Electric cars

How the US wants to make charging electric cars (almost) as painless as pumping gas

Electric vehicles are widely seen as the future.

Ford will soon begin delivering its new F-150 Lightning, the electric version of its pickup truck, and other automakers are racing to electrify their most popular models.

But many drivers considering switching to electric vehicles cite a similar concern: the hypothetical nightmare of being stuck in the middle of nowhere without a battery.

The Biden administration has an ambitious plan to fix it. He wants to build tons of loaders so that they become as common as a gas station and closer to the ease and speed of pumping gasoline.

Here’s how the plan would work – and what it would mean for electric car owners and potential buyers.

What is the plan?

The federal government will spend $5 billion to build 500,000 chargers. The money will go to the states, which have until the end of the summer to submit their plans to the federal government.

The funding comes with strings attached – strings intended to ensure that this network of chargers is fast, reliable and convenient.

To this end, states should prioritize the construction of charging stations along the interstate highway system. Each charging station must include at least four fast plug-ins. And chargers must be non-proprietary, meaning they connect to more than one car brand.

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Ford’s F-150 Lightning all-electric pickup truck rolls off the production line during the official launch event in Dearborn, Michigan on April 26.

Why do it?

There’s a real fear of running out of power with nowhere to recharge, and that fear is widely seen as one of the biggest barriers to mass adoption of electric vehicles.

Take Phil Torres, a portfolio manager in Chicago.

When considering buying an electric car, he spent a lot of time wondering if he could find enough public charging stations on the road.

He still takes the plunge by buying a Polestar 2, an electric sedan.

And he put it to the test soon after, on a six-week road trip with his son to visit potential colleges.

He still remembers the stress of seeing his battery icon slowly draining as he looked for a charger.

“You really hold your breath,” Torres recalled. “Am I going to make it? – Because you might just, like, see yourself go from, like, 4% to 3%.”

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An “EV Charging Only” sign is seen at an electric vehicle fast-charging station in Pasadena, California on April 14.

What about chargers and charging speed?

The administration wants fast chargers – so-called level 3 chargers or DC fast chargers. DC fast chargers can almost recharge a car battery in 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the vehicle.

This is a much faster option than Level 2 chargers, which take around 5 hours to charge a vehicle. Right now, however, there are far fewer DC fast chargers on the road than there are Level 2.

What are some of the main challenges?

As with many projects, the main challenges come down to time and money.

A DC fast charger can cost between $30,000 and $140,000, and that’s not even including the cost of installation.

And because there are relatively few electric vehicles on the road right now, those chargers often sit idle, making it difficult to pay back that initial investment.

Plus, there’s all sorts of red tape for things like planning and permits.

There’s also the fact that it’s an emerging technology, and there are still bugs being ironed out. Reliability is a big issue with charging stations.

Phil Torres experienced this on his road trip with his son. He’s stopped at chargers that were out of order or wouldn’t connect to his vehicle — issues that forced him to seek another charger.

“The real problem is if you get there and it’s not syncing up with your car, or it’s out of order, it needs a restart, something like that. You’re kinda watered down,” Torres said.

People look at the first-ever all-electric Silverado during the New York International Auto Show in New York on April 15.

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People look at the first-ever all-electric Silverado during the New York International Auto Show in New York on April 15.

Is the Biden plan enough?

Simply put, no.

According to some estimates, it would take $40 billion – 8 times the amount the federal government will provide – to build all of these chargers.

But Britta Gross, of energy consultancy RMI, says it’s an important start that could help kick-start private investment.

“This could be the confidence-inspiring trigger that says, ‘Hey, private investment, now pick up where the feds have now retreated, and now is the time for the free market to take this thing to scale. “”, she says.

Currently, there are about 46,000 charging stations in the United States, compared to about 150,000 gas stations.

Some of these chargers were built by car manufacturers. Tesla has built more than 900 of its own chargers in the United States, although these stations only charge Tesla vehicles.

Others were built by independent charging providers, like Electrify America, EVgo and ChargePoint. These companies frequently partner with gas stations, big box stores, and grocery stores where they install their chargers.

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