The electric future: Tracking electric vehicle charging infrastructure from now to 2030


By Jeremy Cook

Every day, millions of Americans drive short round-trip journeys that almost any EV can easily handle. Plug your car in at night and it’s ready to go the next morning. But what if you forget to plug it in? Or what if you need to make a 600-mile drive? Does this mean you’ll have to forgo the trip, rent another vehicle, or perhaps risk being stranded on the side of the road?

To avoid such situations—and to encourage EV adoption—robust charging infrastructure is required, including high-current DC fast charging stations that can take minutes instead of hours to “fill up” an EV battery. Such stations should be properly spaced out and positioned, so that drivers have the freedom to stop when convenient, instead of planning their trips around the available charging infrastructure.

Estimates for the future of EV charging infrastructure

Per the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Q2 2023 report, there were 3.8 million EVs on the road in the US as of June 2023. There are 14,244 public DC fast-charging ports (defined as having a power delivery capability of 150kW or greater) and 114,470 public L2 AC EV charging ports available. This works out to 0.4 DC fast chargers, and 3.0 Level 2 chargers per 100 EVs.

This same report estimates that 33 million EVs will be on the road in the US by 2030, and that 0.6 public DC fast-charging ports and 3.2 public Level 2 ports will be required per 100 EVs. In terms of raw numbers, the report states a need for 182,000 DC ports and 1,067,000 L2 ports in total—a total increase of well over a million.

EV charging station infrastructure buildout

Public EV charging infrastructure can be divided into two basic types: long-term (often overnight) and short term used to recharge batteries before immediately continuing a journey.

Slower AC charging infrastructure is fairly simple as it requires little more than a robust plug and proper installation and is useful for scenarios like overnight hotel stays or at a workplace parking garage. Private enterprises have a natural incentive to build out this infrastructure. Charging on-site is a huge incentive to spend time at an establishment. However, AC charging largely limits how far someone can travel in a day to the range of an EV battery—typically less than 300 miles.

DC fast charging infrastructure, which can fully charge a vehicle in a matter of minutes, is more complicated than its AC counterpart. Supplying power in this scenario requires AC grid power to be converted to a high-power DC output before it’s sent to the vehicle.

Robust power management and conversion can be facilitated via technologies like silicon carbide-based transistors. Current sensors are also needed to account for how much energy is transferred into a vehicle during charging, and both local and cloud-based computing resources will be needed to keep the overall grid and charging network running at optimum capacity.


Basic power and EVSE infrastructure needs

Installing adequate Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE, i.e., charging stations) is a massive task. What is perhaps even more important is the underlying grid infrastructure that supplies power to these stations, along with the plethora of electrical devices that we largely take for granted today.

Consider that if all proposed 182,000 DC EVSE ports are charging together at 350kW (the high value cited for DC chargers, a number that will likely increase in the future), this would create an electrical load of 63.7 gigawatts (GW). Add on 1,067,000 L2 chargers at up to 19kW each, and we have an extra 20.3 GW. Together, this gives a grand total of 84 GW of theoretical power draw.

While it’s close to impossible that every charger would be supplying energy at once, even a fraction of 84 GW represents a meaningful percentage of the nation’s roughly 1200 GW total energy production capacity today. Upgrades will need to be made to the existing infrastructure to deal with these greater loads. At the same time, connected EVs can also be used in a two-way battery backup role, so with careful planning the rapid adoption of EVs could provide some infrastructure benefits as well.

Of course, beyond power and electronics to manage it, drivers will also need the correct plug and charging protocol to interface between their vehicle and EVSE. On this front there is an excellent development.


The good news: Tesla NACS compatibility

NREL numbers quoted above include Tesla equipment, which provides 61.6% of public fast DC charging ports and 8.7% of public L2 ports. As of this writing, these chargers are not readily available to other EV manufacturers.

However, in May 2023, Ford announced that its EVs would come with a Tesla-style NACS (North American Charging Standard) port built-in starting in 2025. This means that Ford EVs will be able to use Tesla’s Supercharger network without the need for an adapter. This (perhaps obvious) move unleashed a virtual landslide of other manufacturers announcing their future NACS compatibility. This includes well-known automotive brands like GM and Volvo, along with newer EV producers like Rivian and Fisker. Others such as Volkswagen and Honda are still evaluating their options as of late 2023.

On the other side of the coin, non-Tesla EV charging networks like Blink and Electrify America are adopting the NACS plug standard. Tesla opened its charging protocols in November 2022, and this standard now falls under the jurisdiction of SAE International. Given the massive trend toward the adoption of NACS on both vehicles and EVSE, standardization seems imminent.

The future of EV charging

The trend in late 2023 is toward greater EV implementation and standardization of charging infrastructure. Regardless of how the electrification of everything ultimately takes form, a far more robust electrical infrastructure will be needed in the future supported by efficient, capable, and durable internal components to handle power transmission and usage.

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