Sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs), have surged recently, prompting analysis of current and potential PEV charging requirements in urban and rural areas, as well as along interstate corridors.
A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) quantifies how much charging infrastructure would be needed in the United States to support various market growth scenarios for PEVs.
The study indicates that a few hundred fast-charging stations along interstate corridors would accommodate long-distance EV travel between American cities, while urban and rural communities will have much greater charging infrastructure needs. A minimum level of urban and rural coverage would require about 8,000 fast-charging stations nationwide. However, in a PEV market with 15 million vehicles, the total number of non-residential charging outlets or plugs needed to meet urban and rural demand ranges from around 100,000 to more than 1.2 million.
That large range in capacity is determined largely by consumer preference and driving behavior. For example, whether consumers prefer long-range or short-range PEVs has more effect on plug needs than does the total number of PEVs on the road. Preference for PHEVs over EVs and the number of PHEVs that charge away from home also influence the number of charging stations required.
Most PEV charging now occurs at home, however, widespread PEV adoption would require the development of a national network of non-residential charging stations. Strategically installing these stations early would maximize their economic viability while enabling efficient network growth as the PEV market matures. Initially, demand may lag behind supply, but the expectation is that demand will quickly catch up.
The potential number, capacity and location of charging stations needed to enable broad PEV adoption over the coming decades hinge on a variety of variables, said Eric Wood, lead author of the National Plug-in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Analysis [PDF]. NREL's analysis shows what effective co-evolution of the PEV fleet and charging infrastructure might look like under a range of scenarios.
The study was funded by the Vehicle Technologies Office in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.