With 83% of the U.S. population living in urban areas, supporting electric mobility and clean transit technologies is crucial. Recently, the federal government has recognized this need and provided support for state and local communities through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which allocates $7.5 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure funding, of which at least $1.25 billion will go to communities. Another government initiative, the Justice40 Initiative, benefits disadvantaged communities by ensuring 40 percent of the federal EV charging infrastructure benefits will flow to them (and it includes a 30% tax credit for areas with poverty rates of at least 20%).
Despite the 50,000 EV chargers already installed across the U.S., recent modeling indicates that nearly 30 million chargers will be needed to meet the growing EV demand, including 1.2 million public chargers.
In urban communities and densely populated cities, where residents lack at-home charging options due to the larger proportions of on-street and large-commercial-garage parking, the need for public charging infrastructure is even more acute. Over half of EV intenders, those who do not currently own an EV but plan on acquiring one within the next 12 months, and 43% of current EV owners face this charging dilemma and must depend on publicly available chargers outside of their residences.
The demand for public community charging has never been greater and will only grow over time as more urban residents switch to EVs. To help governments with the many factors to consider when building an EV charging strategy, we’ve compiled the following guidelines for community charging:
Determining how much demand there will be for charging across a region or in specific locations is important to both determine an appropriate charging footprint and ensure viability for the operators managing the chargers.
There are many ways to estimate this demand today. Among them, Volta's sophisticated EV charging planning tool, PredictEV®, provides partners with a glimpse into forecasted charging demand to identify optimal locations while incorporating data to support Justice40 goals to ensure equitable deployment in alignment with the federal government’s initiative.
In addition, these planning tools enable state and local governments to select sites that can drive local business growth, have higher driver utilization, and ensure residents living in multi-unit housing have access to public chargers on which residents rely.
Taking a data-driven approach to planning is essential to ensuring the money invested into EV charging infrastructure is as effective as it possibly can be. Highly visible and conveniently located chargers not only support current EV drivers, but serve as on-going reminders to future EV drivers that they can confidently make the switch, as this study reveals.
With most public charging taking place during the day (when the cost per kilowatt-hour is typically higher), drivers who depend on public charging might end up paying between five and ten times more per kilowatt-hour than those who charge their EVs at home. When considering EV-charging infrastructure plans, we recommend that states and communities prioritize efforts to ensure public charging costs are equitable for all EV drivers, especially in less profitable locations.
Today there are several different types of EV charging pricing models. One model is subsidizing the cost of the charge through other revenue streams. As an example, Volta’s media revenue subsidizes the cost of station operation and mitigates the high costs of electricity, allowing for more affordable rates for EV drivers. It also allows Volta to deploy stations earlier in disadvantaged communities (DACs) where station utilization may initially be low.
EV charging infrastructure not only has the potential to impact the residents of the community it’s located in, but also to bring new drivers to the area, benefitting local businesses.
EV chargers’ ability to attract shoppers is taken to the next level with Volta’s Media Network. Embedded directly into Volta chargers, these digital screens help fund the station and subsidize the energy it dispenses. This powerful platform is also used for community messaging. Consider the use case of important local messaging regarding health and wellness, access to local EV incentives or alerts on local storm updates.
Volta’s media model has demonstrated impact on foot traffic and sales at surrounding businesses, creating an “economic multiplier” effect that can result in increased tax revenue for the city.
EV drivers depend on chargers in the same way that consumers depend on other essential utilities — imagine plugging in a smartphone on low battery only to find out that the charger isn’t able to charge your phone that day.
To reduce the potential dissatisfaction with public charging experiences, which recent surveys have revealed, ongoing station reliability is a critical priority.
Cities will rely on their charging providers, some of which own and operate the network, to install and maintain reliable charging for its residents and visitors. This includes long-term maintenance and reliability of EV charging stations as well as driver support.
Volta was recently recognized with the second highest station reliability ranking in a JD Power Public Charging Study. Volta provides ongoing maintenance, and checks stations frequently to ensure media is running properly. Every time a sponsor signs up to support Volta’s network, the team must demonstrate that the sponsor content is being shown and that the stations are in good working order, which creates an additional incentive to maintain Volta’s stations. This helps ensure that the charging equipment is delivering as expected for drivers visiting properties, resulting in a higher uptime. Additionally, by providing 24x7 driver support, issues are identified and resolved quickly, reducing overall downtime, and ensuring that the charging stations deliver on their critical mission.
As government funds are distributed in the years ahead, it is even more critical to think ahead about how EV charging infrastructure can best benefit your community. Expanding access to EV charging within all communities is a must-have to reduce emissions from transportation and support the long-term public health of the country.
Volta is working with federal, state, and local government officials to plan, implement, and maintain long-term accessible, affordable, and equitable charging for the health of communities around the country.
To learn more about Volta’s approach to community charging, visit voltacharging.com/government.
Vice President, Government Policy at Volta Charging
About the author:
Ben Foss leads all policy work at Volta. In this role, Ben oversees federal, state and local electric vehicle and charging policy related to grants, utilities and future mobility across North America. Before coming to Volta, Ben was a Director at Intel and held a staff role in the White House National Economic Council. Ben holds a law degree and an MBA from Stanford, a BA from Wesleyan University and was a Marshall Scholar in the UK.