U.S. policymakers are going all-in on electric vehicles (EVs), but the supporting infrastructure will require vast upgrades to be ready for the giant changeover.
Current production sits at just 3-4 percent. Even to reach a more realistic 10 percent, the industry must undergo a massive transformation. We’ll need hundreds of thousands of new charging stations. We’ll need more electricity and better ways to store it. And though Biden is providing $3.1 billion in grants to seed the process, the private sector will need to step up in a major way.
Regardless of pace, automakers are fully on board. They know this is their future. There is no Plan B. The only question is how fast we get there. Here’s an assessment of the challenges ahead:
The state of EVs
The dawn of the automobile era offers a sense of what’s to come. From 1909 to 1918, the number of cars on the road grew nearly 20-fold. Yet the only place to buy gas was at a pharmacy or hardware store, which sold fuel in five-gallon jugs alongside the road.
By 1935, however, more than 200,000 gas stations were built to handle the new vehicle surge. Expect electric charging stations to experience similar growth over the next decade.
U.S. drivers can see the EV future in Norway.
Due to its aggressive credits and tax structure, EVs now constitute 75 percent of Norway’s auto sales. To serve that many drivers, the country installed 313 charging stations for every 100,000 people. The U.S., by comparison, has just 30. To reach Norway’s availability, we’ll need over 1 million more.
We’ll also have to reimagine the way we power cars, lest we revisit those horrendous queues we saw in California on Thanksgiving as drivers endured long waits for a charge. Today, America has about 145,000 gas stations. Yet peddling electricity is an entirely different animal. It takes just five minutes to fill up a tank. Recharging a battery runs 25-30 — at best.