After a lot of work and revisions, with a lot of reader input, we’ve finally got a basic plan together to begin sharing with officials. Be sure to share this article and tag decisonmakers like President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Hopefully all of the information we’ve collected will help them make better decisions as they work to fulfill the promise to build 500,000 new EV charging stations.
About This Guide
The writers and readers of CleanTechnica have been working together for several months to put together a plan for the Biden Administration to reference when fulfilling the campaign promise to build 500,000 EV charging stations. We hope this short guide and map can be of use to administration officials as they begin this monumental undertaking.
Draft Charging Infrastructure Planning Guide
When planning to build EV charging infrastructure, there are several important things to consider. There are different types of chargers, differing needs in cities vs rural areas, and EV charging stations differ from gas stations in key ways. Here’s a quick guide to these topics:
There are three types of charging stations that will make up a coherent national EV charging network: Slow Level 2 charging, Medium Speed Level 3 charging, and Fast Level 3 Charging.
Slow Level 2 charging stations (Destination Charging) are a step up from Level 1 chargers (normal wall plugs). They run on 208-240 volts, like a dryer or kitchen stove. The important thing about these stations is that they can charge a car overnight while the driver sleeps or during a workday at the driver’s workplace. These usually use what’s called a J1772 plug, but some use the proprietary Tesla plug (adapters are available).
Because you can charge an EV at home or at work, this is where 90% of the action is. The United States has approximately 168,000 gas stations, but they serve both local drivers and people passing through. For EVs, this is a good thing because Level 2 stations are the cheapest to install. It also means that not nearly as many faster chargers will be needed for long trips, because they mostly serve long distance travelers.
Out of 500,000 EV chargers, this will probably be 400,000 of them. At $1000-2000 for most simple installations (more for complicated setups), it helps save money for the faster charging stations.
Level 2 stations will need to be installed at homes, workplaces, apartments, and street parking. Some will also be useful at parking garages and any place taxis and TNC vehicles (Uber, Lyft, etc.) frequent, like airports and entertainment districts.
The administration will need to work with cities and private entities, possibly with tax credits and grants, to get these stations put in.
Medium-Speed Level 3 charging (Opportunity Charging) will be the second most common type of station. Instead of providing AC power to the car, Level 3 stations give the car DC power that goes directly into the battery pack for speed. These types of stations output 20-75 kilowatts (kW), and add around 100-200 miles of range per hour.
For Level 3 Charging, it’s best for stations to have all three types of fast charging plugs: CCS, CHadeMO, and Tesla. This would allow drivers with EVs from any brand to get a charge.
These slower L3 stations are best placed in cities and towns at places drivers tend to spend 30–60 minutes. Examples include grocery stores, malls, movie theaters, big box stores, and airport parking. These are also very useful for electric taxis and TNC vehicles when placed in airport queues and entertainment districts, but are needed in suburbs just as much.
Some drivers who can’t charge at home will utilize these stations to “top up” once or twice a week for local driving, so they could also prove useful in neighborhoods where there is higher density housing or in apartment parking lots/structures themselves.
Larger cities will need hundreds of these for serious EV adoption. Smaller towns might only need a handful to get started (as most charging happens at L2 stations).
Like the level 2 stations, grants and tax credits could help many more spring up. Federal properties are also a great place for the federal government to directly build or contract out these stations.
Fast Level 3 Charging (Travel Charging) is best for long trips, so you’ll want to position these along interstate and US highways, along with some state highways. Fewer will be needed compared to L2 and slow L3 stations, but these will take up most of the funding.
Power output for Fast Level 3 charging stations is 150–350 kW at present. These stations add hundreds or thousands of miles of range per hour, and the idea is to keep travelers moving after spending only a few minutes charging up, or while stopping for a meal.
Along Interstate highways, the fastest chargers will be needed because EVs use more power to move at higher speeds. The volume of traffic on Interstate highways also means at least 4 “stalls” will be needed at each station to get started, with more to be added later. Rural highways can start with slower 150 kW stations and two stalls per location, due to lower speeds and lower traffic volumes.
