Chicken or the Egg


Chicken or the Egg

Which came first?  The question has puzzled folks since time immemorial. The same question could be asked of the current EV push. Which comes first, the car or the charger?

The government of New Jersey, for instance, is attempting to get EVs on the road. The governor has called for 330,000 on the road by 2025, but there are only about 41,000 registered now. The problem seems two fold, first the cost of the EV, and second, how does the new owner get it charged.

This is a particular problem for those living in apartment buildings where no chargers exist (read that most of them.) They are left to the vagaries of public charging stations, and in New Jersey, that means scrambling for the fewer than 600 public chargers in the state.

Let’s apply a little critical thinking to this problem. The state can barely support the number of EVs on the road now (with charging stations) and they want to increase the number of EVs by a factor of 8 in four years. It appears that the state is mandating that each town and city in the garden state have at least one charging station. There are 565 towns in the state. So this plan will double the number of charging stations to support eight time the number of EVs.

My guess is that the EVs owned in New Jersey are owned by people living in private homes with garages where they can be charged overnight. They are going to have to tap into those living in apartments to hope to reach their 330,000 goal in four years. Note: there are over 2,600,000 cars registered in New Jersey. The gov want’s to jump from around 1.5 percent EV to 12 % EV in four years. Good luck with that.

Is it possible that it isn’t really the price of EVs that keep folks considering ICE vehicles, but the charging problem and related range anxiety? Therefore, is it possible that we need to have the infrastructure in place before we expect car sales to explode.

Elon Musk understood this problem and began a program of installing high speed charging stations in strategic locations around the country for his Tesla super car. Rather than have the government invest billions in charging stations, shouldn’t the private sector begin jumping on board this problem. If Toyota, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, GM, Ford and the rest were to put their money into charging programs think how many eggs might appear across the fruited plain.

But my guess is that those facilities would charge the EV owner the true cost of the electrons and their delivery and new EV owners would find that charging their clean air vehicles would approach the cost of filling a tank with gasoline. After all, when the numbers begin to approach 10, 15, 20 or 40 percent of the fleet, electricity suppliers will, if they haven’t already, begin to understand that the delivery of those electrons will require major infrastructure cost increases including transmission lines, generating stations, and the like. And someone is going to have to pay for them. (By the way, I understand that wind and solar, for some reason, don’t work well generating electricity at night, the exact time most EVs will be charged.)

When you are filling your tank with gas, you are paying for exploring, drilling, extraction, refining, delivery, and all the machines required to do same. It only makes sense that those driving EVs would have to pay all those similar costs. Today they are piggybacking on the infrastructure that runs our homes, cities and factories. Perhaps when our betters (yes, our betters, Tony) in government realize that simply passing laws and wishing doesn’t make it so.

So what is first, the EV chicken or the charging station egg. My suggestion is that we allow the free marketplace to work. If manufacturers see that supplying electricity to EV owners is a profitable business you will have charging stations on every corner, in every apartment garage, in every parking facility.

Yes, electricity for EVs shouldn’t be cheap. It must pay the cost of generation, transmission, and loading onto the vehicle. The egg will appear quickly if the money is there. Then the chickens will come running.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. John – a great article that points out the challenges with the EV push. Until the infrastructure is incentivized I don’t think it happens anytime soon. Other examples are wildfires and blackouts (California and Texas) one of the first things said by the utilities was to stop charging EVs.

    Home charging is the best solution currently but will improve later as the technology leads to better batteries and faster chargers. I think most of us believing the better batteries and faster chargers will intersect and an EV version of “gas stations” will be necessary for the EV’s to become mainstream.

    If you have ever been to a Bucee’s, imagine that sort of experience with lighting fast EV charging.

  2. The British government apparently has a cunning plan to deal with the shortfall in generative capacity that would be caused by a switch to an all electric vehicle fleet within their timetable.
    All new home chargers will be fitted with a widget that would stop them being used for nine hours a a day during the period of peak power demand.

    You couldn’t make it up.

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