Thursday, May 19

The U.S. Government Needs To Build Way More EV Chargers

A photo of an EV charging station with the caption "please sir, can we have some more?"

Well, can we?
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Currently, there are more than 150,000 gas stations across the United States, each ready to fill your car with fuel and send you back out on your journey. But the number of charging stations for electric vehicles is just a fraction of this figure, and that’s presenting a problem for the U.S. government as it struggles on with its mission to field a fleet of zero-emission cars.

According to a new report from watchdog the United States Government Accountability Office, the government has the funds to purchase a bunch of shiny new EVs but lacks sufficient charging stations to use them.

Catchily named the ‘Preliminary Observations on Electric Vehicles in the Postal and Federal Fleets,’ the report focuses on the rollout of electric postal trucks and makes for quite the Wednesday morning read.

Basically, it turns out that the U.S. government doesn’t have anywhere near the number of EV charging ports installed to support its rollout of battery-powered cars.

In fact, of the 43,000 electric charging stations currently operating across the U.S., just 1,100 are managed by the federal government. Which, when lawmakers have outlined ambitions to switch to EVs wherever possible, presents a bit of a problem.

A photo of a shell petrol station in the UK.

This isn’t one of the 150,000 US gas stations. It’s a very photogenic petrol station in Wales.
Photo: Matthew Horwood (Getty Images)

In contrast, there are currently more than 150,000 working gas stations across America. When you fill up an average-sized fuel tank in an average car that has average fuel efficiency, you can cover an average of 500 miles. Average.

An EV, on the other hand, is more likely to manage 200 miles on a charge and only has a third of the number of filling stations available to it. Clearly, something needs to be done to address this.

And that’s exactly what this report outlines.

With a focus on the rollout of electric delivery trucks for the U.S. Postal Service, the government watchdog found that lawmakers need to fund the installation of thousands more charging stations.

The USPS recently announced that it had ordered 10,000 next-generation, electric delivery vans. And as well as the cash to buy the electric trucks, the watchdog warned that investment must also be made to America’s charging infrastructure.

But how many new chargers are we talking here?

Well, the watchdog warned that “the federal government will need to rapidly expand its charging infrastructure.” And that means building an additional 100,000 charging stations to “support widespread electric vehicle use.”

A render of the next generation US postal truck.

Electric Avenue.
Illustration: USPS

According to the report, USPS estimated that each charging station it installs could cost as much as $18,000. Which puts the figure of installing sufficient chargers at $1.8 billion.

But while Biden’s recently announced Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide $7.5 billion worth of federal grants to install charging stations, cash may not the only problem facing states wishing to go electric.

The report also warned that USPS facilities looking to adopt the EV delivery vans may face problems with their locations. The report said that “officials told us that many USPS facilities are older and may not have the power capacity to support a larger fleet of electric vehicles.”

Clearly, a lot needs to be done before buying an electric truck is a viable option for most people, businesses and essential services.

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