, we need to start building out the future of charging stations now before it's too late.