At least half of the station “stalls” at each site should support all three charging standards. They are: CCS, CHAdeMO, and Tesla. That way, charging will at least be a little available for all vehicles. The other half of the stations can probably be CCS only, as Tesla drivers have alternative proprietary stations to use and CHAdeMO cars are slowly becoming less common.
Growth will need to be planned for when setting up a station. The administration should work with electric companies and site hosts to save power capacity and room for additional stalls in the future, including space for other operators (e.g., Tesla, Electrify America, EVgo, ChargePoint) to set up their chargers.
The goal of a massive charging station building project shouldn’t be to build everything American EV drivers will ever need, but instead should serve as a stimulus for EV adoption and then for further expansions of the network to happen as the market demands more plugs.
Choosing Interstate & Rural Locations
The most important thing about choosing fast Level 3 sites is to spread them out to where they will be needed for travelers. Commercial operators are often tempted to place their stations in cities where there are already EVs, but that approach tends to add capacity where it’s not needed as much. The lack of rural chargers stunts growth both among rural buyers and those who travel between cities, so any serious administration initiative should avoid that mistake. Cities need some fast Level 3 sites, but many slower stations would be a better way to serve a city’s needs.
Rural routes should have a station every 50–75 miles where conditions are fair and terrain is mostly flat. Add hills, mountains, or extreme weather conditions, and stations will need to be closer together to make sure drivers don’t get stranded from unexpected energy use. Cold weather is another important consideration, as heating and the cold itself hurt EV range.
Another important thing to consider is avoiding duplication. If a route already has good charging infrastructure, federal dollars would be best spent covering gaps on these routes and covering routes that don’t have any stations yet. It makes little sense to waste money building what’s already there when we need a serious expansion.
Our Fast Charging Suggested Infrastructure Map
CleanTechnica’s writers and readers are working on a map to help guide administration officials with this process. We looked at present charging infrastructure and suggested locations that would help establish or beef up infrastructure for travelers.
We currently have suggested station locations in all 50 states and in the populated US territories. At present, these stations are not precise, but show the general area where these chargers need to be within 1-2 miles. It will be necessary to find suitable businesses or public entities to host these sites nearby.
The map is embedded below, but you can look at a larger full-screen view here.
You’ll notice that the map above has big gaps in it. That’s because many places (particularly on the west coast) already have some infrastructure. Our map doesn’t include the locations where there are already charging stations, but you can find that information on sites like Plugshare.
You might notice that we located some stations in Canada. By some estimates, the Alaska Highway’s traffic is 85% US citizen traffic. We suggest using the Shakwak Agreement to provide funding to the Canadian government to install the needed stations for Americans living in Alaska. This would help people on both sides of the border and increase EV adoption greatly in Alaska. More details here.
Beyond Canada, it might be a good idea to encourage other jurisdictions to use foreign aid to spur EV adoption to help lower global emissions.
When working with manufacturers, it might be good to use the charging network to encourage higher efficiency. If EVs are more efficient, they’ll charge faster on the network, have a lower environmental impact, last longer, and won’t overrun network capacity as easily. One way this could be done is to reward the buyers of more efficient EVs by giving them some free or reduced cost charging.
To save funds, the federal government should not operate the network after building it. It is probably best to work with existing EV charging companies, like Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint (among others) to build, operate, and maintain the stations. This makes the best use of existing expertise and helps the network eventually be self-sustaining and hopefully cover its own growth in the future.
On the other hand, if federal dollars are going to be put in, the company building, operating, and maintaining the locations should be contractually obligated to do so for at least ten years and a backup entity should exist in the event the operator goes out of business.
Please feel free to contact CleanTechnica for help implementing an EV charging plan. Our team of experts and our large number of EV owners and enthusiasts stand ready to help the administration make EVs a success. Like you, we’re here to serve!