Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Trends (Text Version)

This is a text version of the podcast episode Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Trends from Aug. 12, 2021.

Mollie Putzig: Welcome to On the Go: An On-Road Transportation Podcast with Clean Cities. In this episode, we are talking about trends in electric vehicle supply equipment—also known as EVSE, or EV charging. To kick us off, let’s introduce our hosts. I’m Mollie Putzig.

Joanna Allerhand: And I’m Joanna Allerhand. Today we will be joined by two guests who have been analyzing trends in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. They will share the trends they are seeing and why it is important to track this information.

Mollie Putzig: Our guests today are Abby Brown from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Emily Klotz from ICF.

Joanna Allerhand: Hi Abby and Emily. Welcome to On the Go. Tell us about the Alternative Fuels Data Center Station Locator and your roles for listeners who don’t know you or what you do. Abby, do you want to go first?

Abby Brown: Sure, thanks Joanna. Hi everyone, so my name is Abby Brown with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. And here at the lab, one of my main roles is managing the Alternative Fuels Data Center Station Locator. You might be wondering what the Station Locator is. So if you’re not familiar with it, it is a tool on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center that tracks public and private alternative fueling infrastructure across both the United States and Canada. And kind of a fun fact is that it is one of the most widely used tools on the AFDC and it is used by drivers, fleet managers, policymakers, academic, and industry organizations just to name a few. And it is a trusted resource among the industry. So we’re consistently hearing that the Station Locator is the most reliable resource out there for alternative fueling station information and that the industry prefers to use the Station Locator over other station tracking tools just because of this. So in the Station Locator, we track all alternative fuels, including biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and of course electricity. And we work with our subcontractor ICF to maintain the data in the Station Locator, which is updated on a regular basis. About half of the EV chargers in the Station Locator are updated daily via charging network application programming interfaces or APIs and the remaining stations in the database are updated at least annually and many times a lot more frequently than that.

Mollie Putzig: So for any listeners who might not be familiar with the Alternative Fuels Data Center or AFDC, it’s a great place to start if you want to know more about alternative fuels, advanced vehicles, and emerging technologies. It has information about what alternative fuels are, how they’re produced, how they’re used in vehicles and fleets, and why you might want to consider them. It also hosts the Station Locator, which is what we’re talking about today, as well as case studies, laws and incentives, tools you can use. I cannot recommend it enough to people working in this space. So Emily do you want to tell us a little bit more about collecting data and who we work with?

Emily Klotz: Sure, thanks Molly. So this is Emily Klotz and I’m with ICF. I work on the Station Locator with NREL and ICF has been working on the Station Locator task for several year, I believe it’s about 16 or more. And we’re ultimately responsible for keeping the data in the Station Locator up to date. So this includes updating existing stations and adding new stations as they open. So we do this by working with a very large group of stakeholders to collect and review data, and this includes charging networks, individual site hosts, and others like Chargeway, which is similar to the Station Locator but specific to EV charging. We also keep track of developments in the alternative fuel industry to ensure we’re collecting data for all fuel types that’s useful to drivers and the industry.

Mollie Putzig: So one of the groups that we work with a lot to keep information in the Station Locator up to date is the Clean Cities coordinators that work in the Clean Cities coalition network. So those coalitions are responsible for submitting new stations to the database, as well as keeping track of station in their areas, if we need to remove a station or update them as needed. So today we’re talking about changes in the Station Locator that we’ve seen, specifically around electric vehicle charging. And there has been a lot of change in that space in recent years. So Abby and Emily have been part of an effort to keep track of that and understand what’s going on with a series of EV charging trends reports based on that Station Locator data. So Abby, can you talk a little bit more about these reports and why they’re important.

Abby Brown: Absolutely. So, the Station Locator tracks all alternative fuels, which you know we’ve sort of talked about. But out of all the fuels, as you might imagine, EV charging is experiencing the most rapidly changing technology and of course really fast-growing infrastructure. So therefore, we wanted to provide the industry with a way to read about the current state of the industry to assist in their own analyses. And the information in these reports is really intended to help transportation planners, policymakers, researchers, infrastructure developers, and others to really understand the rapidly changing landscape for EV charging. And we hope by putting these reports out there that will help these groups do just that. And we hope that they’ll also be able to use the information in these reports to make more informed decisions related to EV charging infrastructure.

Emily Klotz: So using data from the Station Locator, these quarterly reports break down the growth of public and private charging infrastructure by charging level, network, location, and type are just a few examples. The report also measure the state of charging infrastructure in each quarter compared with the amount projected to meet charging needs by 2030. And to date, there are several quarterly reports published for 2020, and we plan to continue with these reports for all quarters of 2021.

