Charging confusion and range anxiety made many Americans hesitant to adopt electric vehicles. But 2024 is shaping up to change that, with most automakers shifting to the same standard.
Electric cars are in a pretty good place right now — if only there were somewhere to charge the darn things.
More than ever before, drivers looking to ditch tailpipe emissions have access to some of the best electric cars to hit American roads. EVs are becoming more energy efficient, improving their range and ownership costs with each generation. And while many electric cars are still more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, there are plenty of budget-friendly options to choose from.
Around my neck of the woods, in EV-friendly northern California, I enjoy plentiful, reliable public EV charging infrastructure. Even long hauls from San Francisco to LA can happen with the bare minimum of planning. For me, the electrified future is here. But to paraphrase one of my favorite sci-fi writers, the future is not so evenly distributed.
I hear near-constant anecdotes from readers, colleagues in the automotive industry, friends and family in the Midwest and southeastern US complaining about the lack of chargers when venturing far from home. To some degree, those concerns are backed up by studies from JD Power and Ernst & Young showing that while nearly half of US shoppers are considering switching to an EV in the next 24 months, most are concerned that they won’t be able to find somewhere to charge them. Meanwhile, for current EV owners, satisfaction with charging infrastructure is down year over year.
Still, big changes coming to the electric car industry and electric charging infrastructure in 2024 indicate that this could be the year America finally gets it together on EV charging, both on the road and at home.
One plug to rule them all — the North American Charging Standard
In May 2023, Ford announced that it would transition from the CCS1 (combined charging system) EV charging connection to the Tesla-pioneered North American Charging Standard, or NACS, natively in future vehicles and via a plug adapter in current cars. That means Ford EVs are now compatible with the Tesla Supercharger network — a pretty big win for F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E drivers.
I’ve covered electric car technology at CNET for 15 years, so this isn’t my first charging standard war. (Remember ChaDeMo?) So, my initial concern was that this would spark unnecessary confusion and dissuade EV fence-sitters from adoption. But then General Motors announced it would also be making the switch. Mercedes-Benz was the first EV importer to adopt the standard, followed by Nissan, Honda, Hyundai Motor Group and BMW of North America. Along the way, upstarts Fisker, Rivian and Lucid joined the wave. The charging standard war was over before it even started and, today, only the Volkswagen Group and Stellantis are the odd ducks opting out of the NACS party. (I’d be surprised if they don’t also announce a transition by 2025.)
Starting in 2024, the arrival of CCS-to-NACS adapters from Tesla, partnered OEMs and third parties such as Lectron will allow current EV drivers to get a jumpstart on the NACS transition, gaining access to the best-maintained and most widespread EV charging network in North America, including 12,000 Tesla Superchargers across the US and Canada. That’s in addition to the 10,000 or so CCS1 stations they can currently access. It’s a win-win for far-ranging EV drivers that will only get better as more players enter the DC fast-charging game.
Let our powers combine: EV automakers partner on massive charging network
Despite adopting the NACS charging standard and Supercharger compatibility, EV automakers aren’t putting all of their eggs in Tesla’s basket. In July, seven automakers announced they’ll be combining their powers like the Planeteers to form a large-scale joint-venture EV charging network that will eventually grow to around 30,000 DC fast-charging stations across North America.
Charging hardware will include both CCS and NACS connections for maximum compatibility with current and future electric cars, trucks and SUVs. The network will favor charging sites near amenities including food, restrooms and retailers, which should make waiting for a charge to complete — which takes between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the EV — less of a pain point.
Members of this alliance include BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis, but the dual charging standards supported by the network should mean that EV drivers of all makes and models benefit from its growth. The first stations on this new network will begin operating in 2024.
The revenge of the gas station
Across the Atlantic, Germany is introducing laws that require 80% of gas stations to install EV chargers in an effort to rapidly expand its EV charging footprint. In America, gas station operators have seen the writing on the wall and are already preparing for more EV adoption.
