Electric vehicle growth stuck in neutral until more charging stations are available

Industry estimates suggest that a public charging station is needed for every 10 electric vehicles on the road

Today's expression: Have the luxury
Explore more: Lesson #430
January 3, 2022:

At some point, you have probably waited in line to fill up a car at a gas station. Well, imagine that scenario at an electric vehicle charging station, where the wait time to fully charge a depleted battery could be several hours. Electric vehicles offer many advantages, but the lack of charging stations is a big barrier for most consumers. Plus, learn “have the luxury.”

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If you think it’s annoying trying to find an outlet to charge your phone in an airport or a public place, just imagine finding a charging station for an electric car

Lesson summary

Hi there everyone, it’s Jeff and this is Plain English, where we help you upgrade your English with current events and trending topics. This is lesson 430 and that means JR has uploaded the full lesson to PlainEnglish.com/430.

Coming up today: We all know the frustration of being caught away from home with a low or dead phone battery. We curse ourselves for not rationing the battery effectively; we borrow or even buy chargers; we frantically search for outlets. Speaking for myself, the anxiety starts building when my battery runs down to about 25 percent. Now imagine what it’s like for drivers of electric cars! On today’s lesson, we’ll talk about how we’ll all charge our batteries in the all-electric future.

The English expression we’ll review today is “to have the luxury” of something. And we have a quote of the week about innovation. Let’s dive in.

Where we’ll charge our future electric cars

Transportation is responsible for about a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; three-quarters of that is represented by cars and trucks on the road. So if the world is to meet its ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, transportation is a great place to start. Electric vehicles, or EV’s, are seen as a crucial element to reducing the carbon emissions of transportation. EV’s by themselves will not fully solve this problem; after all , much electricity is still generated by polluting fossil fuels. However, electric vehicles seem set to gradually replace the internal combustion engines that dominated the twentieth and the first quarter of the twenty-first centuries.

There are many advantages to electric vehicles. First, they contain many fewer parts, so they require less maintenance and are less likely to break down. For the same reason, they are expected to last longer. Second, they accelerate a lot faster, an advantage that is compounded by the fact that EV’s are lighter. They’re also quieter—a benefit for the driver and the people in the neighborhood.

One big disadvantage, however, is that EV batteries have a limited range, usually about 400 kilometers. The batteries take a long time to charge. And for now , there isn’t a large infrastructure of charging stations to power them. That, though, will have to change.

Today, most electric car owners are relatively wealthy early adopters. They have access to an enclosed garage at home, where they can charge their cars overnight. They use their electric cars for short trips around town and are often home well before they reach the end of their range. For longer trips, they can rent a traditional internal combustion engine and fill up at gas stations along their route. Many electric car owners also have a traditional internal combustion car as their family’s second car.

But if the future is all-electric, there will be several problems. First, not everyone has a garage at home to plug their car into. Apartment-dwellers who park on the street don’t have the luxury of charging their EV’s as they sleep. Second, journeys far from home will require a network of charging stations spaced out at sufficient intervals. Drivers will need to have the information they need to get to an available charging station before they run out of juice.

Industry estimates suggest that a public charging station is needed for every ten electric vehicles on the road. Today, there are over a million charging stations in the world; most of them are in China. If EV demand continues to increase, that number will need to be in the hundreds of millions. The world won’t need as many charging stations as gas stations because most people will charge at home over night. But a worldwide network will need to develop.

What will that look like? There are several ways new charging stations will develop. First, there are international networks of charging stations. ChargePoint and Ionity are two of the largest, but there are many smaller players in the market, too. These companies do nothing but build dedicated charging stations.

Major energy companies, such as Shell and BP, are adding charging stations to their existing gas stations. This makes sense because these companies are already known as a place to refuel a car, and they have the real estate already in place.

Car companies, too, are investing in EV charging stations. Tesla, a maker of luxury electric vehicles, has its own network of charging stations. Volkswagen owns a share of Electrify America, a network of charging stations in the U.S.

But charging an electric car won’t be like filling up a gas tank because it takes longer to fully charge a battery. Therefore, if you’re going to stop to charge your vehicle, you need something to do while it charges. That’s why you’re likely to see charging stations at places where you would typically spend 30 minutes to an hour—places like grocery stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, and the like. For long-distance travelers, hotels would be logical places for chargers.

What about people who live in apartments and who park on the street? In America, many more homes have private garage or driveway parking than in more urbanized areas like Europe or Asia. Still, a lot of people park on the street and can’t just plug in overnight.

Cities may build charging stations into existing urban infrastructure like streetlamps or in public spaces like parks, schools, and libraries. Apartment complexes may install charging stations for tenants. And individual homeowners with a little extra space in the driveway can install public charging stations for extra cash.

Making long trips longer

A big hurdle to transitioning to electric cars would be going on long trips. It can take several hours to fully charge a depleted battery. A lot of vehicles have a range of 400 to 500 kilometers. On the vast, vast majority of days, that’s plenty…if I start with a full battery. But if I want to go to Minneapolis, for example…that’s 600 kilometers away from here. I could and would drive that in a day, no problem. With an electric vehicle, I couldn’t. To do that trip, I’d have to stop for multiple hours somewhere to charge up enough to make it the full distance. That could take an eight-hour trip and make it a twelve-hour trip or more. But batteries will get better, charging stations will get faster, and eventually we’ll get longer range so that a fully charged battery can handle a full day of driving.

Interestingly, Tesla is making all its battery packs the same size, so that as battery technology gets better, you can buy a better battery and install it in your existing car. So you don’t have to buy a whole new car just to take advantage of the better range.

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Expression: Have the luxury