How Will the Infrastructure Adapt to Electric Vehicles?
The British government expects that by 2030, the motor vehicle industry in the UK will be producing primarily electric vehicles. This prediction reflects a current worldwide trend — more and more people are switching from traditional cars to ones powered by electrical engines.
The reason for the shift is primarily environmental — greenhouse gases are at an all-time high, and personal transportation is one of the major contributors to emissions. EVs produce no greenhouse gases, making them better for the air and our shared environment.
At the same time, EVs are becoming more reasonably priced. While electric cars have often been synonymous with luxury, newer, cheaper technology has allowed for the design of affordable EVs. In the vehicles of the future, an electric engine may be as common a fixture as Bluetooth.
Cities and businesses will need to adapt to the sudden shift away from traditional vehicles. Leaders must alter our infrastructure to accommodate this pivot. Government officials are looking for the least disruptive way to do so.
Bridging the Charging Station Gap
The most significant change necessary will be in adding more charging stations. Some existing filling stations already provide both gasoline pumps and charging sockets for electric vehicles. But electric charging stations aren’t widespread yet. For example, in the United States, charging stations continue to lag significantly behind the number of EVs. The same pattern holds in many industrialized nations.
Government bodies — at the municipal, provincial and national levels — are currently debating how to increase the level of EV infrastructure. In Finland, for example, legislators recently proposed a regulation that would require all residential buildings with more than four parking lots to include charging stations.
The legislation has caused a rift between the Green and Centre parties, two factions of the current Finnish coalition government. While leaders from both parties agree that increased infrastructure is necessary, some officials argue that the move is too much, too soon — that it would burden construction companies with the responsibility to create infrastructure for EVs that don’t yet exist.
This example reveals the Catch-22 at the heart of the charging station gap — a lack of charging stations will discourage individuals from purchasing electric vehicles. At the same time, a lack of electric vehicles makes charging stations inefficient and costly.
However, EVs are skyrocketing in popularity, and more charging stations will be necessary to keep up with the demand. Naturally, cities are looking for other ways to improve infrastructure without disrupting infrastructure or business.
Other Possibilities for EV-Friendly Infrastructure
Other solutions may add charging capabilities to existing infrastructure while minimizing the costs and burdens placed upon residents and businesses. One example comes from London, where the borough of Kensington and Chelsea installed streetlights that doubled as EV chargers. It’s part of a broader strategy in London to make existing infrastructure more EV-friendly.
The streetlights-turned-charging stations proved effective, and the city plans on keeping them around, even though the charging times were slow compared to other charging stations. This example may signal that cities are willing to implement less effective solutions, as long as it means getting charging stations out into the environment and functional sooner.
Other possibilities could lead cities to deprioritize roads and car-focused infrastructure altogether. If you live in or around a major metropolitan area, you may have noticed the arrival of hoverboards, e-bikes and rentable scooters. Urbanist Benjamin Schneider, writing for City Lab, dubs them “Little Vehicles” — smaller-than-a-car transportation methods that don’t rely on roads. In the future, EV may come to mean these vehicles, rather than exclusively cars.
How Electric Vehicles May Change Our Infrastructure
Electric vehicles are becoming more popular all the time, and new infrastructure will be necessary to accommodate them. However, it may be challenging for governments to build the infrastructure new EVs need without placing a heavy burden on construction companies and other businesses. Some governments are looking for clever solutions to the charging station problem, while others plan to build more infrastructure.
Either way, in the future, infrastructure will become more adapted to EVs, primarily by adding more charging stations. The changes to the world’s overall infrastructure changes will reflect a world where EVs are one of the most common methods of transportation.
Jenna Tsui is an environmental and tech journalist who co-owns The Byte Beat blog. She writes about the latest news in sustainability, disruptive tech, environmental science and more. Check out her work on TBB or follow her on Twitter @jenna_tsui