Creating Supply to Meet Charging Demand: The demand for EV charging infrastructure, one year later

Shutterstock / Marylia / elenabsl
Shutterstock / Marylia / elenabsl
Published On
Jul 15, 2022

New York City boasts 15 electric public buses (out of a fleet of more than 5,900 buses), one lonely electric police patrol car (a Tesla) and one electric garbage truck, according to “New York City Enters the Electric Vehicle Age, but Slowly,” New York Times, April 6, 2022.

Local governments in New York and other major cities would like to transition to low-emission electric vehicles, but as the article says, they are moving at a “tortoise-like pace.” One obstruction is insufficient resources to charge EVs.

Last year, I wrote about the advent of charging infrastructure (see “Artful Charging,” ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, July 2021). One year later, we’re back to this issue, as EV charging infrastructure continues to be relevant.

The bipartisan infrastructure law authorizes $65 billion for clean energy and grid investments. But of key importance is its authorization of $7.5 billion for a national network of EV charging stations, which could present significant opportunities for new work for ECs as this infrastructure is built out.

Barriers to adequate charging

The topic of charging EVs today is as hot as a high-voltage transmission line. The inclusion of EV charging technology is an important consideration in renovating and retrofitting facilities, municipalities and cities.

“It’s really a massive challenge for these legacy companies, and there are challenges on a couple of dimensions,” according to Glen Dowell, an associate professor of management and organizations at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, outlining challenges of creating EV charging infrastructure in an article on the university’s website.

If internal combustion engines are going by the wayside, albeit slowly, car companies and other professionals who support them will need to take lessons from companies such as Google and Microsoft. The global auto industry is massive and complex, so any changes require patient and careful undertaking.

Getting a grip on power demand

Other university researchers are rolling up their sleeves to help predict the scale and depth of charging infrastructure needed to meet the potential demand for EV charging.

At Stanford University, researchers created a model to forecast charging demand and the scale required to meet it. With this model, there’s an ability to be flexible and forecast the demand for many populations and help grid planners with accurate estimates of charging patterns to calculate electricity demand.

In a March 2022 article on Stanford’s website, researchers state that it might benefit the electrical grid if EV owners could charge cars during the day, rather than when they get home. This provides an opportunity for new facilities designs—charging at work, at the supermarket or in other parking lots could help to curtail the potential after-work peak demand, if not properly planned for.

According to Stanford researchers, by 2030, EV charging will make up a sizable portion of overall electricity demand in California.

“We wanted to create a model framework for long-term planning that captures real drivers’ charging patterns and accounts for uncertainty,” said Ram Rajagopal, senior author of the study and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. He was part of the research team developing a model to predict charging demand.

If demand can be adequately predicted and planned for, according to Rajagopal, then peak demand can be manageable without the need for huge infrastructure changes such as power generation and transmission hardware and lines.

Realities of 2022

Things have changed over the past year. There was no war in Ukraine. The dynamic of spot oil prices and subsequent fuel prices wasn’t in play as it is now. Although they don’t use gas, charging EVs still requires power. While public fleets in New York City may be slow to transition to all-electric, EVs are front of mind—if there’s sufficient charging infrastructure to support them.

Such infrastructure is the precise point where supply for EV transportation meets demand, and it’s also a place of opportunity for electrical contractors in new construction and retrofit/renovation of existing facilities as such projects come into full play.

About the Author

Jim Romeo

Freelance Writer

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.

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