Rush to Build EV Charging Stations Comes Without Promise of Profit

Utilities and startups are racing to build fast-charging networks for electric vehicles throughout the U.S. as auto makers bet their future on EVs.

Regional alliances are emerging as utilities join with one another—and with charging-station builders and government agencies—to plan the thousands of charging stations needed to bridge the gaps between U.S. cities.

The largest such group, the Electric Highway Coalition—which includes the Tennessee Valley Authority, Duke Energy Corp. and American Electric Power Co. —plans to announce this week that it is more than doubling its utility members to 14, adding Consolidated Edison Inc. of New York, Exelon Corp. and Avangrid Inc. among others, as it seeks to build an EV charging network spanning much of the South, Midwest and East Coast. A separate coalition of utilities in the Midwest and Plains states has grown from six to 10 members since last fall.

More fast-charging stations, which repower a battery in about 30 minutes instead of over a period of hours, are the missing ingredient required to enable an electric version of the American road trip. Current EVs can travel a few hundred miles or less before needing to plug in.

Without more stations, EV proponents worry that many consumers will avoid electric cars. Yet without more EVs, they worry that companies will avoid building enough stations, in what has been dubbed the nascent industry’s chicken-or-the-egg dilemma.

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