EV Fast Charging Infrastructure Isn’t Growing Fast Enough—Utilities Must Step Up to Accelerate This Critical Infrastructure Buildout

Utilities are just beginning their journeys to speed up deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in reaction to increasing EV penetration. In the U.S., EV sales have risen nearly 50% between 2022 and 2023, now accounting for 8% of total industry sales (the Biden administration has a goal of 50% new vehicle sales comprising zero-emission vehicles by 2030). Fast chargers are critical enablers of EV adoption by allowing drivers to recharge in minutes when taking road trips or living in dense urban areas without home charging access. Indeed, according to a recent AAA study, a lack of charging infrastructure is why more than half of U.S. consumers are hesitant to switch to an EV. An NREL report shows that the U.S. needs to install 25,000 fast chargers per year, but the U.S. installed fewer than 10,000 fast chargers in 2023. Utilities, as entities responsible for the critical charger development steps of approving and billing customers for connecting their charging sites to the grid, are in prime position to take a more proactive role in enabling this critical infrastructure.

While the lack of funding support has long played a role in languishing charger buildout, that is no longer the case: the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides up to $100,000 in tax credits per fast charger (in addition to support from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program for targeted corridor-based fast charging development). So, what are the remaining barriers?

While Many Barriers to Charging Deployment Are Outside of Utilities’ Control, Helping Developers Site Infrastructure Is Low-Effort and Extremely Impactful

Supply chain delays, long permitting and construction development times, and automaker hesitance to fund charging infrastructure are all significant factors in lagging buildout; however, these are all outside a utility’s control. While some utilities are cutting out the middle man and building their own charging networks, regulator support for this is limited, at best. Others are taking a more active role in shaping regulatory policy, such as alternative non-demand-charge-based tariffs and make-ready budgets for utility- and customer-side electric infrastructures—but this takes time. Where utilities can make an immediate impact, at low cost, is in arming developers with better information to site chargers.

Charging developers in most of the U.S. today cannot easily identify the cheapest and the fastest-to-interconnect sites on the electric grid. Most often, charging developers must communicate with utility grid planners in a highly manual, ad-hoc way to get an estimate of both cost and timelines of interconnection. If a developer subsequently finds out a site is ill-suited for fast charging (such as there is insufficient grid capacity), they must go back to the drawing board, wasting weeks, if not months, of valuable time and money.

To address this, utilities will need to improve the information they make readily available to customers to accommodate fast charging. One key method to achieving this is to deploy “EV Charging Hosting Capacity Maps”—publicly available, searchable maps of the utility’s distribution grid that allows developers to discover which areas are better or worse to interconnect EV charging with the click of a button.

Too Few Utilities Have EV Charging Hosting Capacity Maps Today

These maps bring transparency to EV charging hosting capacity and provide easily accessible information for where projects can be quickly and/or cost-effectively connected with existing grid capacity. The availability of maps can draw developers to a utility’s service territory because their data mitigates administrative costs for developers, real estate owners, and customers alike. The maps are not perfect by any means (they don’t perfectly predict interconnection costs and speeds), but they are a simple, effective first step to helping developers.

We researched the degree to which utilities have publicly available EV charging hosting capacity maps, looking at the biggest utilities covering roughly 60% of the U.S. population, plus additional searching to uncover others. Using geospatial analysis of publicly available charger and utility service territory data, we found that utilities with maps cover just 15% of all U.S. utility customers, and just 11% of deployed U.S. EV fast chargers (see Table below for more information). Furthermore, nearly half the maps didn’t contain information at the right level of granularity, often bucketing interconnection capacity into three groups (such as small—usually 1 MW or less—medium, and large), rather than showing the specific amount of capacity, in kW, available. This is a problem, because developers would not know precisely how many chargers they could build at low cost. Finally, it was unclear how old—and thus how reliable—the capacity data was: fewer than half of utilities with maps disclosed how old their data was, and even fewer committed to how often they would update the data.

Utility Name % of Total U.S. Customers % of U.S. Installed EV Fast Chargers in Service Territory EV Hosting Capacity Map
Con Edison 3% 0.8% Con Edison EV Map
Virginia Electric & Power (Dominion) 2% 2.2% Dominion EV Map
Public Service Electric & Gas 2% 1.7% PSEG EV Map
National Grid New York 1% 0.9% National Grid EV Map
Pepco Energy (Exelon) 1% 0.8% Exelon EV Map
Connecticut Light & Power (Eversource) 1% 0.3% Eversource EV Map
First Energy 1% 0.6% First Energy EV Map
New York State Electric and Gas 1% 0.5% NYSEG EV Map
Potomac Electric Power (Exelon) 1% 0% Exelon EV Map
Dominion Energy South Carolina 1% 0.4% Dominion EV Map
Atlantic City Electric (Exelon) 0.5% 0.3% Exelon EV Map
Delmarva Power (Exelon) 0.4% 0.8% Exelon EV Map
United Illuminating 0.3% 0.6% UI EV Map
Central Hudson Gas & Electric 0.3% 0.2% Central Hudson EV Map
Orange & Rockland Utilities 0.2% 0% O&R EV Map
Subtotal  15% 11%

To date, the impetus for utilities to develop maps is nearly exclusively driven by regulatory demand. In 2023, Michigan’s Public Service Commission (PSC) submitted their “Grid Integration Study Report,” which prompted utilities to develop hosting capacity maps and ensure data availability. The report highlighted the benefits of publicly accessible mapping and grid-integration tools to prepare for increased EV adoption in the state.

What Should Utilities Do to Improve Ease of Fast Charger Installations?

In the absence of regulatory mandates, more utilities need to develop EV hosting capacity maps, plain and simple. Utilities in regions with lagging EV adoption rely on their PSCs to pressure their preparedness. We recommend that map development be undertaken after a tipping point of EV charging penetration to ensure the costs to develop the map are outweighed by benefits.

The usefulness of a map depends on its level of data granularity and availability. It is recommended all maps include feeder-specific information with specific capacity values (rather than less-granular buckets). Maps can even display targeted language for developers, specifying a utility’s preferred locations to install chargers and even potential interconnection timelines, though these improvements are likely less accurate and cost more to implement. Finally, utilities with maps should perform retrospective analyses to make sure their maps are actually displaying meaningful information, such as whether areas predicted to be low-cost actually were so.

Utilities are by no means the only potential solution to speeding up fast charging deployment, but they remain an essential partner for charging developers to convey their complex grid information in a way that benefits the public. The more utilities proactively support developers, the more likely it is that we can build the charging infrastructure needed to decarbonize our transportation system.

Anita Tendler and Matt Lichtash are energy and utilities experts at PA Consulting.