Mollie Putzig: Sounds like we’ve got a lot of really great information included in the reports. Could you tell me a little bit about the overall trends that you’ve been seeing so far?

Abby Brown: Sure, I’d be happy to start. So as a general rule, for each quarter in 2020 the overall number of EV charging stations in the database grew, but each quarter varied slightly as far as how the growth occurred among different subsets of the infrastructure. So for example, in all quarters of 2020, DC fast charging infrastructure grew by the largest percentage. And this is of course indicative of sort of where the deployment focus is for the industry as a whole, including the focus on quarter charging development and expansion. And another example of different trends that we’ve seen in the report is that in the second quarter, private multifamily housing charging grew by about 26%, which is the most growth per quarter that we’ve seen all year in this sector.

And the Station Locator team has made a concerted effort to collect multi-family data over the last couple of years. But that said, it is important to point out that it has been somewhat challenging to collect this data, so there is a small amount of multi-family EV chargers in the Station Locator, which of course makes any additions appear pretty large. So that’s why that was such a large growth in the second quarter.

Emily Klotz: So in addition to all the growth that we’ve seen, there have been some decreases in the subsets of the infrastructure that we’ve seen. So for example, in quarter two, three, and four, we saw Level 1 infrastructure decrease. We’re not really surprised by this as Level 1 chargers charge vehicles very slowly compared with Level 2 and DC fact chargers. So while they may be sufficient at a workplace where an employee can leave their car to charge for the full workday, they don’t really meet public charging needs. And we’ve seen some older, non-networked Level 1 chargers close, as well as a decrease in networked Level 1 chargers on networks that grew overall in the quarter. So this indicates that networks are investing in public Level 2 and DC fast chargers instead.

Mollie Putzig: That’s really interesting, thanks Emily. So I did want to ask because it comes up in almost every conversation over the last year, did you notice any effects of COVID-19 on charging infrastructure trends.

Abby Brown: So yes, we did. And not surprisingly, we saw a smaller overall percent increase in charging infrastructure during the second quarter of 2020, so that’s during the months of April, May, and June of 2020. The percent growth during this quarter was almost 4% lower than the average of the other quarters in 2020.

So when the coronavirus restrictions began in March 2020, those restrictions caused delays in the development of infrastructure. So for example, Electrify America reported that construction of new charging stations had been delayed or halted at approximately 70% of its over 100 permitted stations at the time. And this of course contributed to the smaller percent increases we saw in Q2.

Emily Klotz: And not only did we see slower infrastructure growth during the height of the pandemic, but there were other significant impacts and trends likely caused by coronavirus restrictions. So for example, there was a significant decline in vehicle travel. And according to the Federal Highways Administration, vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. decreased by 40% in April 2020 after the stay-at-home orders were originally implemented. Overall in 2020, the vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. decreased by 13.2% compared with 2019. So of course this also contributed to a decrease in demand for charging. For example, EVgo and Electrify America reported that charging sessions at their stations had dropped by more than 50% at the beginning of the pandemic.

But you know, despite these setbacks, we did see continued investment and commitments to transportation electrification. So just a couple examples. Both Lyft and Uber made commitments to fully electrify their fleets by 2030; California became the first state to pass legislation to phase out the sale of new gas-powered passenger vehicles, and some other states are you know following suit; and in Q4, many vehicle manufacturers increased their original investment in EVs or announced that a certain percentage, if not all, of their vehicles would be electric by the middle or end of the decade. So it’s all very promising.

Mollie Putzig: Yeah that’s really exciting to see so many people moving in this direction. So you’ve talked about what you have seen happening overall with EV trends, including how COVID-19 affecting growth. What other trends have you seen emerging beyond what’s happening with the pandemic?

