Electric Car Charging Infrastructure in the US Is Thriving, Study Says

Increased adoption of EVs likely attributed to the strong growth in US charging infrastructure.

Getty Images / Peter Ptschelinzew

With more and more manufacturers investing in their own electric car programs, the infrastructure to back up the new wheels on the road needs to be continually improved. According to a new study by the University of Michigan, the key stakeholders in the expansion of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging projects are doing just that.

Nearly 16,000 public charging stations have been made available in the few short years since 2009. These stations sport an average of 2.7 chargers per unit, meaning a lot of cars can charge at the same time. In fact, with 542,000 registered EVs in the United States, this means that if all 43,000 charging connectors were used at the same time, nearly 8 percent of all electric cars could be charging at once. These numbers don't include private charging or shared stations.

"Overall, recent advances and improvements in several of these areas have led to PEVs becoming increasingly more competitive with conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Furthermore, future costs of the vehicles and fuel, coupled with rising public interest and increasing numbers of charging locations, are expected to make such vehicles even more capable of replacing ICE vehicles for the majority of U.S. drivers in the relatively near future."

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, however, as these numbers do show a large lack of Level 3 "fast chargers" across the nation. This might be a good thing, considering Tesla will limit its vehicle fast-charging after extended use. Luckily some manufacturers are still looking to improve upon the existing number of charging stations across the network.

Though these numbers seem impressive, there's a need for overhaul on Level 2 overnight public charging. A great number of people may still rely on superchargers or out-of-home charging to re-fuel their vehicles. This is mostly due to the large adoption of EVs happening in largely populated, condensed cities. A side effect is that EV adopters in these cities may very well have in-garage or on-street parking rather than their own garage to charge in. After all, it's not likely that they can sling a bulky extension cord across a sidewalk.

In addition to numbers, manufacturers are also looking to squeeze longterm costs, as the search for alternative methods to generate and store electricity continues. Tesla's recent overhaul to its next-generation Level 3 charging station includes not only a Tesla PowerPack, but also Solar City-based solar panels on the roof to ensure that most of the energy is completely off-grid. Should more manufacturers take similar approaches, it may become feasible to expand charging in more desolate areas as well.