Will Biden plan electric vehicles to shake 500K?

If the recent gas shortages related to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack have taught us something is how quickly things can go wrong when we fear our access to fuel may be lost.

So anyone who’s already running out of gas and not knowing if there is a gas station nearby knows what it’s like to drive an electric car with a low battery. After all, do you know where your nearest charging station is?

This condition – known as range anxiety – may soon be eradicated, as President Joe Biden proposes a massive investment in electric car charging stations that would make it easier to “fill” with electricity.

Without more chargers, the popularity of electric vehicles – which have been welcomed as a way to help mitigate climate change but only account for about 1 in 50 vehicles sold in 2020 – may remain limited.

While car manufacturers love General Motors, Honda and Volvo announce plans to phase out gasoline engines in the next 10 to 20 years, the lack of public charging stations for electric cars is widely seen as a threat to these projects.

Adding local charging stations is the # 1 factor that would make more Americans buy electric vehicles, according to a February survey of car owners by the car buying site. CarGurus. Some 65% of respondents said additional stations would help convince them to take the plunge.

Biden’s proposal calls for 500,000 new charging stations, more than 10 times the current number, which would go a long way to assuage the concerns of Americans who are not ready to embrace electric cars. Each station typically offers several to a dozen or more outlets.

Drivers like Brittany Idleburg say more stations will accelerate the United States’ transition from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles.

the Atlanta-based blogger bought a Tesla Model S electric sedan in 2017 and likes to use the automaker’s over 25,000 Supercharger ports worldwide only Tesla, but she acknowledged that more stations open to the public would go a long way.

“I was really excited when I heard what Biden’s plan was,” Idleburg said. “Tesla is nice, but you have to have more. The cars have to come out and the stations have to be built almost simultaneously. “

Yet even EV supporters warn that the proposed investment – which is part of Biden’s broader infrastructure proposal – currently lacks details and could go wrong if not strategically designed to ensure ease. of use and well-placed locations.

“The electric vehicle market is growing – it’s growing very quickly,” said Aaron Fisher, CEO of EVPassport, a hardware-software maker that allows drivers to charge their vehicles without opening an account. “But if you fix these problems, it could increase even faster.”

True, around 80% of electric vehicle charging currently takes place at home, at work, or a combination of both, according to the Electric transport association.

But only about 4 in 10 Americans have garages, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at the Car Buying site. Autotrader. And even for them, having a garage is not necessarily enough.

“Some of these so-called garages are sheds,” Krebs said. “I have a 1946 garage – I would have to upgrade the wiring to have a charger in mine. So yes, a lot of people will bill from home – but not everyone. “

When Idleburg and her husband moved to Atlanta, they specifically looked for an apartment complex where they could have an electric vehicle.

“I moved here because they had charging stations,” she says. “We bought our place so that we could always invoice.”

Atlanta resident Brittany Idleburg charges her Tesla Model S electric car.

Motorists know that “98% of the time I’ll be charging at home, but once I’m stuck and there’s no charging station, that’s a big deal,” said Madison Gross, director of consumer information at CarGurus. . “It’s unlikely to happen, but the pain, if it does, is quite severe.”

Automakers say more stations will bring in more electric vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius endorsed Biden’s proposal, saying his company could accelerate plans to eliminate carbon emissions from its vehicles by 2040 if the infrastructure makes electric vehicles more feasible for the average consumer.

“We need a large network of public charging infrastructure so that you have the same convenience factor that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years on the combustion side,” Källenius told reporters during a recent conference call.

Here’s what you need to know about charging electric cars.

How many charging stations for electric cars do we need?

No one knows for sure, but probably a lot more charging stations than gas stations because it takes a lot longer to fill up with electricity than gas, at least for now.

The United States has more than 150,000 gas stations, most with several, a dozen or more pumps, according to the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

This compares to more than 48,000 charging stations equipped with more than 115,000 sockets, According to the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.

But that’s not some kind of apples to apples comparison.

It only takes a few minutes to refuel. It takes much longer to fill up with electricity.

For now, charging times vary widely depending on the vehicle and voltage rates. The average electric vehicle can refuel in 30 minutes with the fastest “fast” charger on the market to a few days with a standard plug, according to Kelley Blue Book.

But the United States has only about 4,300 fast chargers, according to a recent report by consulting firm KMPG.

On the most common type of public charging station, known as level 2, it takes up to 12 hours for a Tesla Model 3 to charge, 11 hours for a Nissan Leaf to “charge” and 10 hours. hours for an Audi E-Tron to replenish its battery, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Longer range vehicles currently have around 300 miles of range, although longer range cars are in the pipeline, such as a version of the Lucid Air electric sedan that will deliver over 500 miles on a single charge.

How much will it cost to build 500,000 stations?

The Biden administration did not provide a cost estimate for 500,000 chargers.

But it would take about $ 2 billion “just to outfit homes and workplaces with enough chargers to meet projected 2025 needs in 100 major metropolitan areas – and many times that to replicate America’s gasoline distribution network.” current, ”according to the KPMG report.

And there is a significant risk that those dollars will be spent in the wrong place.

“It’s as complex as hell,” said Gary Silberg, a KPMG partner who consults with automakers. “When you really get down to the basics of betting placement, you better be thoughtful, you better be strategic.”

Sales data shows that electric vehicle sales are particularly popular in coastal cities like San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC, where home charging is often impractical or unavailable due to a lack of garages.

“People have to park on the street,” Krebs said. “We have to be really creative about where (charging stations) are going.”

But some say the best place to install charging stations is in places where electric vehicles are currently not popular to entice people to switch on gas.

It’s a classic chicken or egg dichotomy, but in this case it’s increasingly clear that many Americans simply won’t buy EVs unless charging stations are widely available.

“If we are looking to build market hockey to increase vehicle adoption, infrastructure must evolve with it in complementary ways,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

Can our gas culture change?

American automotive culture is viewed by many automotive analysts as a barrier to the spread of electric vehicles. Americans like the idea that they can get in a car, hit the road, and drive anywhere for any reason without any planning.

Although not many people take this kind of trip, the freedom to do so is still alluring.

“We are expecting things instantly,” Silberg said. “People won’t want to sit there and wait a lot longer than they would for gasoline. Until we get closer to that, you’re going to have some reservations. “

To be sure, most people can get away with charging exclusively at home. And many states and utilities have incentives in place for Americans to install chargers in their garage, offsetting a cost that can run into the thousands.

But even for people who can top up at home, they’ll often want to top up their tank, so to speak, when they’re on the go.

“How many times are you going to plug in your phone even though it’s not empty?” Cullen said. “People like to do that.”

Will the automakers deliver the goods?

Automakers have acquired the religion of electric vehicles – and devotion seems to have picked up since Biden’s election, a period in which GM, Volvo, Jaguar and Honda have all announced their intention to kill gasoline vehicles.

But Biden’s proposal reflects “a realization that there is a certain level of investment in infrastructure that needs to happen before EVs are widely adopted by the public,” said Garrett Nelson, a CFRA Research stock analyst who tracks automakers.

Right now, there are about 50 models available for sale with one outlet of some kind, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. But that number is expected to double in about two years, as pickup trucks like the Tesla Cybertruck, vans like the Volkswagen ID, Buzzes, and cars like Mercedes-Benz EQS hit the market.

“Maximizing convenience for consumers is a top priority for everyone,” Cullen said.

You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance advice and business news Monday through Friday mornings.

About Ernest Decker

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