Recently, petroleum giant BP announced that it would purchase around $100 million in Tesla EV charging hardware featuring the NACS connector for deployment within its growing BP Pulse EV charging network. BP also said it will invest up to $1 billion in EV charging across the US by 2030.
Meanwhile, Texas-based gas station chain Buc-ee’s is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to add high-speed DC fast charging hardware to its travel centers across the Southeast with around 30 stations planned by the end of 2024. Previous gas station charging partnerships include Travel Center and Electrify America (1,000 stalls at 200 locations) and Pilot and GM (2,000 stalls at 500 stations).
Already designed to meet the needs of automotive journeys long and short, gas stations are in many ways the perfect places for EV chargers. Besides the amenities they offer — and perhaps most importantly — gas stations are almost always staffed, which can make reporting and servicing broken hardware easier.
If you’ve ever found yourself charging for a half an hour in a dark, empty lot in the middle of nowhere, a well-lit, staffed charging station with improved uptime and snacks will sound like a welcome oasis.
Charging payment gets simplified
Behind much of this accelerated EV infrastructure growth is federal incentives, part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure plan rolled out by the Biden administration in 2022. NEVI’s goal is to kickstart construction of nearly a half-million charging stations by 2026. Developers looking to get a piece of that $5 billion action will need to meet certain requirements — including the requirement that contactless payment be accepted from all major credit and debit cards with no limitation on access based on membership.
Today’s US EV drivers have to keep two or three apps on their phone just to pay for EV charging across the major networks — and that’s in addition to the two or three apps needed to find a station. It’s a subpar experience for even the most dedicated converts and a major pain point for newcomers — and with more networks entering the game, it would only get worse. Being able to whip out a credit card or tap-to-pay enabled phone to start charging will make life much easier for newbies who may be renting an EV on vacation and for EV veterans accessing new or unfamiliar charging networks far from home.
Rethinking home charging
Building out infrastructure is the biggest part of the puzzle, but unburdening current EV charging capacity by incentivizing new owners to charge at home will also be an important next step.
Currently, most EV manufacturers offer some amount of public charging credit with the purchase of a new EV, which is designed to get you started on your EV journey while you figure out your home charging situation. That’s a good get on an individual basis, but on a larger scale, giving drivers too much free charging can result in drivers choosing to sit at DC charging stations near home to take advantage of the “free” energy rather than paying to install and use a charger at home. Not only is this unsustainable — even Tesla ended its “free unlimited Supercharger access for life” back in 2018 and has actively been trying to get drivers grandfathered in to give up the plan — but it occupies plugs that drivers on longer trips, or those without driveways or garages to park their EVs in, could be using.
Hyundai, for example, recently announced a $1,100 incentive program starting in late 2023 that includes a complimentary 11.5-kW Chargepoint home EV charger and a $600 installation credit through Hyundai Home with the purchase or lease of a Hyundai EV. Meanwhile, rather than a one-size public charging credit with its upcoming Prologue electric SUV, Honda is offering drivers three options to get started on their electrified journey:
- The first tier includes a 11.5-kW home charging station with a $500 Honda Home Electrics installation incentive and a $100 public charging credit to get customers going until the charger is installed.
- The second tier includes a 7.6-kW portable charging kit with a $250 Honda Home Electrics installation incentive and $300 in public charging credits.
- The third option is a flat $750 public charging credit aimed at drivers who either can’t install a charger at home or may already have one from a previous EV.
As much as you and I enjoy getting free stuff, charging at home is simply a better EV ownership experience for drivers who are able to do it, and it means you’ll be less likely to find yourself waiting for a charger behind cheapskate locals on your next EV road trip. Plus, home charging opens up all sorts of other advantages for homeowners, including the possibility of stabilizing your home’s microgrid and optimizing your energy cost and consumption via bidirectional charging.
Extracted in full from: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/2024-will-be-the-year-we-figure-out-ev-charging/