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Infrastructure Act could double number of public EV chargers

16 November, 2021

Akshay Singh
Partner at Strategy&, PwC US

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could jumpstart the build-out of a national public electric-vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure needed to support the mainstreaming of EV adoption. The $1.2 trillion act—with $550 billion in new spending, of which $7.5 billion is allocated for the installation of public EV chargers—could roughly double the number of public charging ports from about 107,000 today to about 223,000 over the next five years, according to a PwC analysis.

But that accounts for only a fraction—roughly 10%—of public chargers that will likely be needed through 2030, assuming that the US EV penetration rate rises to 50% over that period, and assuming the need for about 2 million charging ports needed to support that penetration rate.

The analysis, which assumes that 70% of all new federally funded chargers will be Level 3 (full charge in an hour) and the remaining 30% will be Level 2 (full charge in eight hours), finds that the number of Level 3 charging ports could increase by 320% over the next five years and that the number of Level 2 charging ports could grow by 182%. While the largest capital expense is the charging hardware itself (similar to a gas pump), our analysis includes other expenses, including upgrades to local electricity grids, land, civil works and the like.

A good start, but…While the federal investment signals strong government support toward building a national charging infrastructure, it may fall short of what might be needed, assuming EV adoption progresses on the trajectory both the public and private sectors aspire to.

Meanwhile, a growing list of automakers are putting the pedal to the metal with plans to produce more EV models in the coming years. That begs the question: Will there be enough public chargers? A separate PwC analysis suggests that if the US achieves a 5% penetration of registered EVs by 2030, the market could require about 120,000 to 235,000 fast-charge points (in the same ballpark of the 225,000 chargers that the act could fund). It follows, then, that the act will fund about 10% of the public chargers that will be needed if the nation achieves an EV penetration rate of 50%. Our analysis, then, suggests that the country eventually could require more than 2 million chargers to support that targeted penetration rate.

A national priority. Clearly, the act does much to catalyze a national charging infrastructure build-out to support EV adoption as part of a larger popular push to decarbonize transportation. While EV charging is still in its nascent stage, a national network of chargers meeting customer needs and preferences will likely lead to more rigorous adoption of EVs. When a mature charging infrastructure that keeps up with EV adoption will be created—and what it will look like—is still an open question.

For now, though, a push for a charging infrastructure seems to have been lapped by the push for EV adoption, leaving the national charging infrastructure build-out to catch-up. Take President Biden’s target of increasing the percentage of EVs on the road to 50% of the national fleet by 2030, up from the 2% that EVs currently represent of all new vehicle registrations in the US. Or consider the Biden administration’s pledge to extend EV tax credits, and California’s move to ban new ICE cars from 2035. Meanwhile, most major automakers continue to unveil aggressive plans to increase EV production, and we expect EV ownership to be economically viable for most drivers (even without tax breaks or other incentives) by the end of this decade. As the activity around EVs buzzes, public charging has yet to break through as a major initiative in some parts of the country. New York City, for example, has installed just 117 public chargers (as of September 2021), intended to supply a population of over 8 million and 16,000 registered EVs.1

Still, by placing public charging infrastructure as a national priority and in the public light, the act could trigger greater and more comprehensive commitments and investments by a growing host of stakeholders: federal, state and local governments, electrical utilities, certain retailers (e.g., supermarkets, big box retailers, restaurants and parking garages), EV charging equipment makers and the major automakers. 

In this way, then, the Act’s commitment to EV charging could turn out to be more influential than the actual allocation of $7.5 billion. 

1: Eduardo Garcia, “New York City Plans Massive EV Charging Network”, treegugger.com, September 18, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2021.