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BUMP IN THE ROAD I own an EV – here’s my greatest fear while on the road

Jon Rogers

Aug 15, 2023

AN owner of an electric car has revealed his greatest fear when out on the road.

Computer science professor Brad Campbell, 34, has said its not so easy to find a free charging point in the United States.

While sales of EVs have risen sharply in the US in the past few years, hitting 4million in June, the infrastructure to support them has not kept pace.

Campbell told the FT that while road trips were “definitely doable” he added “it would be way easier if there were more options”.

President Joe Biden has set a target which wants half of all new passenger car sales to be zero-emission vehicles, or those that do not emit exhaust, by 2030.

Fears are growing that if the rollout of charging ports fails to keep up with the forecasted growth in EVs, then the ensuing bottleneck could slow the adoption of EVs.

The White House has called for 500,000 public chargers, including at workplaces and along roads.

Figures from the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Centre show there are currently nearly 150,000 public chargers in the country.

S&P analyst Ian McIlravey has warned the gap between EVs and EV chargers is “at risk of widening".

Closing that gap could be sizeable task as the industry faces a number of issues including charger unreliability, an uncertain business model as in some areas an electric grid that would struggle to cope.

In addition, there are other considerations connected to the infrastructure, such as building amenities for drivers waiting for chargers, including toilets and providing WiFi.

Manufacturers have started to partner up in the drive to provide facilities.

Ford, GM and Volvo are all adopting Tesla’s charging connector design  so other car makers can access its charging network.

In return, Tesla has pledged to open at least 7,500 of its chargers to all EVs by the end of 2024.

Even so, a particular problem is expanding the EV connectivity across the large swathes of rural areas in the US, where there are low levels of EV adoption.

Anyone wanting to undertake the “Grand Circle” road trip which covers the Grand Canyon and other famous sites in the south-west currently faces having to go for long stretches without a charger.

In one part, there is a gap of 200 miles between charging points.

Professor Campbell, said he had started planning a trip to Kentucky but had to give up on the idea because he couldn’t “reasonably” drive through West Virginia.

Under Biden’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program the aim is to build at least one fast-charging station every 50 miles near designated highways from the west coast to the north-east.

In 2021, the federal government allocated $5billion in funding to help states build, maintain and operate chargers in the NEVI network.

An extra $2.5bn in grants is also available in part to support rural charging and improve access.

There are signs though that things are improving as Anshul Gupta, 56, managed to drive up the west coast from California to Washington in a rented Tesla last month.

He said he didn’t have to change course or lose time waiting for his car to charge, due to Tesla’s charging stations.

The policy analyst at the non-profit organisation New Yorkers for Clean Power said: “Nothing changed because I was driving an EV.

“That was the goal I had set out to test.” 

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