US News

Climate change is an infrastructure problem

Most of America’s 107,000 gas stations can fill several cars every five or 10 minutes at multiple pumps. Not so for electric vehicle chargers – at least not yet. Today the U.S. has around 43,000 public EV charging stations, with about 106,000 outlets. Each outlet can charge only one vehicle at a time, and even fast-charging outlets take an hour to provide 180-240 miles’ worth of charge; most take much longer.

The existing network is acceptable for many purposes. But chargers are very unevenly distributed; almost a third of all outlets are in California. This makes EVs problematic for long trips, like the 550 miles of sparsely populated desert highway between Reno and Salt Lake City. “Range anxiety” about longer trips is one reason electric vehicles still make up fewer than 1% of U.S. passenger cars and trucks.

This uneven, limited charging infrastructure is one major roadblock to rapid electrification of the U.S. vehicle fleet, considered crucial to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

It’s also a clear example of how climate change is an infrastructure problem – my specialty as a historian of climate science at Stanford University and editor of the book series “Infrastructures.”

Credit: The Conversation