This is how to make driving an EV more accessible and affordable

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • By 2030, there could be as many as 130 million EVs on the road, according to a McKinsey report.
  • An extra 55 million charging points will be needed in China, the EU-plus-UK region, and the US.
  • Up to $180 billion must be invested by 2030 to meet global demand for charging points.

Across 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than driving a conventional fossil-fueled vehicle.

That’s one of the findings from a study that calculated the average lifetime emissions from electric cars to be as much as 70% lower in some countries than petrol and diesel equivalents. The greater the proportion of renewables in a country’s energy generation mix, the more amplified the benefit of electric vehicles (EV) will be.

Many countries have already set targets for phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Others have offered motorists financial incentives to go electric. By 2030, there could be as many as 130 million EVs on the road, globally, with more than 250 new EV models likely to be unveiled by manufacturers in the next two years, according to McKinsey.

Current problems

In its report, How charging in buildings can power up the electric-vehicle industry, McKinsey also highlights the importance of charging infrastructure. Put simply, where will people plug in their EVs? McKinsey estimates that: “$110 billion to $180 billion must be invested from 2020 to 2030 to satisfy global demand for EV charging stations, both in public spaces and within homes.”

a chart showing the growth forecast for electric vehicles in the US, EU and china
The forecast growth of EV chargers across the three biggest EV markets (McKinsey & Co) Image: McKinsey&Company

If EV sales forecasts are accurate, demand on the electricity networks of China, the EU-plus-UK region, and the US will soar. Between 2025 and 2030, McKinsey calculates the additional demand for power required by all these vehicles in the three main EV markets will rise from 180 to 235 terawatt hours (TWh) to 525 to 770 TWh.

Current wiring circuits in many buildings aren’t able to handle that shift in demand. Not least because they weren’t configured to support a large number of outlets and charge points. By 2030 there will need to be an extra 55 million dedicated charging points and stations in China, the EU-plus-UK region, and the US, McKinsey says.

Driving change

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of EV charging currently takes place right outside the EV owner’s front door. Domestic charging makes sense because it is convenient – what could be simpler than parking the EV on the drive and plugging it into a charging outlet on the home electricity circuit?

That’s a scenario that presupposes an EV owner lives in a house with a driveway right outside. As long as EV ownership is dominated by those who live in such a home, that’s unlikely to change. For people in multiple occupancy housing, such as apartment blocks, that isn’t an option. If EV ownership is to expand into a wider spread of demographics, convenient charging needs to become available more widely too.

“To make EV chargers more accessible and affordable, urban planners, building developers, and electrical-equipment suppliers must integrate charging infrastructure into standard building-design plans,” the report says.

A further consideration will be the increased range of EVs as battery technology improves. As a single charge promises more and longer trips, the demand for away-from-home charging will grow. That demand could be met by charging facilities in commercial and retail settings, if they were available.

Sparking new ideas

A dedicated charging point attached to a domestic electricity circuit costs around $400 to install, the McKinsey report states. But adapting a larger building’s wiring to be able to offer multiple charging points is a more expensive undertaking.

Large deployments of charging facilities will bring with them substantial additional costs, mostly connected to the need to upgrade everything from on-site transformers through to distribution grid feeders and substations or digging up roads to lay cables. This kind of work can increase the cost of deploying chargers by up to 20%, or add months of additional work to an EV charging project.

One way to mitigate against such cost and disruption in the future could be to design all current commercial and domestic new-build projects with the energy transition in mind. That might involve installing the necessary wiring within a building to allow the easier addition of extra charging points. It might also include laying electrification infrastructure in newly created car parking facilities in commercial and retail centres.

The path toward more access to EV charging, as outlined by McKinsey, will require a collaborative effort. Architects, civil and electrical engineers, property owners, regulators and energy companies will need to act in unison to achieve the best all-round outcomes.

Longer-term objectives like reduced energy consumption rather than increased energy supply could help. As could business models that allow for choices between charging points that are bought and owned outright, or those that are effectively leased as a service.

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