Abby Brown: Sure, I’ll start. So because DC fact charging infrastructure is a focus of the industry for EV charging deployment, I’ll highlight a few things that we notice there as far as trends. So in all quarters of 2020, DC fast charging infrastructure grew by the largest percentage. And in addition to that, in most quarters DC fast charging infrastructure with the power output between 51 and 299 kilowatts grew by the largest percentage. And between the two non-Tesla DC fast connects for DC fast charging, which are CCS and ChAdeMO, we saw that CCS connectors generally saw the most growth each quarter. And this is indicative of sort of where the industry is going as a whole as there have been several announcements in 2020 from automakers stating that they are phasing out the CHAdeMO connectors on their electric vehicles. And I’ll also highlight some interesting regional trends. So in all quarters of 2020, the California region had the largest share of the country’s public EV chargers, which is not entirely surprising. But in each quarter, the region with the most growth varied. So in Q1 it was the Northeast region, in Q2 it was Southcentral, in Q3 it was the Mid-Atlantic, and then finally in Q4 it was California. So just a little bit interesting to see there is variation across the country as where the growth is. So as far as state trends go, it’s interesting to note that in all quarters of 2020, Vermont had the most EV chargers per 100,000 people in the state. And the other top states for this metric were consistently California, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and Colorado. And those were consistently the top five over all quarters in 2020. And similarly, the states with the largest growth of EV chargers per 100,000 people were Oklahoma in Q2, North Dakota in Q3, and Alaska in Q4.

Emily Klotz: So I’ll highlight some private infrastructure trends that we’ve seen, as well. As of quarter four, 61% of private EVSE in the Station Locator are installed at workplaces and available for employee use only, and 96% of those are Level 2 chargers. Throughout 2020, we saw the most overall growth in Level 2 workplace EVSE, and very little change in the number of Level 1 and DC fast EVSE.

At multifamily housing, we saw that EVSE installed at multifamily housing only made up 4% of private EVSE as of quarter four, and similar to workplace EVSE, the majority of those are Level 2. And also at multifamily housing, we saw that Level 2 grew significantly throughout 2020, while the number of Level 1 EVSE did not change, and there are no recorded DC fast EVSE at multifamily housing in the Station Locator.

Mollie Putzig: That’s interesting to look at. So you mentioned earlier that these reports are measuring current charging infrastructure availability as compared with what we’re thinking we’re going to need to meet demand by 2030. So how are we doing as of Q4 2020 in terms of meeting that demand?

Emily Klotz: So for this piece of the report we’re using NREL’s 2017 infrastructure analysis as a baseline, and this analysis estimates that there will need to be 601,000 public and workplace Level 2 EVSE and 27,500 public and workplace DC fast EVSE in the U.S. to support a scenario in which there are 15 million passenger EVs on the road by 2030.

So as of Q4, we’re 14% of the way towards meeting the Level 2 infrastructure projections, and 64% of the way towards meeting the DC fast infrastructure projections. It is important to note though, these figures include Tesla’s proprietary Destination and Supercharger networks, so if you exclude those Tesla EVSE, the DC fast figure decreases to 29% and the Level 2 figure decreases to 12%. And more than half of public DC fast EVSE are on the Tesla Supercharger network, so there is certainly a need for DC fast infrastructure development from other service providers as well.

Joanna Allerhand: Thanks so much Abby and Emily for sharing the trends you have noticed so far. What do you expect to see in the future?

Abby Brown: We definitely expect to see continued growth of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. And even likely at an even faster pace than what we’ve seen in 2020. Partly because of President Biden’s goal of adding 500,000 additional chargers to the EV charging landscape, so while that won’t happen all next year, we do expect to see it start to pick up a little bit over the next several years. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on that.

Emily Klotz: So yes, we definitely expect to see progress on that and we’ll keep track of that in future reports. We’ll also include trends in highway charging corridors, as well as fleet charging infrastructure. So stay tuned on that for future reports.

Mollie Putzig: That’s great, thank you Abby and Emily. We’re excited to see what happens with the trends reports in 2021.

Abby Brown: Thank you.

Emily Klotz: Thanks so much for having us.

Mollie Putzig: Thanks Abby and Emily for joining us and sharing your research. We look forward to reading your next report. Joanna, where can people find the EVSE trends reports?

Joanna Allerhand: All of the reports are on the AFDC website. The address for that site is afdc.energy.gov. You can find the reports on the page called Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Trends. The direct link is also in the details for this episode.

Mollie Putzig: I’m excited to hear future reports will include trends in highway corridors and fleet charging. Listeners—do you want to suggest topics for future reports? You can email TechnicalResponse@icf.com or call 800-254-6735. You can also follow links from the Clean Cities Coalition Network website or afdc.energy.gov.

Joanna Allerhand: And that’s it for this episode of On the Go. As we wrap up, I want to thank the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office and our team here at the National Renewable Energy Lab for their support. Also a big thanks to Brittany Conrad, our podcast editor. We couldn’t do it without you.

Mollie Putzig: If you want to learn more about Clean Cities and its partnerships to develop affordable, efficient, and clean transportation options that accelerate the development and widespread use of a variety of innovative transportation technologies, visit cleancities.energy.gov.