Feds unleash $4.5B push to promote electric car adoption


Electric cars are seen at a parking lot of an automobile factory in Xingtai, Hebei province, China

Credit: Reuters

The need for more charging stations is key to getting more folks interested in buying electric cars and current low price of gasoline doesn’t help the cause either.


The White House last week launched a number of steps it hopes will spur the development and further adoption of electric vehicles – including $4.5 billion to help build-out the country’s electric charging grid.

“In the past eight years the number of plug-in electric vehicle models increased from one to more than 20, battery costs have decreased 70%, and we have increased the number of electric vehicle charging stations from less than 500 in 2008 to more than 16,000 today – a 40 fold increase,” the DOE stated.

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The initiative goes hand-in-hand with an electric car coalition that was announced at the same time whose goal is to bring about collaboration “between the government and industry to increase the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.”

That coalition includes 50 industry players from BMW and Tesla to Duke Energy and the State of California.

The Federal program looks to

  • Unlock up to $4.5 billion in loans inviting applications to support the commercial-scale deployment of innovative electric vehicle charging facilities
  • Identify zero emission and alternative fuel corridors, including for electric vehicle charging across the country, and standing up an effort to develop a 2020 vision for a national network of electric vehicle fast charging stations that will help determine where along the corridors it makes the most sense to locate the fast charging infrastructure
  • Call for state, county, and municipal governments to partner with the Federal government to procure electric vehicle fleets at a discounted value
  • Use the power of data and hosting an ‘Electric Vehicle Hackathon’ to discover insights and develop new solutions for electric vehicle charging
  • Involve 35 new businesses, non-profits, universities, and utilities signing on to DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge and committing to provide electric vehicle charging access for their workforce.

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The need for more charging stations is key to getting more folks interested in buying electric cars, which still don’t sell anywhere near the amount of traditional gasoline cars (as of mid-September 2015 there were about 1,004,000 plug-in vehicles sold worldwide according to HybridCars.com compared to about 17.5 million gas vehicles sold in 2015 alone). The current low price of gasoline doesn’t help the cause either.

In 2014 the US DOE took a look at the electric car environment and found a number of interesting facts including:

  • The vast majority of in-home charging participants charged their vehicles overnight during off-peak periods.
  • Where offered, time-based rates were successful in encouraging greater off-peak charging.
  • Public charging station usage was low, but mostly took place during business hours and thus increased the overlap with typical peak periods.
  • Plug-in hybrid owners frequently used the(often free)public stations for short charging sessions to “top off their tanks.”
  • The average power demand to charge most vehicles was 3-6 kilowatts, which is roughly equivalent to powering a small, residential air conditioning unit.However, depending on the model, the load from one electric vehicle model can be as much as 19 kilowatts, which is more than the load for most large, single-family homes.
  • Faster chargers may require more expertise to installing homes and public stations.
  • Installing a 240-volt charging station, which typically charges 3-5 times as fast as a charger using a standard 120 –volt outlet, requires a licensed electrician and occasionally service upgrades.
  • Public charging station installation had high costs and required substantial coordination with equipment vendors, installers, and host organizations to address construction, safety, and code requirements.
  • Some makes and models—particularly all-electric vehicles or those with larger battery packs—may take about 20 to 60 hours to charge a fully depleted battery at 120 volts. While 120-volt charging is relatively slow, it can often be accomplished with little to no additional cost or installation work if an outlet is already available at home.

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