One of the reasons often cited as to why electric vehicles haven’t achieved the same kind of market dominance in the United States as perhaps they have in parts of Europe is its sheer size. Even though the overwhelming majority of America’s estimated 324.8 million residents live in major cities and drive less than 30 miles on average during a regular work day, many have the concern that when it comes to road trips or vacations, an electric car just won’t cut it.
Of course, the Supercharger network built by California automaker Tesla Motors — and the Tesla Model S, Model X, and soon-to-launch Model 3 that can use those charging stations to make long-distance travel a breeze in all but the most remote corners of the lower 48 — offer one solution to long-distance range anxiety. But while Tesla’s Supercharger network is fast, convenient and reliable, it currently only works with Tesla electric cars, despite Tesla’s offer to share its Supercharger technology with other automakers through a quid-pro-quo technology share.
In short, unless you happen to live along the west coast of the U.S. or live in the north-east, the only way you can make a reliable long-distance trip by electric car today is to own a Tesla electric car. Even the highly-anticipated Chevrolet Bolt EV and its 238 miles of EPA-approved range is limited on long-distance trips thanks to a lack of Combo DC quick charging provision across the country.
Today, the Obama Administration made a commitment to changing that by announcing a range of different measures designed to accelerate the adoption of electric cars by the U.S. population, including establishing a total of 48 so-called electric car corridors along major routes across the U.S.
The routes, which will cover nearly 25,000 miles of U.S. Interstates, will cross through 35 states and link east and west coasts together. But unlike Tesla’s Supercharger network — which covers nearly every corner of the U.S. — these new routes will still leave large swathes of the U.S. uncovered.
Under the plans, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will work with local and state governments across the 35 states to implement suitable electric vehicle refuelling infrastructure every 50 miles or so, ensuring that even limited range electric cars could (theoretically) travel between charging stations with ease. At the moment, the programme is still in its infancy, but it’s worth noting that the 48 electric car corridors being developed are part of a wider FHWA remit to develop a total of 55 Alternative Fuel corridors across the U.S.
Most of those exist alongside the proposed electric vehicle corridors, but we should note that of the other alternative fuel corridors being pushed, only compressed natural gas (CNG) has anywhere near the coverage that electric vehicle charging has. Indeed, hydrogen, propane and liquified natural gas (LNG) remain very spotty in their proposed coverage.
This doesn’t necessarily mean of course that provision for these other fuel types will be kept minimal in the future, but it does show very clearly that right now, the Obama administration appears to believe that electric vehicles are the best alternative fuel choice for now.
Given the announcement has only just been made, it will be some time before FHWA’s remit is carried out and public charging for electric cars exists along the highways in question. Given how close we are to the Presidential election, it remains to be seen if the outcome of next Tuesday’s poll affects how quickly — or even if — the FHWA manages to follow through on its goals.
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