To encourage increased use of light duty private vehicles, municipalities or other entities often invest in the charging infrastructure, also called electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), to support them. This infrastructure can make it easier and more appealing for members of the public to adopt electric vehicles (EVs) for their private use.
Applicability, Benefits, and Tradeoffs
Investing in publicly accessible charging infrastructure for private vehicles involves installing banks of charging stations in public locations like businesses, libraries, shopping centers, parking garages, etc. The table below lists common benefits and tradeoffs of EVs and indicates how well this use case achieves these benefits. Green indicates the use case typically achieves the benefit. Yellow indicates the use case sometimes achieves the benefit. Red indicates the use case does not achieve the benefit.
Reduced Traffic Congestion: Public charging infrastructure can support the adoption on EVs, but this does not change the total amount of vehicles on the road.
Increased Equity and Accessibility: The upfront costs of electric vehicles are still relatively high, so the individuals who could benefit from these charging stations are presently limited by that high cost barrier. Lower-income individuals may not immediately benefit from public charging stations, because the up-front cost of an electric vehicle may be prohibitive. As upfront costs of new electric vehicles decline, and the used electric vehicle market develops, more drivers will be able to take advantage of community investment in public charging stations.
Reduced Emissions: Light duty vehicles, like cars and trucks, are the largest and fastest-growing source of transportation GHG emissions, responsible for 60% of transportation sector GHG emissions in the United States. By investing in publicly accessible charging stations for light duty vehicles, communities can help support passenger vehicle electrification. According to the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, electric cars, on average, create half as much carbon pollution as a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. For individual communities, pollution levels will largely depend on the type of fuel used to generate the electricity that charges the electric vehicles.
User Economic Benefits: Investing in publicly accessible charging infrastructure for light duty electric vehicles creates direct economic benefits for individual vehicle owners by shifting initial EVSE deployment costs from each individual car owner to the broader community. As individuals use EVSEs throughout the life of their EV, they can collectively pay back this investment over-time.
Owner Economic Benefits: Investing in charging infrastructure for privately owned EV’s is a lower cost investment ($1,000-$19,000 for the charger unit and installation) than other use cases. In communities where EV adoption rates are relatively low, it may not be cost-effective for private entities to own and operate charging stations. This is because recovering equipment, installation and operating costs of an EVSE is difficult without charging extremely high usage fees from a small number of EV drivers. In these instances, public investment in charging infrastructure may be needed until there are sufficient EV users to make private investment cost effective.
Renewable Energy Co-Location: An important benefit of public charging for light duty vehicles is that it can be easier to co-locate distributed solar and storage with electric vehicle charging stations. This is due to the ability to site smaller solar arrays on central parking areas like the roof of parking garages, or to install charging stations with solar arrays overhead that can also provide shade for parked vehicles. The size of the array will influence the ability to impact demand spikes, however, the solar array will generally not be able to meet the entire demand of the charging station, especially for Level 2 or Level 3 chargers. Installing solar in proximity to electric vehicle charging infrastructure can still help reduce or eliminate demand spikes and increases in peak load caused by daytime charging. For some communities, co-locating renewable energy and electric vehicle charging stations is important to gaining community support for vehicle electrification, as it helps demonstrate that electric vehicles are being powered by local, renewable energy resources rather than fossil fuels.