Right now in the US there are 15 electric vehicles (EV) on the road for every one public charging station. Each vehicle can take between 4-12 hours to charge fully with Level-2 AC chargers. DC fast charging can achieve the same feat in around 40 minutes to an hour, however there are less than 2,000 DC fast charging stations nationwide. With over 400,000 EVs on the road, the numbers simply don’t add up, and it’s only going to get worse from here.
Over the next four years, 20 million EVs are going to be on the road worldwide and roughly one-fifth of them are expected to be in the US. While the ramp-up of affordable electric cars is already happening, a reliable DC fast charge network has a long way to go. AC public chargers are in more abundance, however with long charge times they make little sense outside of workplace and in-home charging: basically anywhere the car will sit for more than four hours.
Although many fast chargers are planned over the next four years, it’s not so simple to build them. DC fast chargers require 100 amps/charger, getting access to anything more than 400 amps requires a minimum investment of around $500,000 that just for the power alone and if it’s coming from a nearby source. Adding the already expensive chargers on top of that makes each station a massive monetary and infrastructural multi-million dollar hardship. Furthermore, putting these kinds of stations into cities creates a large strain on the city grid, pushing a system that simply cannot handle its inclusion past the breaking point.
AC chargers, while much slower, can be installed at a much lower cost and are a far easier solution to install in cities. The problem once again becomes cost and access to power as older buildings, most of which were built before 2007, simply didn’t account for the additional power that chargers require. Adding these in effectively taps out the building power if any can be installed at all.
Compounding all of this are the power plants themselves. While we take it for granted every day, the power we use in our homes doesn’t come from nothing: it has to be produced and most of these plants are already working at or, in some cases, beyond their intended limit.
This is the problem facing EVs and their widespread adoption. It has nothing to do with lower gas prices (those will always go back up). Nothing to do with shortage of batteries or lack of EV supply. It simply boils down to the fact that most cities around the world are totally unprepared for such a large additional power need. That’s why it’s imperative we effectively maximize our current infrastructure while we build out for the future.
Smart systems like SmartPower that allow chargers to communicate to increase efficiency are imperative for the long-term survival of electric cars and our city grids. We can, and most likely will have to, build new more productive power plants and continue to increase the efficiency of our everyday products. However, those changes will take a decade to fully realize and chargers are needed now. Increasing the intelligence behind them allows for more to be built with less power than initially needed. Meaning we can install 10 times the number of stations off of the same power source as a traditional “dumb” charger.
Doing this isn’t as simply as splitting the power: SmartPower intelligently allocates power based on need and will learn over time increasing its efficiency even further.