EVs Coming. Can Charging Keep Up?

April 27, 2023

The commentary below in the LA Times made a splash a few days ago. Illustrates concerns about the US charging network.

Los Angeles Times:

I love my electric car. I really do.

I love how I never have to buy gas. I love how it glides quietly up the street. I love that it has so much pickup that I can easily blow past gas-powered muscle cars if I want to. I love having stickers that allow me to drive solo in the HOV lanes. I love that routine maintenance consists of little more than rotating the tires.

But after three years, I am thinking seriously of trading it in for the gas-powered hybrid plug-in version.

Why? Because as much as I love my car, I loathe that I can’t travel around California, a state has led the electric car revolution, with confidence that I can get a charge when I need one.

Yes, there are significantly more public charging stations than when I first got behind the wheel of my Kia Niro EV in January 2020. But there are also significantly more electric vehicles vying to use them — and still vast areas of the state without a single fast charger. Chargers are more reliable now, but still not quite good enough. In 2020, it felt like half the public chargers I tried to use weren’t working. These days, l find only about a quarter are out. This jibes with the experience of researchers who checked public fast chargers at 181 charging stations in the Bay Area last year and found that about 23% weren’t functional.

Even with more chargers, they still aren’t easy to find. I have an app that helps, but it only gives me a general location. Public charging stations are often tucked away in remote corners of parking lots or behind buildings with no helpful signage. They may be accessible only during business hours or, if in a hotel, only for paying guests to use. 

It’s not uncommon to locate a charging station and discover that all the chargers are in use or blocked by cars not charging. Or, most frustratingly, the chargers may be offline or nonfunctional — which you may not discover until you park, plug in and try to start the charger. And even if the stars align and you find an available charger that works, it may shut off mid-charge with no warning or reason. 

When I chose an electrical vehicle, I knew that meant an extra 30 minutes in travel time for each charging stop during a road trip. But I did not count on the time wasted by having to, for example, backtrack to another station or one out of my way because the charging station on my route was not working.


In 2021, installed slow chargers in China increased by 35% to about 680 000 publicly accessible units, more than four times the number of slow chargers available in 2018. However, growth has been much slower in the pandemic period than in previous years. Between 2015 and 2020, the average annual growth rate was over 60%.

Europe ranks second with over 300 000 slow chargers in 2021, a 30% year-on-year increase. The Netherlands leads in Europe with more than 80 000 slow chargers, followed by 50 000 in France, 40 000 in Germany, 30 000 in the United Kingdom, 20 000 in Italy and just over 12 000 in both Norway and Sweden. The stock of slow chargers in the United States increased by 12% to 92 000 in 2021, the slowest increase among major markets. In Korea, it increased by nearly 70% to over 90 000.


To ensure ready access to charging and spur good manufacturing jobs at home, President Biden has publicly committed to building out a convenient, reliable, and user-friendly national network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030.  


11 Responses to “EVs Coming. Can Charging Keep Up?”

  1. tildeb Says:

    If range, access to recharging (and from what energy source this power is generated), and speed of recharge is what matters – which EV owners often rank as their most important concerns beyond purchasing cost – then why the list of how many slow charging stations there are? Who exactly is such a list convincing to get rid of an ICE vehicle and get an EV?

    Why not compare and contrast EVs with how best they address these major concerns of EV owners and how this compensates for the switching costs away from burning liquid fuel? And it’s ‘better’ for the environment in so many ways, as well? Or is it verboten to bring Tesla into any conversation about ‘good jobs’, EV capabilities and the (relatively) clean and green infrastructure to support their operation, and how various brands address and at what cost and convenience what matters most to potential owners? Numbers of slow charging stations I don;t think is an effective metric.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Can Teslas charge at non-proprietary stations?

      • tildeb Says:

        Sure, if the Tesla has the right adapter. Tesla included a $250 CCS adaptor with sale in 2022 for just this purpose so if your model is prior to that you have to purchase one yourself.

