This article discusses “How Can More Electric Vehicle Stations Be Built Quickly?” and key strategies and considerations for rapidly deploying EV charging. Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly growing in popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered cars. However, a major barrier to greater EV adoption is the lack of convenient charging infrastructure, especially for drivers without access to home charging. To accelerate the transition to electric transportation, we need to quickly build many more EV charging stations.
Strategic site selection is critical for successfully expanding EV charging access. Charging stations should be conveniently located where drivers already park regularly for extended periods. Installing chargers in residential areas enables residents without home charging to charge near where they live. Curbside chargers, charging hubs in apartment building parking lots, and chargers at hotels can serve multifamily housing residents. Workplaces are also ideal locations since employees often park for 8+ hours. Retailers, restaurants, and other businesses can attract customers by offering charging.
Charging stations must also be built along major highways and traffic corridors to facilitate long distance EV travel. Rest stops and gas stations near highway exists are prime spots. Urban charging hubs with multiple high-speed chargers can allow taxi and rideshare drivers to quickly recharge and get back on the road. When possible, repurposing existing parking lots and structures is recommended to reduce costs. Signage and paint can designate EV charging spaces.
For successful execution, EV charging infrastructure projects require forming partnerships early on. Electric utilities must be consulted to assess local grid capacity and infrastructure upgrade needs. In rural areas especially, grid upgrades may be needed to support multiple Level 2 or high-powered DC fast chargers. Utilities can also inform projects on available incentive programs, demand management solutions, and options for off-grid charging. Regional charging coalitions can provide technical expertise and facilitate coordination between site hosts, vendors, utilities, and other stakeholders.
Public-private partnerships can help pool resources and achieve economies of scale. For example, Volvo and Starbucks are collaborating to install hundreds of EV chargers at Starbucks stores. Government agencies can also partner with private companies to share installation and operating costs. Particularly in low utilization areas, creative shared uses for EV chargers should be explored, like charging delivery vehicles overnight and the public by day.
Charging equipment must be rapidly manufactured, delivered, and installed to match the pace of EV adoption. Modular station designs using prefabricated components streamline deployment. Tesla has pioneered over-the-air software updates and assembled entire Supercharger sites at their factory. These are then shipped fully constructed to the installation site and quickly activated. Other charging vendors are following suit with scalable modular designs.
Level 2 EVSE (240V) offers the best combination of faster charging and lower costs for most public and workplace locations. Installation of Level 2 chargers should be prioritized over slower Level 1 (120V) plugs and pricier DC fast charging. To reduce costs, sites should install multiple chargers at once and complete all needed electrical trenching and conduit rerouting upfront. Hard costs per charger drop significantly with larger batch installs.
Some companies now provide complete solar-powered charging solutions to avoid expensive grid upgrades in remote areas. These off-grid systems combine solar arrays and battery storage to deliver DC fast charging solely from the sun. They can be installed in any location with sun exposure without connecting to the electrical grid. Hybrid approaches are also emerging that utilize batteries and generators to supplement grid power during periods of peak charging demand.
ADA compliance must be ensured so charging stations accommodate all users. The U.S. Access Board provides design guidance on proper clearances, operable parts placement, and other accessibility requirements. Ongoing maintenance is essential to keep chargers operational and safe. Damaged cords, broken screens, etc. must be promptly repaired.
When first installing public chargers, providing free charging can attract early adopters and prime the market for EVs.
Read More:Innovations in Electric Vehicle Charging
Electricity costs are minimal for sites hosting just a few Level 2 ports. As usage increases, low fees can offset operating expenses while still encouraging charging. Smart charging stations allow dynamic pricing based on time of day to shift demand and reduce a site’s peak loads. Sites should be wary of high fees that would discourage drivers from charging.
Advanced networking capabilities like automatic payment, real-time status updates, and automated diagnostics streamline operations for charging site hosts and drivers. Signage with charging instructions, fees, time limits, and other policies improves the user experience. Adequate lighting and siting stations in visible locations enhances safety and accessibility. Registering stations in online directories informs potential users of available public charging options.
Local governments can accelerate EV infrastructure growth through policy reform and financial incentives. Permitting and inspection processes should be streamlined to reduce administrative burdens for charging projects. Outdated zoning codes and building standards must also be updated to allow and encourage EV charger deployments. Parking codes can be revised to require EV charging readiness in new multifamily and commercial developments.
Federal, state, and local incentive programs can significantly defray the upfront capital costs of installing charging stations. Government grants often cover 50-80% of hardware and installation expenses. Subsidies are crucial in the early market phase when utilization and revenue are low. Public funding should prioritize deployments that maximize public accessibility, such as workplaces, multifamily housing, and retail. As market adoption increases, private investment will eventually fund much of the build-out.
Broader transportation electrification policies boost charging infrastructure usage. Rebates and tax credits for EV purchases lower vehicle costs for drivers. Preferential policies like HOV lane access for EVs provide extra incentives to go electric. Adopting California’s vehicle emissions standards would further accelerate EV sales. Complementary initiatives enhance the business case for expanding charging options.
Achieving widespread electrification of the transportation sector is critical to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change. To enable this transition, EV charging infrastructure must be rapidly scaled up to match rising adoption. Strategic partnerships, efficient project execution, smart operations, and supportive policies are instrumental to quickly building convenient and affordable public charging networks. With commitment and coordination, governments, businesses, and utilities can work together to deliver the charging solutions needed to make EVs accessible for all.