U.S. and European EV sales climb but more chargers will be needed to sustain growth
Energize Weekly, May 11, 2022
Electric vehicle (EV) sales in both the U.S. and Europe are posting strong gains, but to reach the market penetration governments are targeting – the Biden administration goal is 50 percent of all passenger vehicle sales by 2030 – major infrastructure challenges must be overcome.
That is the picture emerging from sales data and studies looking at the future of EV adoption.
In the European Union (EU), all-electric, plug-in EVs accounted about 10 percent of sales in the first quarter of 2022 – 224,145 cars – almost doubling its market share year-over-year, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Hybrid electric vehicles made up 9 percent of sales, and hybrids now account for 25 percent of all passenger cars in the EU.
Among the four largest national markets, Spain saw a 110 percent increase in EV sales compared with the first quarter of 2021, followed by France with a nearly 43 percent increase and Germany with a 29 percent sales growth.
April numbers for the U.S. auto market, though not as robust as those in Europe, still showed progress compared to 2021. EV sales were 4.52 percent of all auto sales in April, double the rate from the prior year. Hybrids made up another 1.31 percent of sales for the month, slightly higher year-over-year.
Together plug-ins and hybrids accounted for about 50,000 cars sold in the U.S. in April, according to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry trade group.
But to reach future ambitious sales targets – the Biden administration’s half of all 2030 U.S. auto sales and the EU aim for phase-out of all gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035 – a big challenge will be adequate infrastructure – charging stations and electric grid services.
“Nearly half of U.S. consumers say that battery or charging issues are their top concerns about buying EVs,” according to a study by McKinsey & Company. “It’s no stretch to say that the nation’s limited network of charging stations probably discourages many prospective buyers.”
In a scenario in which the nation reaches the federal EV sales target, McKinsey estimates the nation’s fleet of EVs would grow from fewer than three million today to more than 48 million in 2030 – making up about 15 percent of all vehicles on the road in the U.S.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $7.5 billion to build 500,00 public chargers nationwide by 2030, but the McKinsey analysis estimates to accommodate the target sales goal, the country would need 1.2 million public EV charges and 28 million private chargers.
“All told, the country would need almost 20 times more chargers than it has now,” the McKinsey analysis said.
Electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles at home or at a workplace parking lot charger 70 percent to 80 percent of the time, according to a 2021 study conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting for the Fuels Institute, a nonprofit research organization.
The demands for electricity to charge EVs would also soar in the McKinsey scenario modeling from the current 11 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 230 billion kWh.
“We estimate that the cost of hardware, planning, and installation for this amount of public charging infrastructure would come to more than $35 billion over the period to 2030,” McKinsey said.
An analysis done by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) estimated that electrifying all 10 million cars in its service territory would increase electricity demand 25 percent to 30 percent — a level the transmission system could handle.
“The load is not small by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re not talking about doubling or tripling existing energy use of the grid,” Ryan Stanton, TVA Senior Project Manager for EV Evolution, said during an April 28 panel discussion at an industry conference.
“We’re not seeing that the transmission system will be any kind of a bottleneck in the near term,” Stanton said.
The weak link may be at the distribution level – getting electricity that last mile to a charger. “We’re going to start seeing some impacts, and improvements will need to be made to accommodate EVs,” he said.
“The distribution system will be the canary in the coal mine for EV adoption, for the transmission system,” Stanton said.