The list of benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) is long: they’re cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain, and are leagues better for the environment than their gas-powered counterparts. So at a time when consumer interest in sustainability is at an all-time high, with Millennials dubbed as the “Green Generation,” when will EVs finally catch on and become the default?
If recent data is any indicator, it truly is a question of “when” and not “if” — and it may be sooner than we think. The US Department of Energy announced that in 2017, the number of charging stations surpassed 15,000, boasting 40,000 charging outlets in total. For reference, that’s more than the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the country.
Getting over the chicken-and-egg problem
That statistic is so important because for years, car manufacturers and consumers were stuck in an incarnation of the age-old chicken-and-egg problem: manufacturers kept waiting for consumer interest to spike, and consumers kept waiting for signals from manufacturers that EVs are here to stay. Similarly, charging station networks were hesitant to invest in a broad, comprehensive, and costly structure before knowing that the investment would actually be profitable.
Meanwhile, on the charging station front, consumer anxiety was particularly high about what the industry refers to as “range anxiety” — the idea that their battery wouldn’t have enough charge to get them to the nearest charging station, leaving them stranded. Potential customers were scared away, in spite of the fact that studies show that their fears are overblown.
With Bloomberg’s declaration in late 2016 that charging stations “may have hit their critical mass,” though, it appears that the charging networks finally broke the standoff by making the first move. Their subsequent steady march toward that critical mass ended the frustrating waiting game, giving new momentum for the EV industry to…