• EV Charging Infrastructure
  • EV
  • Plug-In EVs
  • Battery Electric Vehicles

Is Rural US the Next Investment Market for Charging Network Operators?

Raquel Soat
Mar 12, 2020

Charging station for electric vehicle

As the plug-in EV (PEV) market progresses and vehicles become available in most areas of the US, there will be a need to buildout charging infrastructure in more rural areas. While the PEV market is not to this point yet, charging infrastructure investments are beginning to move beyond traditional locations (e.g., large metropolitan areas). Electrify America has invested $2 million in charging infrastructure specifically to increase rural Californians’ access to charging.

Challenges for Rural EV Charging Station Deployment

One predominant challenge for installing charging infrastructure in rural areas is the lack of existing electrical infrastructure. The 30 Level 2 charging stations that Electrify America plans to install in rural California will come equipped with solar panels and will not be tied to the grid. The stations are from Envision Solar and include two 6 kW charging ports, a 4.28 kW sub-tracking solar array, and a 32 kWh onsite battery. The battery component will provide charging for customers regardless of the time of day.

The Envision Solar stations will be deployed in the Central, Coachella, and Imperial valleys—all places where PEV adoption and available electrical infrastructure is low. The combination of EV charging, solar power, and energy storage batteries presents an opportunity for charging network operators and site owners to increase access to charging in remote areas without utilities expanding transmission lines. The stations are mobile in nature and do not require installation in the same way that other charging infrastructure requires installation. This decreases cost and helps avoid stranding investments. However, the equipment and potential operations and maintenance costs present additional hurdles for those operating EV charging infrastructure off the grid.

Rural EV Chargers Will Decrease Adoption Barriers

Installing charging infrastructure in rural locations could help quell range anxiety and charging infrastructure availability concerns for customers. These are two of the most prevalent barriers to PEV adoption in the US market. Many potential PEV adopters are wary of purchasing a PEV—particularly battery EVs—because of perceived lack of charging infrastructure buildout. In many parts of the US, these concerns are valid. If a consumer must travel 100 plus miles round trip to get to work or school, they would likely wait for higher EV charging infrastructure penetration before purchasing a PEV.

Additionally, folks that live closer to charging infrastructure also express concerns about purchasing a PEV. They fear a lack of charging infrastructure when taking longer road trips—despite this not being the normal usage pattern for their vehicles. Increasing the amount of rural EV charging stations could diminish these adoption concerns.

Investment in the Future

Rural EV charging stations will not immediately solve the range anxiety and charging station availability concerns but they will be part of the solution. Charging station operators and investors will need to first see the value of installing these assets and the potential for revenue in the future. Charging stations installed now in most rural areas of the US see low utilization due to a lack of PEV adoption. Electrify America’s commitment to install 30 rural chargers in California paves the way to future rural charging stations. Rural charging infrastructure investment is not prevalent for now, but it is anticipated to grow as PEV adoption increases.