Electric Cars and the Lack of Charging in Cities

Many industry experts argue that, short of a Marshall Plan-type investment in infrastructure, government decrees to wean tens of millions of drivers off gas nozzles and onto plugs — among the greatest energy revolutions in history — are unrealistic.

“The U.K. cannot approach a blanket ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars without a network that supports such a seismic transition,” said Sean Kemple, director of sales for Close Brothers Motor Finance, which works with about 8,000 auto dealers in Britain. That goes for America as well, he said.

“When you’ve got a Brooklyn, London, Manchester, where there’s not a lot of room left to build, you need creative solutions,” Mr. Kemple said.

Solutions include mandates and incentives for businesses, builders and renovators to set aside or prewire a percentage of electric parking spaces, as in E.V. hotbeds like Palo Alto, Calif. Curbside charging is technically feasible, daunting in practice. City-friendly ideas run from valet charging to Volkswagen’s prototype mobile charging robot, a less cute R2D2 that can cruise parking lots, communicate with cars and fill those that need juice.

“More and more cars are arriving in parking lots and need to charge,” said Bill Loewenthal, a senior vice president at ChargePoint, whose 111,000 charging spots make it the world’s largest open network. “Commercial real estate owners are starting to understand that.”

Credit...Denis Balibouse/Reuters

For now, most of New York’s “public” chargers are in commercial garages, where daily users can pay $40 or more for two hours of parking, on top of the price of electricity. With most E.V.s requiring eight hours or more to refill on Level 2 chargers — still the dominant form for home and public units — that’s a recipe for personal bankruptcy.

April 17, 2020