New US electric car chargers are a green leap of faith

MONTCLAIR, UNITED STATES (AFP) – It has been a long road for electric cars in the United States (US), but myriad announcements by major automakers signal they are at last moving towards the mainstream.

With more electrical models set to hit showrooms, the focus will shift to consumers’ willingness to pivot to electric cars at a time when conventional gas stations remain familiar and ubiquitous.

The fear of being stranded has long been viewed as a barrier for electric vehicles (EV). Addressing this unease, dubbed “range anxiety”, is driving US President Joe Biden’s policy and bringing new EV charging companies to public markets. In New Jersey, a northeastern state with an auto-centric orientation typical of the US, officials recently announced USD5.4 million in grants to build EV chargers at 27 high-traffic locations, including at 7-Eleven convenience stores, gas stations and outdoor strip malls.

The new chargers, which will allow motorists to fuel up in 20 to 30 minutes, aim to normalise EVs, counter range anxiety and create a path to a petroleum-free future.

But the push highlights a quirk in the future of EVs: It is not clear exactly how much these new stations will be used, because most charging is still expected to take place at home or at work.

“The public charging is really to fill up here and there,” said Assistant Director at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Peg Hanna.

Ben Rich, who charges his Tesla at home but uses fast chargers when travelling, suspects some of the sites will be under-utilised, but thinks they are probably needed to transition off of fossil fuels.

“People need to feel they will be able to charge if they need to,” said Rich, who teaches physics and environmental science in Montclair, New Jersey. “If they don’t feel this, they will stick with gasoline cars.”