Cars that run on electricity instead of harmful fossil fuels that contribute to global climate change are now slowly but surely becoming the global norm. In many localities, tax credits and other political measures are being passed to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles. In certain countries, especially many European Union member states, broad laws are being enacted to entirely outlaw fossil fuel vehicles within the next few decades. Still, electric cars have been facing some hurdles to growth and mainstream acceptance, chief of which is the lack of much-needed infrastructure to facilitate their usage.
Is rapid charging technology and the development of more charging infrastructure what electric cars have been waiting for? Here’s a breakdown of the current predicament facing the budding electric car marketplace, and why better charging technology will be needed sooner rather than later.
Infrastructure is sparse
If there’s one big problem facing the owners of electric vehicles around the nation, it’s that the infrastructure that enables them to easily rely on their vehicles is somewhat sparse. Electric vehicles have been around for many years in one form or another, but it wasn’t until very recently that they became accepted in the mainstream world of automotive manufacturing. Now that Tesla has made history and become the most valuable American car company by churning out electric vehicles like no other, the lack of electric-friendly infrastructure is starting to get noticed.
While some public action is being taken to develop electric-friendly infrastructure, most of the recent changes to American infrastructure have been initiated by private actors. In an effort to appease existing customers while also marketing to prospective new buyers, for instance, Tesla created a massive energy ecosystem near Las Vegas that’s capable of charging more than 1,500 electric vehicles in a single day. The company – like many others in the industry – realized that unless it made the charging of electric cars quick, easy, and affordable, it would turn away too many drivers and render the marketplace unsustainable.
Still, drivers are an impatient group. Have you ever been stuck in traffic only to have the horns start blaring in less than 30 seconds of waiting time? More charging stations will be needed, and those that already exist will need to be optimized for faster charging times in order to manage more customers on a daily basis. Due to the fact that car owners are seeking nothing but the best when it comes to their charging, electric car companies and technological innovators are pouring huge sums of resources into “rapid charging” technology, which is exactly what it sounds like.
In the future businesses such as YEAH! Local will need to prepare themselves in order to deal with massive “charge-surges” that occur during rush hour. The federal government, private companies, state level governments and even smaller localities will need to come together and work hand-in-hand to ensure such infrastructure and technology is affordable and sustainably implemented across the country.
Fossil fuel companies are getting smart
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of these innovations are being spearheaded by eco-friendly companies with a focus on sustainability. As a matter of fact, many fossil fuel companies that grew in the era of big oil have been dumping huge amounts of time, money, and employee effort into recharging stations. They’re not doing this because they’ve discovered a renewed sense of eco-friendliness, but rather because fossil fuels are becoming obsolete and unprofitable.
Countries like Norway, France, and England have announced ambitious plans to outlaw the sale of fossil-fuel powered vehicles in the next few decades. The most ambitious of such plans is in Norway, which intends to see few if any fossil fuel vehicles on roadways by 2025. This massive economic and social change is spurring fossil fuel companies to wise up and embrace sustainability if they want to maintain prosperity for very long. While electric cars were widely decried by previous generations, modern consumers are quite fond of them. This means that the stigma of electric vehicles that the fossil fuel industry relied upon for so long is evaporating.
Home-installed chargers for electric vehicles can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand dollars in particularly pricey instances. Public charging stations will be needed in droves as time goes on, though, as these private charging stations simply won’t be able to meet the immense demand for energy that a mostly-electric public will produce in upcoming decades. Companies like British Petroleum have spent huge sums of money on charging technology to ensure they can lead the pack when it comes to tomorrow’s “big oil” industry that will really be “big electric.”
At the beginning of 2019, BP invested heavily in a Chinese charging platform that intends to dominate the domestic Chinese electric car marketplace in the next few years. Other companies known for their connections to the fossil fuel industry, such as Shell, have also acquired smaller companies focused on electric vehicle charging to ensure that they remain viable well into the future. It’s clear that the energy giants of yesteryear are embracing charging technology because they recognize that it’s the future of human transportation.
Hardware and software will be needed
One of the reasons that so many companies are investing huge sums of cash into charging platforms and companies is that both hardware and software will be needed to ensure electric cars become the norm in the near-future. The actual hardware that enables the charging of various batteries will be essential as time goes on, especially since technicians who visit homes and garages to repair personal charging stations will be in hot demand. The software that enables many electric car features and runs automated processes at charging stations will also be in hot demand for the foreseeable future.
