Jun 5, 2019

Electric vehicles are outstripping the supply of charging stations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As electric vehicles proliferate, it is increasingly urgent to address limitations of the U.S. electrical grid and anticipate the effects of fully autonomous vehicles on charging strategies and infrastructure.

The big picture: Driven by market forces, tightening emissions rules and environmental concerns, automakers are introducing nearly 100 hybrid and electric vehicle models through 2022 — and many have an eye toward electric AVs eventually.

What's happening: Electrify America, Tesla and a recently announced GM–Bechtel partnership, among others, are building thousands of electric charging stations, most near commercial activity, along major interstates or at transit hubs.

  • Roughly 150,000 U.S. gas stations could also offer electric charging. The petroleum lobby has largely resisted this, but a new Chevron charging pilot could signal change.

But, but, but: Over a million electric vehicles have been sold in the U.S. As of March, there were 63,303 charging stations, a large percentage of them in California.

  • The annual growth rate of public charging stations has plateaued at around 20% over the last 5 years, but the ratio of EVs per station is climbing from about 6 EVs per station in 2012 to an expected 28 per station in 2021.
  • Even if charging stations are widely distributed, regional and local electricity suppliers will need to find a way to meet demand for EVs charging at unpredictable rates and times without causing brownouts or blown transformers.

What we're watching: Battery improvements will certainly help, and “quick-charge” speeds are dropping to mere minutes.

  • Super-fast charging, though, is expected to demand huge amounts of power. A station with 20 fast-charging units could draw as much as six megawatts of power — the same as a typical small town.
  • Dynamic induction, the wireless charging of moving vehicles, could also be useful for stretches of highway.
  • AVs will theoretically be able to navigate to charging stations or charge through induction, which could help to distribute energy demand
  • Home-based systems — which most EV drivers currently use for the majority of their charging — can also take pressure off of charging stations.

The bottom line: EV penetration could be stifled without significant, large-scale investment in charging infrastructure and advanced charging technology that can keep pace with EV adoption.

Jim Barbaresso is SVP of intelligent transportation systems at HNTB, an infrastructure advisory firm.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.