- More than 50 utilities, primarily investor-owned power companies, have banded together to install electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging infrastructure along major U.S. highway corridors by the end of 2023, the National Electric Highway Coalition (NEHC) announced Tuesday.
- The coalition is led by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which has increased its previous estimates and now anticipates there will be 22 million EVs on U.S. roads in 2030, requiring more than 100,000 fast chargers.
- The NEHC's group effort to address range anxiety could potentially have a "large impact" on charging infrastructure and adoption, said software company BlastPoint co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Tomer Borenstein. A recent report from the predictive analytics company, however, warns some areas of the country are not prepared for the transition.
The last time EEI estimated how many EVs would be on the road in 2030, the investor-owned utility trade group came up with 18.7 million. That was 2018, and since then estimates "have ticked up a little bit," Kellen Schefter, EEI's director of electric transportation and customer solutions, said.
The 17.6% increase in expected EVs points to the need for a rapid rollout in charging infrastructure, say electrification experts, particularly in areas that may be lagging. More information on EEI's EV sales forecasts and charging infrastructure estimates will be included in a paper expected out next year.
"What we're hoping to accomplish here is to really bring together electric companies across the country to think beyond their service territories, into how they are filling in the gaps needed to support EV drivers on major travel corridors," said Schefter.
NEHC was formed by merging two existing groups — the Electric Highway Coalition and the Midwest Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Collaboration — and then opening participation up to EEI members. The roster now includes 51 IOUs, Kansas electric cooperative Midwest Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Participating IOUs are geographically dispersed and cover most of the country, including Consolidated Edison in New York, Pacific Gas & Electric in California, NextEra Energy's Florida Power & Light Co., Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Tucson Electric Power in Arizona, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy in the Southeast, and Xcel Energy which operates across eight states.
The coalition members signed a memorandum of cooperation requiring them to "commit in good faith to establish a foundational EV fast-charging network across their service territories using any approach they see fit by no later than the end of 2023," according to an EEI fact sheet.
In the 48 contiguous states, only Nebraska does not have a footprint in the NEHC. That's because the coalition has so far focused on IOUs and Nebraska has only public power utilities, said Schefter.
"Our initial push was for those investor-owned electric companies, but we're hoping this can expand over time," he said.
All electric utilities will need to prepare for a surge in EVs, said BlastPoint's Borenstein. Charging infrastructure and vehicle adoption are about to get a big boost from the federal government, which could lead to "exponential growth" in 2022 according to the firm's recent research.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package signed in November by President Joe Biden includes $7.5 billion to build charging stations across the country.
EVs are "a technology that is right on the precipice of going from an early adoption stage to something that's more mainstream," Borenstein said. "The types of people that we expect will buy vehicles in the next few years are going to drastically change."
BlastPoint's report looks at census data to identify three levels of EV adoption readiness, from areas primed for more vehicles to those with substantial barriers. The report can help utilities understand where their territories stand, said Borenstein, though in reality "a lot of utilities actually have all three [levels of readiness] within their territory."
The NHEC's corridors would cut through a lot of the areas that BlastPoint identified as having barriers to adoption, particularly in the Southeast, said Borenstein, which could give a boost to transportation through those regions and to local confidence in going electric.
"The investment that's going to go into the NEHC, installing chargers along major traffic corridors, is really significant," he said.
BlastPoint's report found a "suburban ring of accelerated EV adoption around most major cities," while dense urban areas and rural tracts "are slower to adopt." The NEHC can help address this issue, said Borenstein.
Right now a lot of the charging infrastructure is in "places that are not really accessible to travelers," including hotels and car dealerships, he said. "This initiative to put charging infrastructure along those major routes is significant because [it will allow] travelers to pass through these areas with barriers to adoption.
"But the side effect of that, is it will also provide more options for locals that may be interested in purchasing an EV," he added.