Tens of Millions of EVs in the U.S. Will Require How Many Public Charging Points in 2030?

Charging Stations Infrastructure 6 photos
Photo: Newspress
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The U.S. government’s goal is to reach 50% zero-emissions vehicle sales by 2030. Therefore, it will fund the installation of 500,000 public charging stations. But analysts predict the public infrastructure should be at least two times or even four times larger.
Today, there are around 280 million vehicles operating on U.S. roads. Less than half of them are passenger cars, and around five million are publicly owned vehicles. Less than two million are EVs, while the other 99% are powered by internal combustion engines.

Obviously, they need fuel to run, and they must use the around 170,000 fueling stations across the United States. The average gas station has between six and 12 pumps, which means there are roughly 1.5 million fuel pumps out there.

Statistically, there is one fuel pump for every 185-190 vehicles. Now let’s see if these values also apply to EVs and charging stations infrastructure.

EV chargers are enough. Sort of

First of all, the fuel pump infrastructure is very different from charging station infrastructures. I used the plural for the latter, and it’s not a typo. That’s because there are two kinds of charging points: AC Level 2 and DC Level 3.

AC Level 2 charging points are using alternating current, which means low power (much less than 50 kW) and long charging times (several hours). DC Level 3 charging points are using direct current and provide fast-charging or ultra-fast-charging powers (up to 350 kW, for now).

Fast-charging a battery from around 10-20% to 80% requires between 20 minutes and one hour, depending on battery size and how much power charge can handle the battery management system. Either way, it’s no match for the few minutes needed to fill an ICE car’s tank.

But let’s not get into that painful debate today. Let’s stick to the numbers.

Charging Stations Infrastructure
Photo: Newspress
Currently, in the U.S., there are around 56,000 charging stations, where almost 150,000 charging points are deployed. Around 130,000 are AC Level 2, while the other 20,000 are DC Level 3. Usually, the AC ones are separated from DC ones, because of very different connections to the grid.

The number of electric vehicles registered at the end of 2022 in the U.S. was almost two million. This means there is one charging point for every 13 EVs. But we should separate them: there is one AC Level 2 charging point for every 15 EVs, respectively, one DC Level 3 for every 100 EVs.

Compared to ICE vehicles and gas stations, it seems the number of EV charging points is more than enough. But then there are some details. For instance, 10% of all charging stations are private. Out of the roughly 20,000 fast-charging points, almost 17,000 belong to the Tesla Supercharger network – only a few non-Tesla electric cars can use them.

Taking into account that most EV drivers charge their cars at home overnight, and some even at the office during the day, things are not so bad. But they will soon be, most likely.

Going full-throttle on “EV-ification”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is pouring $7.5 billion into public EV-charging infrastructure, aiming for 500,000 new public chargers by 2030. It seems a lot: more than a four-time increase in eight years. Not so bad, Uncle Joe Mister President!

However, recent studies from McKinsey & Company and S&P Global reveal that the addition of half a million public chargers could be far from enough. Because in 2030, there will be tens of millions of electric vehicles in the U.S.

Charging Stations Infrastructure
Photo: Newspress
If the federal target for 2030 will be met – half of the new passenger cars and light trucks should be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) – McKinsey & Company estimates that the EV vehicles fleet in the U.S. will be more than 48 million.

We’re talking about a mind-blowing 24-fold increase in eight years! 44 million will most likely be passenger cars, while the rest will be electric buses, light commercial vehicles, and trucks. According to McKinsey & Company, all of these EVs will require at least 1.2 million public chargers – more than double compared to the government’s plan.

Keep in mind that AC Level 2 chargers are becoming obsolete, because of long charging times. They will mostly be a solution for residential and office applications. There are the most common places where cars are parked for longer periods, so a longer charging time is not an issue.

