By Joseph Tohill
Although there are currently only about 8,000 public EV charging in the US (not including private stations), a recent study by Frost & Sullivan suggests the number of EV charging stations could skyrocket to 4.1 million by 2017. This is big news for supporters of the EV economy, as it suggests that EVs are increasingly becoming a prominent form of personal transportation.
Frost & Sullivan project that the most common ones will be Level 1 chargers, as Level 1 charging cords are included with the purchase of a new EV. These cords can be plugged in at home, where people can charge their cars for 8 to 10 hours at night.
The study also recognized sizeable growth in the number of Level 2 chargers, which could account for 27% of the market in 2017. Level 2 charging stations can charge an EV in 2 – 4 hours thus making them an ideal choice while one is at work or at the mall. Consequently, a number of retailers and office buildings are currently installing Level 2 charging stations.
Altogether, EV charging stations could expand by a compound annual growth rate of 128.12% until 2017.
What could account for the substantial growth in EV charging stations over the next five years?
Part of the reason for such big growth in the EV market is because of favourable government subsidies and volatile fuel prices. Federal, state, and municipal levels of government provide substantial subsidies for both the purchase of EVs and the installation of EV charging stations. This in turn affects the market, and encourages individuals (and organizations) to invest in the EV market when they might not have previously.
Another reason is because people are beginning to realize the benefits of utilizing EVs as a form of personal transportation. With fuel prices continuing to trend upwards and increased concern over the environment, many consumers are realizing that EVs are the smarter transportation choice. The only lingering concerns that often remain are difficulties in finding a place to charge their car.
Often called “range anxiety” many prospective EV buyers are concerned that their vehicle will run out of juice before arriving at its destination. Although there has been considerable expansion in the number of EV charging stations over the past few years, there are still not enough to quell the anxiety of potential EV drivers.
But as EVs become more popular, the number of EV charging stations will continue to increase – simple economics of supply and demand. And as EV charging stations become more common, so too will the number of EV drivers (since there will be less concern over where to charge their cars).
And this is what I like to call the “cascade effect” in the EV economy. EV charging stations are continuing to be built because there is currently a demand for them. As these charging stations come online and proliferate across the country, more people will be encouraged to purchase an EV – thus reinforcing the need for more charging stations.
In the end, it is apparent that EV charging stations will only increase over time. Whether or not they will number 4.1 million as Frost & Sullivan suggests is yet to be determined. But given the current volatility of oil prices and state of the green economy, I would be willing to bet they are not too far off the mark.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.