It’s therefore important to keep in mind that not all companies that invest in electric charging or rapid charging technology are investing in the same thing. Some of them are focusing on producing next-generation hardware like lithium batteries that are more efficient than previous models. Others are focusing their attention to the development of software that can be commercialized and rendered incredibly lucrative in a digital era where everyone’s car is connected to the internet or nearby sensors.
Recent software and hardware developments have nevertheless been brought together by one specific problem; existing charging solutions at both the industrial and consumer level are simply insufficient. While more and more drivers are embracing electric cars, it can be incredibly frustrating to find adequate charging infrastructure wherever you happen to roam. According to a review of the world’s leading electric vehicle charging network, some companies already have tens of thousands of such networks under their care but are still lacking capacity to meet the demands of drivers.
We need modern solutions
It’s clear that we need modern solutions to these new problems being generated by the spread of electric cars. Whether or not rapid charging technology can provide this solution remains to be seen, but there are some promising signs that rapid charging will become the norm sooner rather than later. Companies like Tesla and Nissan are getting much of the attention when it comes to rapid charging, but a BP-affiliated company called StoreDot has recently stated that it can fully charge certain electric vehicles in as little as five minutes.
StoreDot’s ambitious argument has yet to be proven, however. The company has made some very interesting progress on recharging electric scooters that rely on smaller batteries, but when it comes to larger, more powerful and complex automobiles; the desired results haven’t yet materialized. Other experts are arguing that rapid charging technology may not be what electric cars of tomorrow need at all; by asserting that rapid charging technology can degrade or even destroy the expensive batteries these cars depend upon, some have called into doubt whether faster charging is always better charging.
There’s nevertheless no denying that motorists on the go are an impatient group who will eagerly embrace any option to “fill their electric tanks” as quickly as possible. One of the major benefits of fossil fuel vehicles is that they’re often convenient to operate, and until electric alternatives are capable of promising the same they may never take off to the extent that they should. Enabling faster charging without overheating the battery in question would be lovely, but until major companies prove that they can do it consistently, this may remain more of a wish than a reality.
It’s all about cost
At the end of the day, rapidly charging batteries will only become a major possibility if the costs associated with producing and maintaining them are affordable. When electric cars first hit the marketplace, they were largely luxury items that were exclusively available to people of means who were ready and willing to spend larger-than-usual sums of money on a fancy car. It wasn’t until electric cars became affordable to the average joe that they really took off at a global level, and even today they’re still mostly toys for the wealthy, according to many survey results.
The same logic that applied to electric cars writ large should be considered when it comes to the batteries that power them. Even if rapid charging technology takes off in the immediate future, it won’t become a mainstream facet of the electric automotive world until it’s affordable and implementable on a wide scale. Rapid charging technology that works in snowy areas but doesn’t in dry areas or deserts is an example of how it could materialize but never be widely adopted. Localities and private companies will likely spend much time and energy in the near-future working on solutions to consumer needs that are contextualized. Electric vehicle owners on one side of the country may have batteries and charging stations far different from their counterparts on the other side of the country.
Even if rapid charging technology becomes widespread everywhere, our current electric grid is also in bad shape. Until massive infrastructure investments oriented around modernizing our energy grid occur, we may find ourselves unable to implement rapid charging at a broad level even if the technology is rendered affordable and easy to use. It’s therefore important that public and private investment in infrastructure increases if electric vehicles are to ever replace their fossil fuel counterparts.
Keep your eye on the power grid
According to an extensive report on the subject from Pew, modern electric cars are already beginning to seriously challenge the electric grids of certain states. Even wealthy states with comparatively better infrastructure than others are finding themselves incapable of implementing the changes needed for a more sustainable future. As more cities and states try to encourage a larger number of drivers to embrace electric options, they’ll have to pour huge sums of money into local infrastructure projects that facilitate the switch to batteries.
That won’t be easy; age-old political disputes will prevent money from being spent where it’s needed the most and monopolization of the marketplace by private companies will doubtlessly occur sooner rather than later. For electric cars to become widespread, everyday people must pay close attention to not only their local power grids but also the political process at a local level. If fossil fuel companies and those who dislike electric cars successfully lobby against the development of electric infrastructure at a local level, the national possibility of a mostly-electric nation will never be realized.
It’s clear that rapid charging technology is a welcome addition to the world of electric cars, but it won’t solve all of the problems facing the next step in human transportation. Whether it’s lackluster infrastructure or political feuds that will prevent meaningful progress from being made, electric cars still have a number of hurdles to overcome before they’re the norm.