The focus is on DC Level 3 fast-charging and ultra-fast-charging stations. For instance, the number of all charging stations doubled in 2022 compared to 2021 – but the fast-charging points had a higher growth rate. In the near future, cars will have bigger batteries, while commercial vehicles will have even bigger batteries.

But most of all, the public expects much shorter charging times. This is a must, especially for drivers who need to travel hundreds of miles daily and can’t afford long pauses. Besides, gaining around 50 miles range for a five to ten minute fast-charging is also common sense for daily commutes.

McKinsey & Company is pointing out another interesting fact: annual demand for electricity to charge all electric vehicles in 2030 will surge from 11 billion kWh today to a whopping 230 billion kWh in 2030. That is 5% of nowadays electricity demand in the U.S.

Estimates show that the cost of hardware, planning, and installation for the millions of public chargers needed in 2030 will require around $35 billion by 2030. This is five times more than Biden Administration’s funds for EV charging infrastructure.

A more conservative approach

S&P Global’s forecasts are a little different: the total number of EVs in operation could reach only 28 million units in 2030. EV market share for new vehicles is estimated to be around 40% by 2030, less than the federal target.

Accordingly, around 2.13 million AC Level 2 and 172,000 DC Level 3 public chargers will be needed. So, a total of 2.3 million charging points – more than four times than the government’s target. And this is just the start of issues.

Charging Stations Infrastructure
Photo: Newspress
S&P Global considers that the deployment of charging stations should follow the EV adoption rate, which is different state by state. In short, the states following the California Air Resources Board's path to zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) sales must be prioritized.

California, Florida, Texas, and New York are traditionally the states with the highest number of vehicles in operation and the highest new-vehicle registrations. So, there you’ll find most of the electric vehicles, and most public stations funded by the government should be deployed there. The states where EV adoption happens gradually will require fewer funds for charging infrastructure.

There’s another problem: currently, close to 90% of charging stations are in metropolitan areas. But according to S&P Global, “distribution will need to be much wider as vehicles in operation grow, and consumers need to charge along their routes."

One very interesting observation is related to other solutions, like battery swapping, wireless charging, or even the deployment of DC wallbox solutions on AC grid sites. They have the potential to change the established model of charging stations.

For now, they are not in Biden’s plans, but nonetheless, there are other government agencies that fund research for alternate solutions like these. Hopefully, in the following years, they will play a more important role in the transition of the “refueling mechanism.

Is 2030 the year of EVs?

Convenient and sufficient charging solutions for EVs are crucial for the mass adoption of electric vehicles, that’s for sure. The $7.5 billion to deploy 500,000 charging points by 2030 is a bold step for this administration, although studies are showing there’s much more to be done.

Charging Stations Infrastructure
Photo: Newspress
Fortunately, the car industry is also taking Tesla’s example and, in the following years, there will be more other charging points and networks available for EV owners. I’m talking about tens of thousands of EV chargers, mostly DC fast-charging, that will add to those already planned by the Biden Administration.

However, there’s something that’s bugging me – EV transition is too slow. I mean, the goal of 50% of new cars being electric vehicles in 2030 sounds kind of theatrical. Simple math is showing us that, in this scenario, in 2030, electric vehicles will count for about 15 percent of all vehicles in the U.S.

This is way too little for a country where SUVs and guzzler pick-ups are the new normal. Their mpg is lower than normal passenger cars and makes the EVs’ gains in emissions reduction look more like a joke. It's also true that the car industry is a behemoth, and big changes require more time.

But “time is money” is no longer a viable excuse in this climate change crisis that we’re gradually experiencing. We simply don’t have time for a slow transition. Call me outdated, but I’m afraid it’s time to listen carefully to Midnight Oil’s 1987 hit “Beds are Burning.
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About the author: Oraan Marc
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After graduating college with an automotive degree, Oraan went for a journalism career. 15 years went by and another switch turned him from a petrolhead into an electrohead, so watch his profile for insight into green tech, EVs of all kinds and alternative propulsion systems.
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