Investing In Electric Vehicle Charging

“Three US states announced major investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars on Thursday. In total, California, New York, and New Jersey will put $1.3 billion on the table in the coming years to help chip away at one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread EV adoption.”
 
See Three US states will spend $1.3 billion to build more electric vehicle charging
Many folks argue that sticker-price or “range anxiety” are key barriers to adoption of EVs. They are skirting the real issue, availability of EVSEs, Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment charging stations. The sticker-price is already taken care of by the high efficiency of EVs. You can travel 5-10 times further with a kWh of electricity than the equivalent in petroleum, so the car eventually pays for itself. Range anxiety is also not real but imagined as the vast majority of trips are a fraction of the range of most EVs. Even my humble Solo can travel 161km/100 miles on a charge, far more than I usually drive, and it’s a city or commuter car and I live outside the city.

No, the real issue is finding a place to charge up. It’s the basis of “range anxiety” to the extent that’s real. If you have enough places to charge up, there should be no anxiety at all. Websites like PlugShare and ChargeHub help you find charging stations and directions and distances to them are provided by Google, so the only issue is whether there are enough charging stations where you want to go. I plan on many short trips for shopping/services that likely won’t go beyond 48km/30 miles. It’s only if I venture way out into the country that I need anywhere near the full range of my EV. I can visit all my relatives in Manitoba if they will allow me to plug into the mains when I get there. I can travel hundreds of miles across the prairies if I stick to the main routes. There are charging stations about every 100 miles in these parts. What we need are standard charging stations every 50 miles or less to be sure we can go everywhere.

It does no good to have a Tesla charging station at point A if we need a J1772 charging station. Hence, the involvement of government is essential. Someone has to decide how EVs should charge, through what connectors and with what protocols. IEEE has already developed J1772 that works well for Level II charging. Why not make that the standard and be done with it? Oh, yes, Tesla and others have made cars with huge batteries and extended ranges that need tens of kW of charging power at high voltages. Those just don’t work for small cars with small batteries like my Solo EV. The battery can’t absorb that much power. The longer range cars don’t need more frequent charging stations either. So, governments should standardize something that works for everyone.

Then it comes to how to pay for all this. For filling stations, the customer pays, obviously. That must be the eventual model for EVs but these days we have a number of $free/subsidized charging stations and “networks” of stations requiring certain memberships and cards to access. That’s not sustainable. You don’t see Esso not accepting credit cards that Shell accepts and vice versa. Again, governments should regulate against having to be a member of some network to charge an EV. Let charging stations compete on the price of energy, not as monopolies.

Then there are the government-regulated utilities selling energy. Where these guys have a monopoly, businesses are forbidden to sell energy (charge EVs). That’s a big barrier. Governments must allow businesses to sell energy and pass through costs to consumers.

Lastly, charging EVs is a tricky business. Electricity can be dangerous and doesn’t like water and ice. Charging also takes time. A business charging EVs needs to charge for energy plus the cost of supplying and maintaining the charging station. At the moment, many charging stations are only doing a decent job of supplying “fast charging” service. Other places charge many times the price of the energy to slower charging vehicles. That’s a real barrier to adoption of small EVs. Until EVs are numerous and charging stations large enough to charge many cars simultaneously, this barrier remains. In the long run EVs are the way to go. In the meantime, governments should promote EVs by supporting charging stations and setting standards so that the whole market for EVs grows and charging businesses make sense with reasonable prices and availability.

UPDATE I happened to check on charging stations in Portage La Prairie Manitoba and found that Tesla is building a station there. It’s needed because it’s a long drive from Winnipeg to Brandon along Highway 1 except for a Level II charging stations at Carberry a few miles off the highway. Unfortunately, Tesla only charges Teslas… unless you buy an expensive adapter. #@!!!%#$@! It’s possible that there will be other outlets. According to Tesla, it’s a “Destination Charging” station, not a supercharger but they still use Tesla connectors.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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