Why Biden’s electric vehicle charging plan could fail

Earlier this month, the Biden administration released a plan to build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country. President Biden sees this as an essential part of the fight against climate change by allowing the continued deployment of electric vehicles.

Announcing the plan, Vice President Kamala Harris noted, “When we ask people what is the biggest obstacle for them to buy an electric car, the answer is almost always where and how to charge it.”

The plan emphasizes standardization as the charging network expands from the current patchwork of 100,000 public charging points. Electric vehicle owners are well aware of the challenges of navigating the current fractured electric vehicle charging network, which features various outlets, payment options, and hardware hookups.

President Biden had asked for $ 15 billion for the plan, but Congress halved that amount in the recently passed infrastructure bill. Nonetheless, the administration stuck with the original plan, with $ 5 billion deployed in the states, territories and the District of Columbia. The remaining $ 2.5 billion will be used to install charging stations in rural areas.

Faster charge required

Fast chargers are needed because the time taken to charge a vehicle is another factor influencing the decision to buy an electric vehicle. But the reduced funding likely means slower charging stations.

Level 2 charging stations require 2-10 hours to fully charge a discharged battery. More powerful and expensive level 3 charging stations can achieve this in 30 minutes. This means that most EV customers will likely need to do most of their charging overnight at home.

But the faster Level 3 charging stations will need to be strategically located along major highways and highways to serve drivers on long-distance journeys – a necessity, especially if EVs are to play a larger role in commercial transportation. There are currently vast swathes of electric vehicle deserts in the Midwest and Southern United States, which is a major hurdle for those looking to purchase an electric vehicle.

A voltage on the grid

Beyond charging speed, a massive increase in EV charging capacity will require more power and more grid capacity to power them. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that by 2030, electric vehicles could require between 525 terawatt-hours (TWh) and 860 TWh of electricity globally, up from 80 TWh last year. This is equivalent to more than three times California’s current electricity consumption.

The State of California government faces a daunting challenge, given its growing reliance on renewable energy while dealing with extreme weather conditions that severely strain the grid. Current commissioning rates for new power plants are slower than what would be required to reach 100% clean energy by 2045, as reported by the California Energy Commission, when all newly operational power plants do. not use own resources. One example is temporary gas plants to prevent power outages during the summer.

Innovative solutions are coming

Even so, California – home to nearly half of all electric vehicles in the United States – is at the forefront of vehicle-to-grid integration. The state intends to stop selling gasoline passenger cars by 2035, so it has launched a number of initiatives to ensure that electric vehicles do not overwhelm the state’s electrical infrastructure. .

Southern California Edison has launched a $ 436 million program to install 38,000 electric car chargers over the next five years. The program will encourage smart charging during the day, when solar power is at its peak and therefore electricity is cheapest.

But there are other innovative solutions developed by several start-ups that could help. L-Charge, for example, has developed a fully off-grid charging station that can charge 100 km (around 60 miles) in just 5-10 minutes. The company has developed both a stationary and a mobile version of its chargers. The stationary version can be located in conventional locations, but the mobile version can actually travel around a city and charge vehicles on demand.

Meanwhile, Amazon-backed startup Span has developed a smart electrical panel, capable of pairing with a level 2 EV charger. The Span panel can be paired with Amazon’s voice recognition interface, Alexa. This integration will make it easier for homeowners to identify the home’s largest users of electricity at any given time. In turn, this could help balance the energy load and charge electric vehicles only when there is electric capacity available.

In many areas, tapping into the grid means recharging an EV with electricity produced from fossil fuels. But the mobile charging station developed by L-Charge, which runs on liquefied natural gas (LNG) or relatively low-emission hydrogen, also offers a solution that does not impose additional strain on the network. This is an important innovation in a world where demand on the grid is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade.

In the long term, electric vehicles can both accelerate the shift to renewables and help stabilize the grid. Many homeowners will increasingly depend on self-generated solar power to charge their electric vehicles, which could replace important fossil fuel sources over the next decade.

But if this transition is to proceed on an aggressive schedule, the Biden administration’s plan will need to be complemented by investments in faster charging stations and in strengthening the electricity grid or developing off-grid solutions.

About Robert Pierson

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