More electric vehicle charging stations are needed to support future growth, experts say

These ultra-fast Electrify America EV charging stations were recently installed at Walmart in Henderson, Nev. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

NOVI, Mich. — Welcome back to the Suburban Collection Showplace for The Battery Show-North America 2021 held on September 14-16.  This electric and hybrid vehicle technology expo brings you the latest technologies and trends with innovative displays and live demonstrations of new and improved solutions for your applications.

At the “Infrastructure Evolution Needed to Support Ultra-fast EV Charging” session, there were three expert speakers on the subject. They all agreed that more charging stations are needed to support future growth–not just in cities but also in rural areas.

Christopher Michelbacher, EV Charging and Infrastructure Manager at Audi of America, who started working for this company exactly three years ago today, and says Audi and our Volkswagen group are trying to minimize the carbon footprint.  “We are trying to lower the carbon emissions of our product.  The world needs faster charging.  The customer needs to find appropriate charging stations.  The solution is to download the app in your area.”  

In low density areas, it limits the amount of energy from the grid.  Some locations are hard to get a larger upgrade.  “We need partnerships from the federal government and local and state governments to make sure the industry gets the confidence in the infrastructure, along with the confidence of the customer,” says Michelbacher.  The Biden administration’s potential infrastructure deal is reflecting this.

The industry is trying to get creative and becoming more flexible to find desperately needed locations for chargers.  But most people find charging at home.  They wake up every morning and their car is fully charged, just as you would charge your phone.  The customer does not want to compromise on where they want to charge their car.  If a customer intends to buy an electric car, we need public infrastructure now versus later.

Himanshu Sudan, President of eCamion, spoke about the future of EV charging.  “We don’t know if we will have mass transit busses, fleets or private ownership of vehicles.  The cost of running an electric bus is a quarter of the cost of gasoline.  

Sudan says: “We drove to Canada and stayed two nights.  It would have taken 72 hours to charge the whole trip, but we didn’t have that kind of time.  Then we were scrambling to find a charger to come back home.”  If we want to move forward, we have to find the ability to charge the car faster in the same amount of time it takes to pump gas.  We need to have fast charging in places where it is needed.

“Electrification is good for the climate but it’s also economical.  We are gonna need faster chargers to make sure your car is fully charged at all times.  That’s why infrastructure has got to be there.  Electricity can come from solar, the car or the car next to you.  That’s the technology we are showcasing,” adds Sudan.

There is a lack of EV infrastructure and the main barrier is investment.  We need to step up technology and private capital needs to be self-sustaining.  We need multiple revenue streams.  We need government incentives in installing public infrastructure, not only rebates.

Zack Henkin, Director of EV Program Research at Center of Sustainable Energy, was the moderator.  He noted that the trajectory of EV charging is getting faster.  There are close to 300,000 electric cars in China, and in the United States, there are less than 3,000.  Afterwards, there was a short question and answer period. 

The Biden administration has a $7.5 billion plan to increase vehicle charging to remote areas, but private investment has been discouraged in the charging networks.  California, for example, has scored more than $2 billion into EV incentive programs, but has less than 40 percent of the charging infrastructure needed to support EV growth by 2025.  This is definitely the challenge.

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