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The shift from gas-powered to electric vehicles will accelerate in the next five years as the number of available EV models grows rapidly—including more SUVs and crossovers—and a fast-charging infrastructure is built out, according to an EV expert.
The U.S. EV market today is split in two, said Dan Bowermaster, program manager for electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif. For those living in the 10 states following California’s zero-emissions requirements, there are around 40 EVs for buyers to choose from, Bowermaster said. But everywhere else, the options are limited to around a dozen EV models, and most of those are hatchbacks and sedans—a declining segment of the U.S. auto market.
By 2023, there will be an estimated 120 different EVs to choose from, Bowermaster said. And he said that will include more trucks, SUVs, and crossovers—now the best-selling vehicles in the U.S.—including the Riviantruck and SUV that will be made in Normal.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about the next three or four years, in terms of having EVs on the market in body shapes that more customers absolutely love,” he said.
Electric vehicles remain a small but growing share of the overall U.S. fleet, around 2%. But automakers—including Rivian—are banking on growth as better batteries reduce range anxiety and different types of EVs are available.
Another possible barrier is the number of publicly available charging stations—providing relief from the range anxiety that some argue has held back EV adoption. Bloomington-Normal already has dozens of stations sprinkled around town, courtesy of the now-defunct EVTown initiative from when Mitsubishi Motors was still here.
There are several initiatives underway to increase the number of public fast-charging stations, Bowermaster said. Utility companies have $3.7 billion in proposed or approved charging infrastructure projects in motion. Volkswagen’s Electrify America is spending $2 billion from the company’s emissions scandal settlement to set up fast chargers across the U.S. Tesla already has 13,000 stations in 4,000 locations, and several independent networks are also cropping up, Bowermaster said.
Rivian’s batteries are designed for fast charging, allowing for 200 miles of range to be added in 30 minutes. (The largest Rivian battery will provide over 400 miles of range.)
“There’s a lot of working being done to make it easier for drivers,” Bowermaster said.
Charging stations are an important “safety net” for owners, but the truth is that most people will charge at home or at work, Bowermaster said. While there are outliers, research shows over 85% of Americans drive 40 miles a day or less, he said.
So would more charging stations in highly visible places spur EV adoption? What if charging stations were as ubiquitous as gas stations in the U.S.?
It may not matter. Bowermaster recalled a study his group worked on in Japan, looking at before-and-after usage when EVs arrived and charging stations were installed.
“Everyone loved the idea of having these fast-charging stations, but no one used them. So it kind of became a joke, like, maybe some of these fast-charging stations need to be papier mache,” Bowermaster said.
He added: “There needs to be some sort of safety net for public charging, but at the end of the day, most people are going to charge at home and work.”