America’s weak EV charging infrastructure might get a boost from dealers
As electric vehicles start to take market share, the nation’s charging infrastructure has to catch up.
Some folks already have an edge in this race, including some California residents and Tesla fans, but many EV owners in America still face charging deserts and unreliable stations — two key obstacles to decarbonizing transportation and doing right by our neighbors.
The Department of Energy says there are now around 50,000 charging stations in the U.S., and the Biden administration wants to see 10 times as many operating by 2030. Although it is not clear how the country will achieve this milestone, many automakers are turning towards dealerships to fund thousands more public charging stations in the U.S., both in urban and rural areas. Their plan starkly contrasts the no-dealer strategy embraced by Tesla, Rivian and the like.
GM said last year that it would install as many as 40,000 level 2 chargers in communities across the U.S. and Canada. On Wednesday, the company offered an update: Canadian EV charging company Flo will provide those chargers, with each one maxing out at 19.2 kilowatts. TechCrunch was told by GM that the chargers and shipping costs will be covered, and that dealers will pay for maintenance and warranties.
These chargers will not be available at dealerships. GM stated that dealers will choose nearby locations to host the cobranded stations. The company gave examples such as entertainment venues, schools, and other popular destinations. Hosts will need to agree to pay some costs, including permitting, installation, and energy bills. GM said hosts have the option of charging drivers or offering it free of charge.
The program is still in its infancy, with stations installed so far at “several places” in Marshfield (Wisconsin) and Owosso (Michigan). Next up is Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and Washington state, GM said, adding that dealers there will “install their first chargers in the weeks and months ahead.” Dealers in the program are allocated 10 apiece, and less than a thousand dealerships in total have signed up for the program so far, “representing almost a quarter of all GM dealers in North America,” per GM.
A separate company, Blink, is installing public chargers onsite at GM dealerships. This is a more accurate reflection of what other automakers are doing in the United States.
GM doesn’t mean that legacy automakers are the only ones turning to dealerships.
Ford said earlier this week that 1,920 dealers signed on to its EV sales program, which will see most of those locations outfitted with two chargers each. Stellantis also plans to require dealers to install chargers onsite, and buy new gear for EV repairs, if they “want to continue to offer our electric vehicles into the future,” a spokesperson for the company recently said.
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