Building the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure that America Needs

Leo Sfikas
3 min readOct 4, 2022

Cars and trucks produce nearly one-fifth of America’s greenhouse-gas emissions, all of which must be eliminated to achieve the federal target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Although electric vehicle sales in the United States have climbed by more than 40 percent each year, on average, since 2016, nearly half of US consumers say that battery or charging issues are their top concerns about buying EVs. It’s no stretch to say that the nation’s limited network of charging stations probably discourages many prospective buyers.

In response, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $7.5 billion to develop the country’s EV-charging infrastructure. The goal is to install 500,000 public chargers — publicly accessible charging stations compatible with all vehicles and technologies — nationwide by 2030. However, even the addition of half a million public chargers could be far from enough. In a scenario in which half of all vehicles sold are zero-emission vehicles by 2030 — in line with federal targets — we estimate that America would require 1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private EV chargers by that year. All told, the country would need almost 20 times more chargers than it has now.

Merely setting up more charging stations isn’t all that matters. The BIL highlights equity, to name one specific priority. Electricity purchased at a public charger can cost five to ten times more than electricity at a private one. To keep EVs powered up, public charging stations will probably need to be economical, equitably distributed, appealing to use, and wired to a robust power grid. They will also probably have to present a viable business opportunity for the companies expected to install and operate them. States and businesses could better fulfill America’s need for public charging by taking such considerations into account in their planning efforts.

A mass shift from cars and trucks with internal combustion engines to ZEVs will be critical to achieving the country’s overall net-zero goals. The federal government has set a target: half of the new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 should be ZEVs — a category that includes both battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can be recharged with electricity, and fuel-cell electric vehicles, which run on hydrogen. The extent of the GHG emissions reductions resulting from a shift to EVs will depend largely on how much GHG emissions come from generating electricity. Decarbonizing the power sector is thus integral to lessening emissions from cars and trucks — and the focus of a federal goal to make the US power sector carbon free by 2035.

In a scenario in which the nation reaches the federal ZEV sales target, we estimate that the country’s fleet of EVs would grow from less than three million today to more than 48 million in 2030 — about 15 percent of all vehicles on the road in the United States. Passenger cars could number more than 44 million; the rest of the EV fleet would consist of buses, light commercial vehicles, and trucks.

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Leo Sfikas

Leo Sfikas — Former GM at Currie Motors Auto Group