Electric vehicles can rule the road—if charging stations keep pace - Curbed

For environmentalists and electric vehicle evangelists, it’s a mixed blessing. The technology powering the new generation of electric vehicles is moving so fast, that by 2025, EVs are on track to beat gasoline cars on price, without incentives or subsidies, according to From Gas to Grid: Building Charging Infrastructure to Power Electric Vehicle Demand, a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

But the sector is also moving so fast—U.S. sales alone were up 36 percent in 2016—that without sustained national and local investment in charging infrastructure, the potential gains in emissions reductions and efficiency may be lost. It’s gone from “if” to “when” to “can we be ready in time.”

“Without a vigorous and sustained construction program of EV-charging infrastructure, the US is likely to see its vehicle electrification ambitions stifled,” says Chris Nelder, a manager in RMI’s mobility and electricity practices and the author of the new report.

The rapid growth in the market—by 2020, consumers will be able to choose from 39 models of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles and 44 models of EVs in North America—has gone beyond the chicken-and-egg situation where consumer purchases won’t grow without additional charging capacity and vice versa. EVs are already cheaper to refuel, in some cases cheaper to own, and with many models going 200 miles or more on a single charge, becoming a smart alternative to a conventional internal combustion engine (especially for city managers running large fleets).

Instead, the growth of EVs should be seen as a serious infrastructure challenge that should concern cities and utilities: the report says a reasonable prediction, based on current growth forecasts, would see 2.9 million EVs on the road within five years, which would generate roughly $1.5 billion in additional annual electricity sales (EV adoption is showing compound annual growth rates of 30–40% a year).

It should also be seen as a closed case, according to the report’s analysis of EV cost savings and benefits versus internal combustion engine vehicles:

“The evidence from this research and analysis shows that vehicle electrification provides benefits that are so numerous and overwhelmingly positive for the public that we should no longer doubt the value of it, or become distracted to the point of inaction by arguments about equitability and best practices. Even non-drivers will benefit from the drastically reduced air pollutants of vehicle exhaust, the lower total cost of maintaining mobility infrastructure, and synergistic effects that can put downward pressure on the price of all goods and services, including the price of electricity and climate change mitigation measures.”

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