The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is here. It’s time we settle the debate about which is the most important area of focus as we continue improving the future of transportation.
Manufacturers are racing to put EVs on the road as alternatives to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, largely due to concerns about the climate and rising energy costs.
This raises the question: Which is more important for the future of transportation-the infrastructure for the new EVs, or the EVs themselves?
EVs and infrastructure have equal weight
Cars and infrastructure are a lot like the chicken vs. the egg debate. If there’s no infrastructure, then EVs have no way to charge for realistic everyday use and can’t operate. If there are no EVs, though, then having the infrastructure is useless. So, the two elements are tied for importance, and it’s critical they come together.
We’ve spent a lot of time waiting for EV technology to be perfected to the point where mass production makes economic and manufacturing sense. We’re almost there now, with even the biggest EV challenge-heavy trucks that require much bigger and more powerful batteries-seeing major breakthroughs. Some places like New York and California are already requiring all new cars to be zero-emission. With a national goal of having 50 percent of vehicles be electric by 2030, the shift to EVs is already happening.
Now, we’re waiting for the infrastructure to catch up. In November 2021, President Joe Biden made a major infrastructure move, committing $7.5 billion to support EV charging. The plan is focused on putting the chargers in places like shopping centers and parks that are publicly accessible to attract users. The charging plan involves mostly Level 2 chargers that aren’t as fast as their Direct Current Fast counterparts. The visibility of more chargers, however, can help combat the range anxiety that makes car buyers wary. They wonder how far their vehicles can actually go and if they’ll be able to charge them when necessary.
I’ve personally experienced this range anxiety. I hopped on the EV bandwagon early, but my range anxiety was bad enough that I actually got rid of the car. Even so, admittedly, what I felt wasn’t justified. Range anxiety is a bit of a misnomer. Most people don’t fill up on gas every night so they can start the next day on a full tank. They go a couple of days or a week or so and then get gas when they’re actually at risk of not being able to drive anymore.
But with an EV, if you plug in every night at home, you’re always topping off the tank. From that perspective, you’re never in real danger of not having the energy you need to get where you need to go. You can actually be better off than if you had an ICE car, depending on the distance you need to drive and the quality of the battery. If you’re driving long distances, it can be a little more difficult, but there are apps that can help you map out your route with charging stations along the way.
So, it’s really just a matter of taking a look at your situation. What transportation needs do you actually have? Where do you live? What models are available? Most people know the Tesla brand, but you might find that you don’t actually need something with a Tesla-level range. There are many other EV options that can more than accommodate you.
How infrastructure will likely expand
As for how the infrastructure is actually going to grow, you’ll likely see EVs and infrastructure come together first in more urban areas like Chicago, Boston, and New York. More people live in those locations, and most of them are relatively close to major shopping centers. If you put chargers at those shopping centers, they’re easy for the majority of people to access. Once you start getting out of the cities, however, there are fewer people, and they might be 20 or 30 miles away from the nearest charging station. For them, the chargers aren’t as accessible. We can expect EV infrastructure to mushroom out, with the quickest growth in more densely populated locations.
But the potential for public infrastructure development goes well beyond shopping centers. We can also put chargers at workplaces, condominiums, apartments, or hotels. And those chargers can make money for whoever installs them. Someone just needs to lead the charge and make the initial investment, and that’s likely going to be businesses.
Right now, company vehicles contribute greatly to a typical business’s emissions. Supporting EV infrastructure is one of the fastest ways for organizations to become carbon footprint neutral. Major companies like IKEA, Walmart, and Amazon have already made major commitments in this direction.
You can be a leader for the EV future
The EV revolution is already in motion. However, mental fixedness and the inconvenient need for preemptively planning a trip are holding back more progress. A stronger EV infrastructure can combat these problems by verifying the viability of the shift and reassuring people that they will have access. If the government and businesses can make even more investments, the infrastructure can grow rapidly and improve transportation for everyone.
So, be fearless. Have the courage to help build the infrastructure and buy the cars. Step forward and lead now-our planet won’t wait.