The Biggest Obstacle For Battery-Electric Vehicles: Sparse Charging Infrastructure

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In case you missed it, Ford Motor Company is doubling down on powertrain electrification, announcing at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show plans to invest $11 billion into hybrids (including plug-ins) and battery-electric vehicles by 2022. That’s a substantially larger commitment than the $4.5-billion-by-2020 the automaker had announced in late-2015, and of the 40 electrified vehicles that are expected to result, 16 will be fully-electric, relying solely upon electric motors for propulsion.

However, while Ford’s approach may be the correct one from an emissions-regulations perspective, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) face one or two obstacles, and according to a recent survey conducted by Axios, the biggest of these is consumer fears concerning the availability of charging stations. Of the 62 percent of respondents to Axios’ survey who said they are “somewhat” or “very” unlikely to buy or lease an electric car for their next ride, 47 percent – nearly half – said that the lack of charging stations was a concern. That’s greater than the share of unlikely electric car buyers that cited initial cost as a turn-off (41 percent), and far greater than the percentage concerned with BEV range (9 percent).

To Ford’s credit, the automaker is addressing the problem – somewhat. Late last year, the company announced an initiative to triple the number of charging stations at its own US and Canadian workplaces over two years, and in Europe, Ford has teamed with BMW, Daimler, and VW to create a network of 400 high-power charging stations by 2020.

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But it’s not enough, and across most of the US, access to fast, reliable charging is far too elusive. Many homeowners have the option to overcome this by installing a 240-volt charger at home, but that’s off the table for the majority of the country’s growing apartment-renting population. Until charging infrastructure becomes more widespread and robust, pure-electric vehicles will remain a viable option for only a small subset of buyers.

The silver lining: Axios’ survey also showed that 14 percent of consumers are “very” or “extremely” likely to buy or lease an electric car for their next vehicle, and 23 percent said they are “somewhat” likely to take the plunge. Thus, there’s plenty of room for the BEV market to grow; last year, BEVs and plug-in hybrids together accounted for just over one percent of all new-vehicle purchases in the US.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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One Comment

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  1. I bought a hybrid but I would not consider an all electric. Where to charge it? What if 200,000 commuters in the LA area had electric vehicle and only 25,000 needed charging for the trip home. Are there 25,0000 chargers in LA? Who pays for the recharge but I guess you put your credit card in like a gas station. Also if a quick charge say takes 30 minutes you have to wait or come back. You wouldn’t leave the car plugged in because folks are waiting to use that charger. The solution would have to be a valet system. I would be afraid of coming on a large accident and stuck in traffic for two hours in 90 degree heat or freezing cold and you have no choice but to use your a/c or heater and see the battery run down.

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