Two of the biggest advantages attributed to Tesla for the success of its electric vehicles over the past eight years are long driving ranges and the ability to relatively quickly recharge them in many locations thanks to the Supercharger network. As the rest of the automotive industry prepares to introduce hundreds of new EV nameplates over the next five years, charging convenience will be one of the biggest challenges they will have to overcome to drive consumer acceptance. To that end, General Motors is teaming up with EVGo to deploy more than 2,700 new DC fast charging stations across the US over the next five years.
Next week, GM will be publicly showing the first of its new generation of electric vehicles, the Cadillac Lyriq for the first time. As part of a batch of 20 new EVs promised by the automaker before 2023, the Lyriq is based on GM’s new Ultium electric propulsion system. The Lyriq like most premium EVs is targeting a driving range of at least 300 miles and possibly approaching 400 miles. While the latest in battery technology certainly helps to make those sorts of ranges possible, those batteries still take much longer to recharge than the time required to refill a gas tank.
EV advocates have long made the argument that driving electric is more convenient than internal combustion because everyone has a “fuel” outlet at home from their outlets so you don’t need to find a gas station. While this is certainly true and many people can plug in every night when they come home and be ready to go in the morning, charging a battery larger than 50-kWh from a standard wall outlet is a process that can take days, not minutes.
There is also the issue of many drivers not actually having convenient access to charging. Those that live in apartments or condominiums often don’t have access to a plug. Even those that have single family homes in cities often have to rely on street parking. For these drivers, either workplace charging or public charging are a necessity to own and drive an EV.
GM is addressing the workplace charging problem by adding another 3,500 chargers at its facilities across North America. For all the rest of the population that doesn’t work for GM, this new EVGo partnership is the next step in making EV ownership more convenient.
Currently EVGo has 1,347 DC fast chargers in operation at 808 locations around the country. When Tesla built out the Supercharger network which has 855 locations in the US with 8,218 chargers, they were broadly distributed across the country the country to enable Tesla drivers to go virtually anywhere. When EVGo started building out its network most of the EVs available to use the chargers had a range of 100 miles or less so cross-country driving wasn’t really an option. Thus, most of the locations are concentrated along the two coasts and in the midwest where most of the vehicles were.
The new stations will be located mainly in urban and suburban areas with the hope of making opportunistic EV charging more convenient. In the past, most opportunity charging at locations like malls and grocery stores has been limited to Level 2 240V AC charging. However, those chargers still take several hours to fully charge even a short-range EV. With the new generation of long-range EVs that are coming to market, that won’t really be very useful for buyers that don’t have access to home charging, thus the move to expand DC charging at rates of 100-350 kW. Someone driving a 250-300 mile EV can easily get almost a full charge while getting their groceries.
EVGo is planning to deploy about 4-6 chargers at each location although some particularly busy facilities might have more. That means there will likely be somewhere around 500 new locations spread among the 40-50 largest metropolitan areas in the US.
GM and EVGo declined to discuss full financial details of this deal except to acknowledge that GM is making a financial investment in this effort and the partners will be taking advantage of any government incentives that are available.
Guidehouse Insights projects that the number of DC fast chargers in North America will grow to about 66,000 across North America by 2025 and 144,000 by 2030. In that context, these 2,700 chargers are a relatively piece of the much larger puzzle of building charging infrastructure.
However, even small pieces like this add up when combined with what many other companies are doing. Unlike Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger network that can only be used by Tesla drivers, the networks of EVGo, Electrify America, Chargepoint and others are open to all EV drivers. Even EVGo will be deploying more chargers on top of this batch further extending the network along main travel corridors and other locations to enable people to drive EVs anywhere in the country.