People across the world, show more support for electric cars, and automakers start to deliver even more electric vehicles with longer range and lower prices. China even set an aggressive target for electric vehicle sales, in order to curb pollution, European countries aim to be all-electric by 2040 or sooner.
Those lofty ambitions face numerous challenges, including one practical consideration for consumers: If they buy electric cars, where will they charge them? The distribution of public charging stations is wildly uneven around the globe. Places with lots of support from governments or utilities, like China, the Netherlands and California, have thousands of public charging outlets. Buyers of Tesla’s luxury models have access to a company-funded Supercharger network. But in many places, public charging remains scarce. That’s a problem for people who need to drive farther than the 200 miles or so that most electric cars can travel. It’s also a barrier for the millions of people who don’t have a garage to plug in their cars overnight.
The uneven distribution of chargers worries many potential electric vehicle owners. It’s one reason electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of cars on the road. You have to prove to the consumer that they can drive across the country, even though they probably won’t. There’s no exact ratio of the number of chargers needed per car. But workplaces should have one charger for every 2.5 electric autos and retail stores need one for every 20 electric cars. Highways need one every 50 to 75 miles, he said. That suggests a lot of gaps still need to be filled.
Automakers and governments are pushing to fill them. The number of publicly available, global charging spots grew 72 percent to more than 322,000 last year, the International Energy Agency said. Navigant Research expects that to grow to more than 2.2 million by 2026; more than one-third of those will be in China. Tesla Inc. — which figured out years ago that people wouldn’t buy its cars without roadside charging — is doubling its global network of Supercharger stations to 10,000 this year. BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford are building 400 fast-charging stations in Europe. Volkswagen is building hundreds of stations across the U.S. as part of its settlement for selling polluting diesel engines. Even oil-rich Dubai, which just got its first Tesla showroom, has more than 50 locations to charge electric cars.