Biden, this week, launched a major funding scheme for the widescale expansion of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure across the U.S. to support the development of a massive EV fleet. The President hopes that greater investment in EV charging stations, as well as tax credits for EV development and uptake, will encourage automakers to roll out more EV operations and consumers to switch from petrol to electric. But, as the public looks at the benefits of EVs, are they fit for purpose in a huge country, full of long-distance commuters? President Biden announced the first round of funding, totalling $900 million, for EV charging networks across 35 states this week, stating “the great American road trip is going to be fully electrified”. This is an ambitious statement since EVs have the reputation of being short-range vehicles that need regular charging stops on a long trip. But more charging stations across the US will finally make it possible for EV owners to carry out longer journeys without the fear of not finding a place to charge.
At the Detroit Auto Show, Biden told crowds that the government was approving funding for EV infrastructure across the first 35 states. This is part of the president’s push to encourage consumers to switch to EVs from fossil fuel-powered cars. The recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to further support Biden’s aim by offering tax credits to EV and battery manufacturers. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $7.5 billion in funding for a national EV charging network.
Biden stated at the auto show that there were plans for 500,000 charging stations across the country, adding this his administration had contributed $135 billion to EV development. He expects the expansion of EV infrastructure to reduce the barriers to EV ownership, although the lack of ubiquitous chargers is still an issue of concern. Tax credits for consumers looking to switch to EVs are also expected to incentivise uptake. This is all part of Biden’s plan for EVs to make up 50 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States by 2030.
The development of a favourable EV market, through the rollout of climate policies and related funding and tax incentives, has encouraged many major automakers to expand operations in the US. Companies including Toyota, Honda, Ford, General Motors, and Panasonic have announced investments in manufacturing in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, and other states. This supports Biden’s “Made in America” pledge, which promises to boost national manufacturing of EVs, EV chargers, and batteries.
But as consumers look to make the change, many are still concerned about the restrictions of owning an EV as opposed to an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. One drawback that automakers have been battling to improve is the range of EVs, which is now up to an average of around 260 miles but can be much shorter if not driving in optimal conditions. Although this has come a long way since the humble beginnings of the electric car, the time it takes to fully charge an EV has put long-distance drivers off. While people can fill their car up with petrol in just a few minutes, an electric ‘top-up’ charge may take 30 minutes, and a full charge could take several hours – with most owners leaving their cars to charge overnight if they have access to home charging.
In addition to the long charge time, consumers are concerned about the speed at which EV charging infrastructure will be rolled out. Biden’s recent announcement is very positive for the 35 states outlined, but the remaining states will have to wait longer to see charging stations. The development of a comprehensive charging network will likely take several years and, as EV uptake increases, the demand for these stations will also rise. Given that the time taken at each station is much higher than that at a traditional fuelling station, owners may experience long waits to power their cars.
And while there are high hopes for expansive EV infrastructure, consumers may also be concerned about running out of power in a rural area, with no charging stations for miles around. And it’s not so easy as simply finding a can of petrol to allow your car to chug along to the next garage. So, as Biden invests in improving this infrastructure, automakers must continue to improve the vehicle range and charge times, to ensure that EVs can become more appealing to consumers.
President Biden has gone a long way to support EV manufacturing since he came to office, and recent climate change policies and infrastructure investments are likely to spur sectoral growth even further. However, automakers must also play their role in improving battery technologies to make EVs more appealing to consumers, working to the shift negative representation of EV range and abilities in comparison to ICE cars.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com