The lack of charging infrastructure is mentioned often as a key ingredient for improving EV penetration. It may even be the number #1 challenge in increasing adoption as shown in this cleantechnica.com article. Access to Superchargers is often mentioned as one of the key competitive advantages that Tesla has over the traditional premium car manufacturers. Lately it seems that the other car companies are stepping up to the plate in order to rectify the situation in their key markets. An example can be found in this insideevs.com article.
The obvious response to improving infrastructure availability is to start furiously building charging stations wherever possible and hence provide a brute-force solution. The more charging stations, the merrier, right?
Whilst that is commendable, I believe that this haphazard approach will not provide the best possible solution for the customers and will also be a costly solution to the charging point owners. Shortly put, a large proportion of the investment will be underutilized and the cost is going to be higher than with a structured approach based on a plan.
There are a couple of key factors on this planning based on my own experiences of infra rollouts (within individual cities) and discussions with customers. These observations have further been verified by the information provided in the articles.
First, the location of the charging station is of fundamental importance. A lot of times the charging stations are located on sites that are easily available. This is a flawed assumption and entirely different from locating stations in sites where they are actually needed. In practice this means contacting the owner of the site specifically for this purpose. A lot of times the owner is not even aware of the possibility and advantages of locating a charging station on the property.
Second, for intercity traffic the most important thing is to ensure that entire routes are covered, not only that each major route or thoroughfare has a few charging stations. If a crucial station is missing, then the rest of the stations are likely to have very little use as well. The planning assumptions on the distance between public locations are coming down from the maximum range of the EV (i.e. 80-90 miles) to 50 miles or even less on busy stretches of road. This will create a charging station network that provides an overlapping coverage of charging stations, therefore the EV owner is not dependent on a single charging point along the route.
To summarize, the target is to identify the right locations for the charging stations proactively, not necessarily using the locations that are available. Additionally, the key to adoption of EVs is the availability of charging on the most popular routes, especially between cities.