The number of public EV charging networks around the United States is increasing, giving EV drivers more places to plug in than ever before. Between the beginning of 2018 and beginning of 2019, the number of charging stations across the country increased by more than 40 percent. Today, there are more than 76,400 charging ports at 26,100 locations across every state.
While this growth is encouraging, the International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that workplace and public charging infrastructure in the top 100 most populous metropolitan areas in the country will need to increase by at least 20 percent every year to meet the estimated EV market growth through 2025. Increasing the number of charging stations alone will likely not be enough to encourage widespread EV adoption. Some public charging networks are only accessible to certain types of vehicles. For example, Tesla’s supercharger network, accounting for 20 percent of the total 3,300 DC fast charging locations around the country, is only accessible to Tesla drivers.
As the number of public charging networks increases, there is a greater need for standardization allowing EV drivers to easily charge at more stations. ChargePoint and EVgo, two of the market leaders in the public charging sector, recently agreed to allow “roaming” across their two networks. This effort seeks to increase the accessibility and convenience of public charging where EV drivers will be able to use the two networks interchangeably without incurring fees or setting up additional accounts. ChargePoint has also secured roaming agreements with Electrify America, the company responsible for allocating $2 billion in public charging investment through the VW Settlement, to ensure that drivers can use the same account to access stations on both networks.
Private charging service providers are not alone in the effort to expand public charging access and automakers are looking to step up their investments to help spur demand for their new and existing EV offerings. Tesla leads the field in charging investment with an estimated value of more than $183 million invested in the U.S. network. While there are many factors behind Tesla’s command of more than 50 percent of the total U.S. EV market share since 2018, some argue that Tesla’s supercharger network acts as a “competitive moat” for the company.
Other automakers like Ford are jumping into the ring to improve the charging experience for EV drivers. The company recently announced plans to provide access to more than 12,000 charging stations for Ford customers. Unlike Tesla, which installs charging stations directly, Ford’s charging service (FordPass) will draw on existing networks managed by Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary Greenlots and Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America to standardize memberships under the consolidated service. Also unlike Tesla, FordPass stations will be accessible to other EV drivers and includes a collaboration with Amazon to provide customers with easy home charging installations. As Atlas noted in a recent piece in E&E News, Ford’s effort here highlights the careful thought automakers are putting into the rollout of new all-electric vehicles.
Ford, which discontinued its EV offerings in preparation to roll out brand new models beginning in 2020, is also partnering with VW on EV investment more widely. Ford’s plans follow an earlier announcement in May 2019 of a new partnership between GM and construction giant Bechtel to build a whole new charging network. The companies have yet to secure an investor in the initiative and GM is not investing its own money in charging infrastructure at this time. The rollout of the FordPass system will help to inform the “charging wars” gathering steam across the auto market and is likely to set the tone for the future of public charging standardization and cooperation with charging service companies in the United States.