General Motors, Volkswagen Group, Ford Motor Company, Hyundai Motor Company, Tesla Motors, BYD, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motors and more have all committed to building multiple new electric cars over the next two years, allowing the electric car market to hit over 20 million by 2020. This isn't a flash in the pan fad. Electric vehicles (EVs) are here to stay.
The question is no longer when will the EVs arrive, but where do we go from here? Despite rapid growth, the EV industry still has a long way to go in one key department - charging. If you’re one of the 450,000 Model 3 reservation holders, or are considering buying a new EV in the next few years, there are some things you need to know.
Recently, much of the emphasis has been placed on the massive build-out of a public charging network. Public charging programs like Volkswagen’s Electrify America have gotten plenty of press, but should we pump so much money into public infrastructure? Maybe, but with the small caveat that these hypothetical stations are all fast charging stations with speeds comparable to Tesla’s Supercharger network. The pros of a public system are easy to see.
- What if I am in desperate need of a charge?
- What happens on long trips?
- How will I know I can get a charge when I arrive at a destination?
These are all legitimate concerns and ones that are directly resolved by a public network, the only real problems are cost and time. Most public chargers today are Level 2 chargers, meaning they charge at a much slower rate than a Supercharger, around 8-11 hours to fill up a Tesla. While these chargers don't have the speed required for quick stops, they are relatively affordable.
Unfortunately, while these chargers are less expensive to install, they're slow. Simply put, most Tesla drivers need to charge up 2-4 hours per day to replace the power they used. Can you imagine relying on a public network when it takes 2-4 hours to charge up every day?
Tesla's Supercharger Network cuts the wait time down to about 30 minutes to an hour, but are very expensive and difficult to install due to power limitations. While Tesla has done an amazing job building out the Supercharger network, even they admit it's not a day-to-day solution.
Up to now the lion's share of the work has been handled by Tesla, a mixture of startups, and utility companies. However, as more and more EVs begin to appear on the roadway it's only a matter of time before those costs get passed on to the consumer, making fast EV charging more expensive.
Even though we are all used to the gas station model, it's recommended by nearly all EV manufacturers, most notably Tesla, to get in-home charging. After all, 90 percent of charging by current EV owners happens at home. Not only does it alleviate strain on Tesla's Supercharger Network, but it also saves the driver time.
For most single family homes getting charging is relatively inexpensive. Adding a 240v plug should suffice, but for those living in cities or multi-family homes like condos and apartments, the task gets much trickier. For now, EV drivers might look to invest in in-home charging while automotive groups and public utilities build out a Level 3 public charging network.