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Why Biden’s EV charging schedule may fall short

US President Joe Biden walks past Chevy vehicles when he arrives to make remarks on a visit … [+] General Motors Factory ZERO’s electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan on November 17, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the Biden government released a plan to build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country. President Biden believes this is an integral part of the fight against climate change by allowing the continued adoption of electric vehicles.

Announcing the plan, Vice President Kamala Harris remarked, “When we ask people what is the biggest barrier to buying an electric car, the answer is almost always finding out where and how to charge it.”

The plan emphasizes standardization, as the charging network will be expanded from the current patchwork of 100,000 public charging stations. Electric vehicle owners are aware of the challenges of navigating the current broken electric vehicle charging network, which has varied power outlets, payment options, and hardware connections.

President Biden had requested $ 15 billion for the plan, but Congress cut that amount in half in the recently passed infrastructure bill. Nonetheless, the government stuck to the original plan, with $ 5 billion allocated to states, territories and the District of Columbia. The remaining US $ 2.5 billion will be used to build charging stations in rural areas.

Requires faster charging

Fast chargers are needed because the charging time of a vehicle is another factor that influences the purchase decision for an electric vehicle. But the reduced funding likely means more slower charging points.

Level 2 charging stations take 2-10 hours to fully charge an empty battery. Higher performance and more expensive Level 3 charging stations can achieve this in 30 minutes. This means that most EV customers will likely have to do most of the charging at home overnight.

However, the faster level 3 charging stations need to be strategically placed along major freeways and freeways to serve drivers on long-distance journeys – a necessity, especially if electric vehicles are to play a bigger role in commercial traffic. There are currently vast stretches of EV deserts in the American Midwest and Southern United States and that is a major obstacle for those looking to purchase an EV.

A load on the network

Apart from the charging speed, a massive expansion of the charging capacity of electric vehicles requires more electricity and more grid capacity to supply them. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that electric cars could consume between 525 terawatt hours (TWh) and 860 TWh of electricity worldwide by 2030, compared to 80 TWh in the previous year. This is more than three times the current power consumption of California.

The government of the state of California is facing a daunting challenge as it is increasingly reliant on renewable energies, while at the same time facing extreme climatic conditions that place heavy loads on the grid. Current new power plant start-up rates are slower than would be needed to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045, as set by the California Energy Commission, while not all new plant start-ups consume clean resources. A typical example are the temporary gas systems to avoid power outages in summer.

Innovative solutions are coming

Even so, California – home to nearly half of all electric vehicles in the US – is at the forefront of vehicle network integration. The state intends to end gasoline-powered passenger car sales by 2035, so it has launched a number of initiatives to ensure electric vehicles don’t overwhelm the state’s electrical infrastructure.

Edison in Southern California has started a $ 436 million program to install 38,000 chargers for electric cars over the next five years. The program provides incentives for smart charging during the day, when solar energy is at its peak and therefore electricity is at its cheapest.

But there are other innovative solutions that are being developed by several startups that could help. For example, L-Charge has developed a charging station that is completely independent of the mains and can charge 100 km in just 5-10 minutes. The company has developed both a stationary and a mobile version of its chargers. The stationary version can be set up in conventional locations, but the mobile version can actually be out and about in a city and charge vehicles when necessary.

Meanwhile, the Amazon-backed startup Span has developed a smart electrical panel that can be paired with a Level 2 EV charger. The Span panel can be coupled with Amazon’s voice recognition interface, Alexa. This integration will make it easier for homeowners to identify the top electricity consumers in the home at all times. This in turn could help balance the energy load and only charge electric vehicles when electricity capacity is free.

In many areas, connection to the grid means charging an electric vehicle with electricity generated from fossil fuels. But the mobile charging station developed by L-Charge, which is operated with relatively low-emission liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydrogen, offers a network-friendly solution. This is a major innovation in a world where network demands are expected to grow rapidly over the next decade.

In the long term, electric vehicles can both accelerate the switch to renewable energies and help stabilize the grid. Many homeowners will increasingly rely on self-generated solar power to charge their electric vehicles, and this could displace significant fossil fuel sources in the next decade.

But if this transition is to come on an aggressive schedule, the Biden government’s plan needs to be complemented by investing in faster charging stations and strengthening the power grid or developing off-grid solutions.

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