EV Charging Infrastructure & the Challenge of Consumer “Range Anxiety”

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electric-vehicles-infrastructure-range-anxiety.jpgThe federal government has made it abundantly clear that they want the upcoming plug-in and electric vehicles to succeed. The government has awarded $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for the manufacture of vehicles and their components as well as to establish a vehicle charging infrastructure.

Among the grants is funding for establishing 12,500 charging stations across five states. Another 2,550 charging stations could be becoming very competitive in installing public charging stations. Also, big box retailers are expected to offer free charging to encourage people to shop and recharge their batteries.

But government agencies need to walk a fine line in building out the electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The government is keen on eliminating “range anxiety” — the fear that an electric vehicle might run out of battery power before it can be recharged — that could discourage consumers from buying electric vehicles. (Extended range vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt can tap the gas tank, so it’s less of a concern.)

But if charging is readily available for free or at very low cost it could discourage the private sector from getting involved. The actual cost of the electricity to recharge a vehicle is on the order of $1 or so, depending on where you live. Charging equipment companies such as Coulomb want to sell to retail establishments, such as restaurants, shopping malls, and parking garages that would recoup their investment by charging access fees. (To date there’s been little investment in private charging stations, which is understandable as the vehicles won’t arrive for another year.)

At $3,000 or more for a charging station, it will take a lot of vehicle charge sessions to recoup the investment. If people can charge at home for less than that or at free public stations, they may balk at having to pay several dollars for a charge. Therefore, privately owned stations could have a hard time attracting customers, or may only be able to charge a buck or two, which could make it very challenging to turn a profit.

So there’s the conundrum — too little public charging, and people may not buy the vehicles. But if people get used to charging for next to nothing, private charging networks may not get off the ground.

Appearing courtesy of Matter Network.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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