If you build it, will they come? The prospect of coast-to-coast travel in a battery-electric vehicle may have brightened with the Obama Administration's recently announced details to create an expanded network of EV charging stations across nearly 25,000 mi (40,233 km) of highways in 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The government's effort to spur sales of zero-emissions vehicles—still hampered by low U.S. fuel prices and consumer concerns about EV range—coincides with the introduction of new, lower priced EVs such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 capable of driving at least 200 mi (321 km) per charge.
The Administration announced last summer the creation of an "alternative fuel network" that will initially encompass 55 Interstate highways—48 of them being designated as EV "charging corridors." More roads and charging facilities will be added in future. Signs along the corridors will help notify drivers of the nearest charging locations.
The practical goal of the plan is to provide EV drivers with a charging station within any 50-mi (80-km) radius within the network.
For the Federal Highway Administration's newly unveiled interactive map listing locations of the EV charging corridors, showing the ones approved for signage and the other alt fuels they will offer (such as CNG and hydrogen), visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/alternative_fuel_corridors/maps.
EV charging networks are mandated under the 2015 FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act which provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation. BMW, GM and Nissan have agreed to work with public utilities in 28 of the 35 states to accelerate their construction. Washington has made available $4.5 B in loan guarantees to support the development of the corridors, including companies building EV charging stations.
In its announcement, the Administration noted the number of EV charging stations in the U.S. has increased from fewer than 500 in 2008 to more than 16,000 today, an increase of 40%. The new charging network is designed to help create "a new way of thinking about transportation that will drive America forward,” officials said in a release.
EV sales are lagging far below President Obama's goal of 1 million by 2015. Only about 520,000 electric cars have been sold in the U.S. since 2008, out of about 250 M cars and trucks on U.S. roads.