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Electric vehicles depend on chargers – this truth may be their biggest obstacle

Electric vehicles depend on chargers - this truth may be their biggest obstacle

In the electrified American dream, your home is your gas station. Drive home from work, plug your electric car into your home’s electrical grid, and get up to a full battery every morning. Rinse and repeat.

No more paying for expensive petrol at the pump or, for that matter, no longer interrupting an already tedious commute with a stop at the gas station.

In this hectic future, a car journey of hundreds of miles is the only time you have to worry about refueling (or in this case charging) your car in public.

This description fits most early adopters who have bought EVs in the last decade, says Jeremy Michaelprofessor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group† Most EVs cost quite a bit of money (the lowest price is .) almost $30,000 basis), so it makes sense that most electric vehicle drivers are also homeowners.

†[Homeowners] tend to park on the street,” says Michalek.

“They often have several vehicles at home as well. They can install a charger at home, leave every day with a full tank of electricity and, with the range of today’s electric vehicles, hardly ever need a public charging infrastructure.”

“Renters… may not be able to build charging infrastructure”

Meanwhile, gas prices are rising and old automakers, as well as startups, are bringing a new range of EVs to the American roads. Electric driving, in turn, is becoming increasingly attractive to those unable to charge at home – after all, if you live in an urban high-rise apartment complex, where would you plug it?

Such a turnaround in American car culture could widen the divide between the haves and have-nots. For those who can charge at home, life with an electric car is arguably easier than the old ways of filling up with gas. Maybe not for everyone else.

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city ​​bypass

Teslas and other EVs are gaining popularity as city-friendly cars, but there’s a catch.MarioGuti/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

Nationwide, about 35 percent of Americans rent out their homes. That number is significantly higher in coastal cities with a high cost of living – the same places where, for political and geographical reasons, residents are more likely to want an electric vehicle. In Los Angeles, the largest city in America’s largest EV market, more than 60 percent of residents rent their homes.

“If you’re trying to get to the regular level” [of EV adoption]you are talking about tenants who may not have the option to install charging infrastructure,” says Michalek.

“And even if they have charging infrastructure this year, tenants tend to move, and they don’t know if they’ll have that access next year.”

Not all renters are unlucky when it comes to charging a car. Some people rent single-family homes where they have the option to install a garage charger; others live in multi-unit complexes with charging stations as a facility to attract residents. Other drivers may have the option to charge their car at work.

However, anyone who can’t tick one of those boxes will have to deal with the annoyance of finding a fast charger in the world when their battery starts to run out. At best an annoying and time-consuming message, at worst a disruptive force in their time.

The United States has only 6,000 fast EV charging stations.

Most Americans, especially urban Americans, live near at least one, if not several, of the nation’s roughly 150,000 gas and diesel gas stations, and are rarely too stressed about finding a pump before the needle E reaches. Not only that, but once at the pump it might take you ten minutes to fill up, pay and drive away.

But as of spring 2022, the United States has only 6,000 fast EV charging stations that can fill an entire battery in less than one hour† Even city dwellers can live a few miles from the nearest charger. Every time the car needs to be charged, so at least once or twice a week, they have to drive far out of the way and then spend up to an hour at the charging station.

Fast charging is getting faster and faster: Tesla can boast that its fastest superchargers now deliver 200 miles of juice in just 15 minutes. And every day, more high-speed charging stations are opening to serve the growing number of U.S. EVs, including the half-million new plugs introduced by the US. Bipartisan Infrastructure Act 2021 passed.

Yet charging is simply not the same as pumping up gas. Due to the time required, a popular charging station can see a line of cars driving during its busiest times, forcing drivers to spend even more time waiting for a plug to release – a time penalty for those who are already busy.

Making EVs work

Two business people playing a smartphone waiting for their car for an electric charge.  Sustainable and renew...

The new business meeting? A quick conference call via a charging cable.Sutthichai Supapornpasupad/Moment/Getty Images

One way to ease the pain would be to provide more workplaces with on-site parking for their employees to offer EV charging. After all, work is the other place besides home where so many cars sit idle for most of their lives.

“Of course in the post-pandemic world, the availability of home charging has become more important… with all the (presumably at least somewhat – lasting) virtual work,” says Timothy Lipmanprofessor at the University of California, Berkeley and co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

“We see people” running extension cords into their driveway [to charge their cars]†

Lipman sees this pain point close to home. In San Francisco, more than half of residents live in apartments rather than single-family homes. Due to housing costs, many people have of single-family homes have converted (legal or otherwise) garages into living space and can no longer park their car there.

“We see people running extension cords to their driveways [to charge their cars]stuff like that,” Lipman says.

To increase the number of people who can charge at home, cities could demand that new homes be built with chargers or that the number of parking spaces on the street with plugs should be increased. But such approaches have their own drawbacks, says: Alex BacaDC Policy Director for the group Greater Greater Washington

New homes are expensive, which means that charging electric vehicles there does not benefit those who need it most. To get landlords to build chargers in existing rental properties, local governments would have to spend huge sums of money to subsidize construction, Baca says. Meanwhile, installing plugs next to street parking is expensive and takes up space that can be used for bus lanes, bike paths, or other uses.

“We can’t just guarantee a parking space and a charging station for everyone in an apartment,” she says, “because then…there will be no more city.”

Despite their resurgence, EVs may not be the gasoline alternative for everyone, Lipman says. He is one of the few Americans to drive a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, once hyped as the technology of the future before being eclipsed by battery-electric cars. In his work at Berkeley, Limpan advocates for hydrogen in places where it could be the right fuel source to reduce emissions, such as if it replaces the dirty diesel trucks used by the agricultural sector in California’s Central Valley.

But if hydrogen could make a comeback and significantly reduce the cost of fuel cell cars, he says, hydrogen could one day serve drivers who don’t need to charge at home to support an electric car.

“I still see a role for the light fuel cell car,” he says. “I just think there are a lot of people who are a little bit used to the gas station model – and don’t have a plug-in.”

On the horizon…

Hand charging modern electric car

Plug in – if you can!Jackyenjoyphotography/Moment/Getty Images

By now you may have heard the expression “ban cars† Literal or not, the provocative phrase is meant to point out the problems with a world built around the car.

More than 42,000 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents in 2021, the highest number since 2005, and the increasing size and weight of cars and trucks make them particularly dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Parking lots and cloverleaf interchanges require huge chunks of urban real estate. Car ownership and maintenance are expensive, but living a car-free life is difficult, if not nearly impossible, in much of the US

Electric vehicles address a specific automotive problem: If their electricity comes from renewable sources, they can reduce the huge amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cars and reduce the climate impact of the transportation industry. But an electric car is still a car.

Baca argues that EVs exacerbate some problems: their relatively high weight, thanks to carrying large batteries, makes car-pedestrian accidents more dangerous and increases the amount of rubber residue that all cars produce while driving. And at the level of urban planning, betting on EVs means above all else that we continue to accept a world built for the car and do little to make cities more walkable or transport-friendly.

“Like so much of this,” she says, “I feel like it goes back to… [the question of]what do you want your city to be?”

HORIZONS is a series about today’s innovations that will shape the world of tomorrow. This is a modified version of the July 7th edition. Predict the future by signing up for our free HORIZONS newsletter.