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How Many EV Charging Stations Does the US Need to Totally Replace Gas Stations?

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Prospective electric vehicle (EV) buyers have consistently expressed concerns about charging in numerous surveys. While many find owning an EV comparable to, if not better than, owning a gas-powered car, the process of fueling an electric vehicle presents unique challenges and inconveniences, particularly depending on one’s location.

Most current American EV owners charge their vehicles at home. However, over 20 percent of U.S. households lack reliable off-street parking where they can plug in overnight. Additionally, the public charging infrastructure is often unreliable, with reports of poorly maintained or non-functional chargers.

The good news is that automakers, governments, and policymakers are aware of these charging issues. They are motivated to resolve them because they want more people to adopt electric cars. Automakers are ramping up EV production and want to sell them, while legislators recognize that transitioning from gas-powered cars to zero-emissions vehicles is crucial for mitigating climate change.

As a result of these efforts, the U.S. currently boasts 188,600 public and private charging ports and 67,900 charging stations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These numbers have more than doubled since 2020, with an additional 240 stations planned. For comparison, the U.S. has about 145,000 gas stations, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

At WIRED, this situation prompted an intriguing thought experiment: If we could instantly convert every car to electric, how many additional charging stations would the U.S. need?

Coltura, an alternative fuel research and advocacy group, provided the calculations:

The conclusion? The nation needs a substantial increase in chargers to achieve full electrification, which experts anticipate by the 2040s. However, the task might not be as daunting as it seems.

The number of public chargers will need to grow by a factor of six, according to Matthew Metz, Coltura’s executive director, and Ron Barzilay, its data and policy associate. “We’re not necessarily off-track,” says Metz.

To clarify, this thought experiment is hypothetical. Many experts believe that gas-powered cars will continue to exist in some areas even as electrification progresses.

One reason for the optimistic outlook on public charging is the expectation that most drivers won’t entirely replace their gas station visits with public charging. Metz and Barzilay predict that 90 percent of housing units will have an EV charger, and 70 percent of charging will occur at home. Another 10 percent might happen at workplaces. The remaining 20 percent of charging is expected to take place at public stations, with approximately 70 percent of these being DC fast chargers, the fastest currently available.

Barzilay emphasizes that predicting future technology is challenging. He notes that “we’re unsure about what type of tech will be available” when full electrification occurs. It’s possible that by then, today’s fastest chargers—which can charge a vehicle from zero to 80 percent in about 20 minutes—will be surpassed by even faster and more efficient technology, putting the country in an even better position than currently anticipated.