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Lower Powered Charging is the Key to Large Scale EV Adoption

Date Created:
May 6, 2022
Date Last Updated:
Lack of charging infrastructure might be the biggest thing holding back EVs. In most parts of the US, people consistently claim that they are waiting for more high-powered public charging stations that replicate the current gas station model. This, unfortunately, isn’t the best solution for EVs as the way they consume and re-fill energy is more closely related to a smartphone rather than a typical gas-powered vehicle, so the question remains: Do we already have the infrastructure that we need?

Every argument that starts with electric vehicles (EVs) typically ends in charging infrastructure or the perceived lack of it. In most parts of the US, people consistently claim that they are waiting for more high-powered public charging stations that replicate the current gas station model. Wherein drivers wait until their vehicle is near empty before filling it up again. This, unfortunately, isn’t the best solution for EVs as the way they consume and re-fill energy is more closely related to a smartphone rather than a typical gas-powered vehicle. 

Covering Your Daily Needs

As many EV drivers will attest, one of the main benefits of owning an EV is the ability to charge up at home. This seemingly simple benefit not only allows EV drivers to charge when they want but also gives them more control over their fuel costs, as electricity prices fall sharply overnight. This can also be easily paired with a solar array and/or battery backup that generates and stores power to offset peak times, giving EV drivers a lot of flexibility in their fuel costs. 

In most parts of the country, there is a 7-8 hour window for off-peak pricing. Given that EVs should charge up at the end of each day, this window provides more than enough time to fully recharge most EVs even on a Level 1 charging station. Depending on the vehicle, eight hours should put back between 30-45 miles of range, and with the average American driving roughly 30 miles per day, a 120-volt Level 1 station is more than enough for most. 

Lower Power, Lower Costs

For single-family homes adding charging isn’t much of a challenge, but for those living in apartments and condos, this may be a big issue. For one thing, power is a shared responsibility and simply allowing residents to charge for free isn’t an equitable solution, so metering needs to be built in so the community isn’t covering those costs. For another, buildings were never designed to power vehicles, so in most cases, there simply is a lot of available power to dedicate to charging. 

A good example is a typical apartment complex in San Francisco has roughly 100A of available power. With this power, the community could install roughly three average 30A Level 2 charging stations before needing to upgrade their electrical service, which can be quite costly. However, with this same 100A, using a 16A Level 2 or even Level 1 station buildings can install six to ten stations before additional power service is required. 

On top of this is the cost of installation, which is the single largest cost when adding EV charging to any building. Traditional 30A Level 2 stations require six-gauge wire whereas 16A Level 1 or Level 2 chargers require 12-gauge, which is 1/10th the cost. By going with a lower-powered solution, buildings not only install more stations but save a lot of money in the process. Money that could be allocated elsewhere or even put into more charging stations. 

Affordability is Key

The biggest thing lower-powered stations provide is affordability, while still covering the daily needs of every driver. This is the true key to gaining widespread EV adoption. Currently, many EVs are slightly too expensive for average Americans, with the lowest cost of EVs hovering around $30k for a brand new vehicle. While that is expected to change over the next five years it's important to continue making EV charging equitable and affordable for those same people. 

Adding in more public chargers is certainly a good thing and one that's needed in many rural parts of the country. However, for nearly 99% of drivers' daily needs, a charging station at home, work, or both is what’s truly required. When those vehicles are parked they usually sit for eight hours or more, so in actuality, a lower-powered, lower-cost solution fits the daily need perfectly. 

EVs are still in the early stages of development and there's a long way to go, but forcing in high-powered stations where they are not needed means a lot of people aren’t getting the charging they need.