Recently the US Senate voted to advance an infrastructure bill that included $7.5bn for public electric vehicle charging stations. If all goes according to plan this will be the first time that the US has ever made a national investment related to infrastructure for EVs and so for that they must be applauded. However, the figure is just a fraction of the estimated $50bn needed to build the 500,000 charging stations President Joe Biden has called for by 2030.
At EEVEE Mobility we’re on a mission to accelerate EV adoption through our ecosystem of digital products and services. Our app is used by EV drivers who want to know how much they’re really spending on charging costs. In this article I wanted to share some of the insights we’ve gleaned along our journey that help ease EV driver pain points, as I think that keeping these in mind will be useful to ensure a successful rollout of the EV charging infrastructure in the US.
The first point is transparency – most people know exactly how much it cost to fill up their petrol cars, but the same can’t be said for EV drivers. Fluctuations in public charging prices vary greatly depending on location and many charging stations don’t let users know how much it will cost to charge their car before they plug in, which can lead to a nasty surprise when it comes to settling the bill!
The transparency point also applies to home charging. There are hundreds of thousands of US EV drivers who live in rural or remote areas or who don’t have off-street parking and so have no option but to charge at home. A greater awareness of smart energy tariffs could make a real difference here. Smart energy tariffs automatically schedule home charging when it is cheapest and most sustainable and so consumers can not only save money but know they are reducing their carbon footprint too.
Driver knowledge of how to get the most out of their EVs is also an important factor and there are few small tips to keep in mind. For example, it’s logical to assume that under charging EVs can lead to underperformance but so too can over charging them – especially when it comes to fast charging. As a rule, most EVs operate at their best between 30% – 80% charge. Sharing knowledge like this can make a big difference when applied collectively on a mass scale such as in a country like America.
Weather can also effect charging capacity. On a hot day the battery may need to use energy to cool the vehicle, just as on a cold day it will need to heat it up. The best temperature to charge the vehicle is around 36 degrees. This may seem like a minor point but again in a country like the US where weather varies greatly and distances driven can be vast, it can make a real difference.
Another point to bear in mind when it comes to a charging infrastructure is convenience. Ultimately if it isn’t convenient to go electric, we can’t every expect widespread adoption. CNBC tested an EV last month across a long-distance road trip and concluded “We didn’t see a shortage of chargers. Even in the desert we found chargers to use. There is, however, a shortage of chargers in places you really want to stop.”
The sorts of places that people want to stop (and so will need public charging) are usually the places where there is a large footfall of people. Locations like this attract property developers and so making these developers more accountable to increasing the number of public charging stations in line with the number of homes they build will further help move the needle.
The final factor to consider is pricing. Whilst its cheaper to charge an EV than it is to fill up a tank of petrol, many consumers are happy to pay more for petrol as they know they can fill up their vehicle with petrol much faster than they can charge it. The goal is to trigger a tipping point and so I think the onus is on the US government to do even more to make driving an EV more affordable. This could appear in the form of better tax benefits for EV drivers, offering lower interest loans to buy EVs and ensuring that public charging prices remain consistently low in all the states.
To conclude, the key areas I believe the US should focus its budget on to have the biggest impact are making public charging more transparent, more convenient and more affordable. Securing the $7.5 billion is a fantastic start – the next step is ensuring that its spent wisely so that it makes a tangible difference. With other superpowers like China taking great strides forward in hitting their targets, the world is now looking at the US to keep up pace in the west.