Re-Energizing the Nations’ EV Infrastructure

Technology Policy Brief #82 | By: Steve Piazza | March 30, 2023

Header photo taken from: forbes.com/Getty

Policy Summary

The bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed back in November, 2021 has reportedly already provided funding for over 20,000 projects related to strengthening the nation’s present and future transportation and energy needs. Beyond providing support for more traditional activities focusing on highways and bridges, the law has paved the way for advancements in electric vehicle (EV) technologies.

President Biden recently announced that his administration would be working closely with the EV industry to improve the infrastructure specifically for EVs. According to a recent White House FACT SHEET, forthcoming action steps include increasing the number of charging stations, creating charging accessibility for all vehicles regardless of manufacturer, and funding for additional research and development.

These measures are designed for meeting the Administration’s goal of creating 500,000 new EV charging stations placed 50 miles apart by 2030. $7.5 billion of the Infrastructure Law is earmarked to meet that goal.

Meanwhile, another $7 billion is allocated for the development of improved battery technology and distribution.

Re-Energizing the Nations’ EV Infrastructure Biden

Photo taken from: cnbc.com/Evan Vucci/AP

Project Analysis

The automobile landscape is undergoing another historic transformation. From the design of cars to the online buying and selling of them that leave car dealership lots virtually empty, the world of cars is becoming almost unrecognizable. One significant catalyst might be the way cars are being powered.

The number of EV registrations jumped over 60% in the early part of 2022, despite an overall automobile market trending downwards. The Wall Street Journal reports that over 800,000 EVs were sold last year, reaching over 5% of all car sales.

But that’s not the only change in the scenery. Just as solar panels and windmills have found their place, so too has the EV charging station. And with the recent financial support from the government, we can expect to see even more and more charging stations in retail centers, gas stations, school campuses, homes, and elsewhere.

According to the Alternative Fuels and Data Center, there are over 50,000 charging stations around the country. But with so many EVs on the road and the count projected to become 50% of all vehicles by 2030, the government is now partnering with private companies to make charging them more accessible. The list includes automobile manufacturers like Tesla, General Motors, and Ford, industry charging station leaders such as EVBox (Netherlands), Charge Point (U.S.) and ABB (Switzerland), and other energy technology firms like Francis Energy and Forum Mobility.

In the United States, Charge Point presently leads the way with 27,000 charging stations in place offering a total of 50,000 ports, followed by Tesla, with 6,000 and 28,000, respectively. But this ranking can be deceiving.

The Open Charge Point Interface Protocol, developed by the Dutch-based EV Roaming Foundation, provides a common standard used in many countries to determine the effectiveness of different charging devides and platforms,

The distance you are able to drive on a charge will vary depending on the type of charger and the length of time you leave it on. Battery size and type is another key variable that helps determine who far you can drive on a charge.

Re-Energizing the Nations’ EV Infrastructure

Photo taken from: forbes.com/Getty

Charging stations come in three separate port types: Level 1 (110V, similar to a standard wall outlet), Level 2 (240V, what’s used for heavy appliances in the home), and Level 3 (480V, aka Fast Charge). Level 3 uses direct current (DC), and is what constitutes most of Tesla’s ports.

Often referred to as the Level 3 Supercharger, Tesla’s proprietary ports can charge a battery in a fraction of the time it takes Charge Point’s Level 2. In 15 minutes, the Supercharger can energize a car for 200 miles of range, whereas a Level 2 charger would provide a similar range only if charged overnight. For additional perspective, the lowest of the three charging level types, Level 1 would require days to reach full charge.

But since not all EVs and charging stations are compatible and increased accessibility is what the government is attempting to accomplish, cost incentives are a logical approach.

And they seem to be working. Tesla has already pledged to install or retrofit 7500 chargers so their ports can accommodate competitors’ vehicles, while others have promised to increase the number of Level 2 or Level 3 stations.

But the effectiveness of the charging stations can only be as good as the batteries they’re charging, and though advancements in battery technology have been made, more improvement is needed.

That’s why the government is also making funds available to strengthen the supply chain. Supported programs are underway at companies, universities, and other organizations  develop safer batteries that can recharge more rapidly and more often, provide longer lasting charges, and can withstand extreme temperatures.

Another objective is to reduce dependence on rare and expensive elements like nickel and cobalt, main ingredients in many existing batteries. New alternatives, which include potassium-ion or sodium metal batteries, can add to the increased use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries by leading global companies like China’s BYD and Tesla.

Cars, car dealerships, and parking lots may never look the same as before, but this transformation is no different than any other previous seismic shifts and seems poised to stay. Time embraces change, and incentives like these can only accelerate it.

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