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Understanding How and Where Plug-In Electric Vehicle Drivers Charge Up

Jan. 20, 2016

Photo of a car being recharged in a wooded area.

New research findings dispute the belief that the growth of the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market requires a large network of public charging stations.

Locating places to recharge is one of the most commonly cited barriers to PEVs. With gas stations seemingly on every corner, it seems logical to conclude that a similarly expansive network of public charging stations is needed for wide-spread adoption of PEVs. However, a new study supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), published in the report Plugged In: How Americans Charge Their Electric Vehicles, shows that while public charging is helpful, it is far less important and much more rarely used than residential and workplace charging.

To increase understanding of how many and where charging stations need to be installed, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) recently analyzed three years of data collected from 8,300 PEVs; nearly 17,000 residential, commercial, and public AC Level 2 charging stations; and more than 100 DC fast charging stations. The project area covered 22 regions across the United States, constituting the largest PEV infrastructure demonstration in the world.

Below are a few of the most relevant findings from the new research report.

  • Fueling up at home—which is not an option with conventional vehicles—is very important to PEV drivers. About half of drivers did less than 5% of their charging away from home.

  • Workplace charging proved to be an effective way to increase all-electric range. Many drivers performed the majority of away-from-home charging at their workplaces.

  • Public charging stations are most useful when installed at locations where cars are parked for a long time, such as shopping malls, commuter parking lots, and airports.

  • Timing of home charging can be flexible and economical, especially with the "depart-by-time" scheduling function available on many vehicles and chargers.

  • While charging station costs vary by area, Level 2 stations averaged $1,354 for homes, $2,223 for workplaces, $3,108 for public locations, and $22,626 for DC fast charging.

INL and DOE plan to share the study's results with a number of stakeholders to inform national policy recommendations, state infrastructure planning, regional electric utility planning, and vehicle regulation.

To learn more, read the full blog post.

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