        Standardizing adapters isn’t as straightforward as some might presume because Tesla has designed the EV to both receive and send power across the adaptor whereas other companies design them only to receive (because to many people – especially in legacy auto-making-and-buying – the EV is a car powered by electricity whereas to Tesla the EV is just one mobile part of an integrated electrical energy storage system, which sounds weird but very forward-thinking and so these starting positions affect design).

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Why not compare and contrast EVs with how best they address these major concerns of EV owners and how this compensates for the switching costs away from burning liquid fuel?

      So how would Teslas have fared in Miles O’Brien’s challenge trip? After all, the Model Y is the best-selling single model in California. Would adding the still-proprietary charging stations that Tesla has compensate for the number of failed chargers that he encountered on that route, do you think?

      (While I am an EV owner, charging isn’t a “major concern” for me, since I’ve only ever charged at home in the past 9.5 years. I’d just like a hatchback smaller than my current Leaf, ideally with a sunroof, and not associated with a narcissistic juvenile Boer who micro-manages design decisions and compulsively promises products for unrealistic dates.)

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    80% of charging happens at home. A third of EV owners in the US have solar panels. Half of European owners do. The vast majority of people only need to charge every few days at thee most, hardly ever stray from their regular routes, in populated areas, with lots of chargers.

    A common anti-renewable, anti-EV argument is that because one person out of 8 billion can’t use something it won’t work for anyone so of course we shouldn’t try it. That’s what the LA Times piece argument evokes.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      80% of charging happens at home.

      I consider myself the “low-hanging fruit” for an EV, because I (1) own a house, could (2) readily afford a level 2 charger installed in (3) my garage, and I’m a (4) city driver.

      Owning a home represents a major economic divide “chasm” in terms of product uptake (whether EVs or home solar).

      What percentage of car owners own their own home? Who can afford a new car at all? The existing ICE vehicles available last for an average of 12 years of 200,000 miles.

  3. jimbills Says:

    2/3 of Americans don’t have $500 in savings. 1/3 of Americans don’t own their homes. We have nowhere near the social support system that Europe does. We have a Congress that refuses to help Americans move to renewables other than by tax rebates.

    Most people who comment here are upper middle class with zero concept how the majority of this country lives. We just assume Americans are going to rush out and buy solar panels and EVs, or be able to afford installing their own chargers.

    It’s not the case:

    “Nearly 80% of the public cite the lack of charging infrastructure as a primary reason for not buying an EV, a concern that was consistent among residents from cities, suburbs and rural areas, according to the poll.”

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Charging EVs is a whole different paradigm than fueling in so many ways. Electricity is effectively a universally available commodity that doesn’t require special infrastructure (tanker trucks) to provide. Miles O’Brien parked his Rivian to charge for 90 minutes while out to dinner, and a restaurant or movie house or spa can provide that for customers as a side business (allowing public access during business off hours). Apartment managers can “charge” residents for time spent in the charging slot after the electric charging is complete. Installing a commercial charging bank is cheaper than permitting and putting in the multiple modern tanks (diesel, regular, premium, etc.) needed for a fuel station.

    And, of course, many people can charge at home.

    The problem now is of course the speed of transition (including the dearth of professional licensed electricians in the US), but once businesses develops new ways to monetize charging access, the market will jump on the bandwagon and never look back.

  5. tildeb Says:

    Top down policy changes aren’t nearly as effective creating transitions historically as bottom up economics, convenience, and function; when it’s cheaper and more convenient to purchase an EV that has more desirable functions, that’s when the near total shift will occur. And that’s a huge challenge for a single private company to try to bring about when the deck is stacked from the top down to make it as difficult as possible! Hence, kudos to Tesla for not just surviving and producing a series of products that has this objective always front and center but thriving even though it still has a ways to go to meet these lofty goals.

    To compare apples with apples, if someone can afford an ICE vehicle, the time is quickly approaching where EVs in whatever its equivalent category should be priced at least equivalently. From what I’m seeing at the design end for all kinds of heavy to light vehicles, I predict that by 2030 we’ll see a 90% replacement rate because it will be cheaper and more convenient and far more functional to go with an EV than sticking with an ICE vehicle across almost every category. So I expect the infrastructure will rapidly improve as demand rises.

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