We need to build more EV chargers, but where?

  • The Biden administration is reportedly keen to spend $ 15 billion to grow the nation’s electric vehicle charging network to half a million stations by 2030.
  • As Congress makes this point, the national network continues to grow, thanks to private companies and initiatives from regional governments.
  • But charging stations are built mostly in more populated areas, creating loopholes that will be a problem in the future.

    President Joe Biden has announced a plan to spend $ 174 billion to make it easier for Americans to choose electric vehicles. Biden wants $ 15 billion of that money to be used to build a nationwide network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. The day after Biden’s announcement, Representatives Andy Levin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – both Democrats – announced that they had revised their existing invoice on electric vehicle infrastructure to align with Biden’s new plan. Republicans oppose Biden’s plan. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) called it a ‘mandatory rush’ on electric vehicles (it doesn’t – Biden declined to back a California proposal that would ban the sale of gasoline cars from here. 2035).

    Whether or not Biden’s plan can withstand the slings and arrows of a bitterly divided Congress, an EV charging network is emerging across the country, spurred on by the efforts of private companies and various government initiatives. . But where will all these chargers go?

    It depends on what is used to determine the optimal layout of the charging station, depending on Mehrnaz Ghamami, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University. Ghamami led a team of researchers who developed a plan to optimize Michigan’s EV charging network for intercity travel and travel in urban environments with heavy traffic. The aim of the study was to plan a network for 2030, which meant that the team had to take into account both existing capacities and the rate of adoption of electric vehicles and charging networks, as well as the potential for future higher adoption rates, higher capacity batteries and greater charger availability. The state also ordered the team to plan chargers with “uniform distribution throughout the state, for the sake of fairness,” not just in areas where road traffic or EV adoption is already occurring. high.

    Electrify America

    The resulting load maps imagine a network of chargers distributed at roughly equal intervals across the state, with clusters around population centers of the state, where dozens or even hundreds of chargers will be needed to support the greater number of EV owners and the lower probability owners will be able to charge their EVs at home. Ghamami says his team has been criticized for planning stations in remote areas, but “the infrastructure needs to be there and users need to be educated about these vehicles” before they feel comfortable buying one. “The state wanted to build the chargers, and demand will follow,” she said.

    But not all governments or charging networks prioritize the equitable placement of charging stations. If you look at a map of existing chargers in the US, there are often (depending on the station provider) big gaps in the middle of the country, particularly in the upper Midwest and through the rockies. This could indicate that some of the larger network providers, including ChargePoint and Electrify America, have so far focused on installing chargers where a lot of people (and EVs) already go.

    It is the technique that the City of London uses to build its network before the 2033 deadline that will impose a fleet of zero-emission taxis. This plan used map data from current taxi travel patterns, combined with power grid capacity data to start building a fast-charging network based on established travel patterns. This may mean that parts of the city that currently do not experience high taxi traffic will be left out of the charging station boom and could theoretically lead to an outdated network as neighborhoods and their traffic patterns change over time.

    The London strategy of working with the electricity providers is a strategy that we will also have to think about on this side of the pond. Ghamami says his team’s next act is a study on how to distribute energy demand from charging stations, such as using large batteries to store energy so the power grid doesn’t get overwhelmed by the day. heavy traffic. Grid outages aren’t just a risk in rural or remote areas – Ghamami says that in Michigan, parts of the grid that are at risk of being overloaded by a growing EV charging network are spread across areas to low population and higher density areas with obsolete electrical installations. Infrastructure.

    And, of course, no planning will create a robust charging network if no one wants to build the stations. The installation of new charging stations often involves partnerships between two or more parties, often a combination of state and local governments, electric utilities, a charging company and a private company interested in the activities. what drivers who wait for their car to charge can get. But Ghamami says the Michigan government sometimes can’t find partners willing to shoulder even a third of the cost of installing a planned station, and an analysis by consulting firm AlixPartners found last year that a fast charging station charging the market price for electricity could take 20 to 25 years to recover its initial investment.

    These are the administrative challenges that await the Biden administration’s EV infrastructure plan, should it ever be signed. And that first hurdle will probably be enough to keep interested parties in Congress busy for some time.

    The bill that Representatives Levin and Ocasio-Cortez hope to turn into funding for a network of fast chargers is nothing new. They first came up with a version of it in February 2020, but it never came out of its subcommittee. With a new president who has expressed interest in electric vehicles, Levin and Ocasio-Cortez are trying again with a more aggressive bill. But there is no indication that Republicans are more willing to compromise on the legislation than they were last year.

    What is the standard to guide states and load networks on the best layout for the booming networks in the meantime? “In all the countries?” Said Ghamami. “I don’t think there is one.”

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    About Robert Pierson

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