The Indicator from Planet Money - Electric Car Chargers: When Supply Drives Demand

People are hesitant to buy electric cars because fast chargers still aren't widely available. The irony? Most people charge at home, not with fast chargers. NPR's Camila Domonoske explains.

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by at least one measure Wall Street seems excited about the future of electric vehicles. In fact, the S&P 500 is about to add Tesla to with influential index but consumers they have some questions like part of have you heard of a range anxiety I have because you once explained it to me range anxiety is when people are scared that if they get an electric vehicle, they'll run out of batteries and they won't have anywhere to recharge and then they'll just be stuck out on the road. Right and it's a reasonable anxiety. If you consider the first Nissan Leaf range of 74 miles and that's a huge issue for the Auto industry by giving cars bigger batteries Mark Wakefield from the Consulting Group alixpartners. He's been tracking the average range of new electric vehicles.

130 range it's down 250 and it keeps going up 300 is super common now and some Tesla's are pushing for a hundred miles before hundred miles. That's just a lot less nerve-racking right even is range becomes less of a concern. There's a lot

Paid to another kind of anxiety another reason people don't want to go electric. This is indicator from Planet Money. I'm part of Garcia and I'm sure once again with Camila domonoske from the NPR business desk Camila today. You've brought us the story about the psychology and economics of using electric cars and specifically how they're throwing up these roadblocks for the use of electric cars. You like that after the break

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Okay, give me a let's pick up where we left off. Suddenly. We are now looking at cars that can go 300 miles on a single charge and while they're still too expensive for many people. They're expected to get a lot cheaper in the next few years, but now people are worried about how long it takes to charge. How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

15 minute

Yeah, that's not helpful, right?

A whole bunch of numbers that you to explain why there are so many variables that affect this but the most important thing actually isn't the numbers. It's the fact that most electric car owners most of the time charge their car like this. My name is Dwayne Ross. I live in Corrales, New Mexico and I have a 2013 Tesla Model S. When I bought this car, I had a standard Tesla charger installed in my garage and you just plugged it in and the car starts to charge like Dwayne Ross and others. It doesn't really matter how long it takes to charge cuz you just leave the thing there overnight right? Anyway, also more convenient than having to go to the gas station from time to time plus it's cheap like a lot cheaper than paying for gas is the way I understand it. I can see how this works for daily driving, but let's at 1

To take a big road trip right across the whole country what then that's where fast Chargers come in threes breiner has a Tesla Model 3. She recently stopped to charge up at a brand new supercharger in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania sounded like this year that power ramping up there.

So this is a going to charge pretty fast.

And let's see what a car says here.

looks like I've got

25 minutes to get to 80% charge charging on the go using one of these fast charger takes what like 20 30 minutes half an hour. Maybe not much more than that. That's amazing.

Very many fast Chargers that actually are that fast you might take longer, especially an older charger because it's it's it's almost free at home. Right? Right. And this case is charged cost a little over $11 not too bad compared to gas but more expensive than home. So even at a state-of-the-art charger, it's obviously still a lot less convenient than a gas station just cuz it takes awhile, right but remember for most drivers that's also not a very frequent experience make the warranties with a market research for mescaline. And he says if you ask people who are considering electric vehicles, they really focused on the idea of waiting to charge fully weighted more than it deserves. And the inverse of that is the fact that they don't tend to appreciate how much they'll benefit from not going to gas stations.

Recurrence for most drivers a lot of companies are really focused on making it as fast as possible and putting up as many fast Chargers as possible. Yeah, I could see how that would get people over that mental hump so that they just buy the thing and then after that they're they're mostly just charging it at home. Are you ready for the economics Are you seriously asking me if I'm ready for the all right here we got the fast.

Are super expensive to install like more than $100,000 / charger. That means you can only really make money off of them if people are using them a lot if you lose a shin rate is really high. But remember most people mostly charge at home to get over sure I spoke to and smart. She's the VP of public policy at chargepoint, which is a charging company and with a fast charger you often have low utilization not because it's not a necessary piece of infrastructure, but because it's in a location which is vital to to drivers occasionally, but not necessarily used frequently every single day people really want a fast charger to just be there. And in fact, they won't buy an electric vehicle unless they're already confident that there are fast Chargers everywhere and they're super fast and in fact way faster than they are right now, they want the whole pack.

But they don't actually want to use those fancy Chargers all the time. It's easier and cheaper to charge at home. It's actually better for your battery to kind of like if everyone wanted a gas station nearby, but they could just get the same gas at home for a fraction of the cost and in that situation and you're the gas station. How do you make money? I mean, you can always get money from the government fair that is happening as I understand it charging companies are also cutting deals with utilities. And of course, there are joining forces with automakers right exists. So that people will buy their electric cars. The automaker's to Kathy's away is the CEO of evgo which is a fast charging Network and they have a deal with GM essentially that agreement with General Motors is building a bridge between where there's enough cars on the road to make money with just a little time in the future to two right now. So that helps us we will build a head of demand because General Motors has come to

Party in this helping make a contribution to the building of that infrastructure in a few years. Once more people who don't have garages start buying electric cars. So maybe you don't station goes up. Then this is really interesting because like we normally think about how demand Drive supplies like people want a man for something they're willing to spend money on it. So, you know a company supplies it but here is always saying that like know once the supplies out there then it's going to drive up demand so build Chargers and people will buy the vehicles to use the Chargers. She also says maybe you can get a bunch of shipping or Transportation companies to use these fast Chargers and that'll help cover their costs companies are optimistic, then they have to profitability here, but I think it would be fair to say that it's a lot easier to get there if people were a bit more rational if people used Fast Chargers as much as they worried about fast Chargers there.

Weather be a lot more charging or a lot less worrying and either case just less of a conundrum for the Auto industry. Thanks. Thanks so much for bringing. This is great. Thanks for having me in Decatur was produced by Britney Cronin with help from Gilly Moon. It was fact-checked by Sean Saldana and edited by Patty Hearst indicator is a production of NPR.
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