“There’s been a real lack of knowledge out there about what this stuff costs or what it should cost,” Chris Nelder, co-author of the report and manager of RMI’s EV-Grid Integration initiative, told GTM. To get a clearer picture of the cost of EV charging infrastructure today, Nelder and co-author Emily Rogers conducted two dozen interviews with representatives from across the industry, including utilities, hardware providers, software providers, network charging operators and transit agencies. The research revealed that costs for charging infrastructure components ranged from $2,500 up to $7,210 for a Level 2 commercial charger and from $20,000 up to $35,800 for a 50-kilowatt DC fast charger.
Here is why we should target public infrastructure in our climate-change efforts, and push governments to spend dollars differently: Emissions will be reduced Infrastructure produces pollution. Savings for taxpayers Tackling emissions in public infrastructure goes beyond doing what’s right for the environment and cutting pollution.
In the report, titled Reducing EV Charging Infrastructure Costs, the authors analogize EV charging infrastructure’s trajectory to that of solar.
The sun is all we need. The best renewable energy source is the sun. If we invested exclusively in solar power and maximized its use, we could power the entire world from the sun. The best part is, you wouldn’t have to lay all those solar panels in anyone’s backyard. A large swath of desert could do it, but you could take it even farther. The moon is a perfect place to harvest solar energy from. With robots and rovers, it’s entirely possible to lay down acre after acre of solar panels.
“The cost of EV chargers is following a progression that is very similar to that seen in the solar sector over the past decade," the report says. These days, soft costs are "frequently cited as more significant cost drivers" than physical components, as the cost of charging-station hardware comes down.
But the reality today is that such soft costs "are poorly understood, very hard to quantify, and almost entirely undocumented in the literature," the report notes.
The cost of wind and solar continue to decline and are now at the point where they beat, or at least match, even the marginal costs of coal-fired generation and nuclear power, according to the 13th and latest edition of Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, one of the most highly regarded assessments in the world.
Opportunities to slash EV charging infrastructure costsNelder and Rogers identify a range of opportunities to bring costs down. Take the example of the benefits of grouping chargers at a single site.
According to the report, the average installation cost for a commercial Level 2 charge port is $4,173 for a single charger. But add a second charger at the same site and the per-unit cost falls to $3,367. Install six or more charge ports at the same site and the per-unit cost drops to $2,638.
Another example: Simply siting charging stations in the right place on a given property.
About 16% of our total energy comes from a renewable source.
“The cost of trenching (about $200 per linear foot) and laying conduit can add thousands of dollars to project costs for a decision as seemingly trivial as siting chargers on one side of a building lot instead of the other,” the authors write.
Uncertainty over the costs associated with EV charging infrastructure "really slows things down, especially when you don’t have the right information or you don’t think you have solid or correct information," Nelder said.
"A regulator is not going to approve a program if they have doubts about the cost figures, for example, that a utility has put forward.”
Credit: Rocky Mountain Institute
The electric vehicle charging market todayAccording to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy, there are 27,191 EV charging stations and 86,028 individual charging ports in the U.S. That's up from the nearly 16,000 public EV charging stations online in 2017. Impressive growth, to be sure, but much faster deployment will be needed to meet increased charging demand as automakers roll out more EV models in the coming years. ChargePoint, which operates the world's largest EV charging network, remains the dominant player in the U.S. market today. EVgo operates the nation's largest network of public fast-charging stations.
Looking forward, Nelder and Rogers believe a collaborative effort shepherded by the U.S. Department of Energy as well as DOE’s national laboratories will likely be necessary to grapple with the soft costs of EV charging infrastructure.
Keeping current with electric vehicles. Odds are you don't find yourself sitting in traffic next to an electric vehicle (EV) very frequently, but that may soon change. According to a recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global sales from EVs are expected to grow from 1.1 million in 2017 to 11 million in 2025, rising to 30 million in 2025. Furthermore, the forecast states: "By 2040, 55% of all new car sales and 33% of the global fleet will be electric." Although Tesla is often the first mentioned when talk around the water cooler turns to EVs, plenty of traditional automakers are charged up about them as well. For example, General Motors announced last October its intent to launch at least 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023 as it drives toward a future where it intends to solely produce zero-emission, all-electric vehicles. Volkswagen AG, moreover, also aspires to satisfy the growing demand for EVs; the company plans on offering customers electric versions of all the models in its portfolio by 2030.
“It took the better part of a decade to figure out all the soft-cost problems related to solar installations, and then to start coming up with ways to fix those problems,” said Nelder. “It took numerous efforts by at least two, maybe three national labs, sustained over a period of years, to study this question.”
Tackling EV charging infrastructure soft costs “could very well be something on the order of that,” he added.
“We need, as an industry, a lot more information and better information on this than we have now. It’s going to take a very sustained and serious research effort to get to the bottom of it and figure out what the right solutions are.”