Industry Insights

Barriers to EV Adoption Part II

7 minute read
July 28, 2021

In this two-part insights series, Exro explores barriers to electric vehicle adoption as cited in poll responses by the Exro social media community. Part two dives deeper into charging infrastructure and why it was ranked as a top barrier to EV adoption.

In our last post, we discussed the biggest barriers to EV adoption as identified by the Exro social media community. Respondents told us that charging infrastructure at 47.7% and EV availability/affordability at 34.2% were the two biggest barriers to EV adoption.

We know that charging infrastructure is expanding, but is it doing so at the rate required to support the transition to clean energy? With the community citing charging infrastructure as the biggest barrier to EV adoption, we decided to dive deeper into the challenge.

Close up of EV battery plug, with blurred background showing large electric car charging station.

Why is charging infrastructure the biggest barrier to EV adoption?

Most of us are familiar with range anxiety, the fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach either the next destination or place to recharge. But does the charging infrastructure barrier go beyond range anxiety?

According to UX Planet, an organization that evaluates the world’s user experience, EV charging is riddled with obstacles for drivers: from the length and weight of the charging plug, to their locations, availability, and charging speed. In a recent study unveiling why about 20% of California’s EV owners go back to ICE vehicles, researchers found that discontinuance was mostly related to charging dissatisfaction.

We went back to our community to ask exactly why charging infrastructure was a deterrent for EV adoption. We categorized specific charging obstacles as:

  • Charging speed
    Does it take too long to charge the vehicle?
  • Charger accessibility
    Are there chargers accessible or enough chargers available in the community to keep the vehicle charged?
  • Charging affordability
    Can we afford to charge our electric vehicles?
  • Charging variances by vehicle
    Does the design of chargers accommodate all vehicle types, including commercial vehicles and vehicles that are towing?

Taking to our social media community on LinkedIn and Twitter with a secondary poll, over 100 responses came in.

What is it about charging infrastructure that creates a barrier to EV adoption?

Barriers to EV adoption, with charger accessibility as first and charging speed as second highest.

Charging accessibility at 45.5% and charging speed at 35% were cited as the two particular issues with charging infrastructure, causing barriers to EV adoption.

Where are all the charging stations? 

To facilitate a rapid and smooth transition to clean energy, charging needs to be as easy as refueling - and today, it’s not. It’s no wonder that our community found charger accessibility to be the biggest charging challenge. Frankly, they’re hard to come by. It’s estimated that there are nearly 22,000 EV charging stations across the United States - which may sound like a lot, but by comparison, there are well over 100,000 gas stations across the country.

Studies show that the average EV can go about 181 miles (291 kilometres) on a single charge in ideal weather conditions and traffic patterns, and that the largest distance between two chargers in the United States is 86.5 miles (139 kilometres) in Wyoming. In theory, this should alleviate range anxiety for drivers, but to circle back to this post’s opening question, it’s not just about that anymore. When you reach a charging station after driving 86.5 miles, how many chargers will be there? How long will a driver have to wait to get access to a charger -before they’re waiting again as the vehicle recharges?

A parked plug-in electric car being charged at a public EV charging station.

The biggest charging challenge

Across public charging stations, you’ll find Level 3 chargers. These chargers are the fastest way to charge an electric vehicle, using 400V-900V DC (whereas Level 1and Level 2 chargers use AC). An EV can charge about 3-20 miles per minute on Level 3 chargers.

So why aren’t these everywhere - and right now? Well, it’s because of the cost of the power electronics.

Generally speaking, it costs tens of thousands to fully install a Level 3 EV charging station, because of the cost of power electronics and installation. Dealerships and commercial charging stations can spend over half a million dollars just to install a dozen Level 3 charger stations. This cost is a huge barrier to charger implementation, and a reason why charger accessibility is a huge barrier to EV adoption.

What if we reimagine what it looks like to charge an EV?

EV charging is a new concept that will require mass adoption, and our current system has not matured enough to effectively support it. So why not innovate?

This month, Exro announced a new application for its patented Coil Driverᵀᴹ technology. The team created a way for the technology to deliver Level 1 to Level 4 charging capabilities, and provide electricity back to the grid, with significantly less power electronics. Right now, EVs need three different types of power electronics: a motor drive, anon-board charger, and an external DC fast charger. Exro’s Coil Driverᵀᴹreplaces all of the above. In other words, our latest technology application removes the biggest barrier to DCFC charger implementation and therefore accessibility.

A public charging station for plug-in electric vehicles.

Where do we go from here?

Even though EV adoption rates are on the rise, continuous innovation is key to facilitating a rapid and smooth transition to clean energy. One day, all countries will ban the sales of ICE vehicles and right now, most of us don’t believe that’s achievable with our current infrastructure. To get there, we need to critically evaluate the solutions we have put in place, challenge the status quo, and deliver new technologies and technology applications to remove the biggest barriers to mass EV adoption.

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