- EV Charging Infrastructure
- Fast Charging
- Public Charging
More Reliable EV Charging May Cut Need for Oversize Batteries
There’s no doubt that for EVs to become ubiquitous, they need to be more affordable and offer the capabilities that drivers actually need. Numerous surveys, including the EV Consumer Survey formerly conducted by Guidehouse Insights, show vehicle affordability, availability of charging, and time to charge as the biggest barriers to EV adoption. These three factors are deeply intertwined, and the recent shift in industry support away from the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard toward the Tesla-developed North American Charging Standard (NACS) may help address all of them.
It’s indisputable that an EV or vehicle using any other energy source needs a minimal amount of range to be practical. The question is, how big does that range number need to be? Most people wildly overestimate how much range they actually need. The trope of heading out on a road trip to see America is a romantic notion, but the reality is that most people never or rarely actually do this. According to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, only about 5% of Americans drive more than 31 miles per day.
Despite this, we have EVs that are being designed to go 400, 500, or 600 miles or more on a single charge. The problem is that achieving this sort of range requires a lot of battery capacity, and the battery is the largest, heaviest, and most expensive component in an EV. The battery in the GMC Hummer EV pickup weighs almost 3,000 lbs, more than an entire Honda Civic. It also requires a lot of raw materials and takes a long time to charge.
During Ford’s Capital Markets Day 2023, CEO Jim Farley said, “The second cycle of Ford’s batteries will dramatically change the cost of a battery, because we’re optimizing for the size, we’re not going to go to 600-mile range. We’re trying to make the smallest possible battery for competitive range.”
This is the right direction for Ford and the industry. A smaller battery takes less space and weighs a lot less. This leads to a virtuous cycle of greater efficiency with more miles per kilowatt-hour, so the range reduction is less than the relative reduction in battery capacity. That brings significantly lower cost and a shorter time to charge at each stop. Given that a human driver’s bladder capacity and ability to stay alert also has limits, an EV with a 300-mile range that can charge quickly should easily meet the needs of almost all drivers if fast charging is readily available.
As the number of EVs being sold continues to increase, hitting 7% of US market share in the first quarter of 2023, charger availability is actually getting worse rather than better. Vehicle sales are growing faster than new charger installations, and the chargers in place are less likely to be functional. According to a J.D. Power survey, the number of failed charging attempts in the US increased from 15% in the first quarter of 2021 to 21% in the third quarter of 2022.
Automakers spending tens of billions of dollars to electrify their products know that if customers have a terrible charging experience, they won’t buy all the new EVs that are coming to market. Executives like Farley and General Motors CEO Mary Barra understand that customers won’t want an EV with a smaller battery without confidence they can get a quick charge when needed. This is why despite any reluctance to cooperate with Tesla, they have made the tough decision to adopt NACS. If customers know they can rely on access to a robust network of Tesla Superchargers, they may be more willing to accept smaller batteries that make EVs more affordable.