EV Charger Map

Map showing EV charging stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The California Energy Commission is looking to address a “sizable gap” in funding of light-duty electric-vehicle charging stations needed to meet state goals over the next five years, an updated CEC transportation report said.

The CEC said it has enough funding to install about 162,000 Level 2 EV charging stations and 6,400 DC fast-charging stations in the state by 2025. But an executive order issued by former Gov. Jerry Brown in January 2018 directed state agencies to work to install 240,000 Level 2 stations and 10,000 DC stations by 2025 [Executive Order B-48-18].

Some of this gap could be addressed with lower prices for charging equipment, faster charging times, and availability of mobile chargers, according to the report. However, California could still fall short of meeting its charging needs if more EVs are purchased over the coming years than is estimated.

In an attempt to quantify the number of charging stations needed by 2025, the CEC and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a software tool called EVI-Pro, which provides a more cautious estimate for Level 2 stations by 2025—about 115,000—and a significantly higher estimate for DC fast-charging stations—about 17,000.

According to the tool, California currently has about 1,500 DC stations, but about 1,400 of those are in half the counties in California, while the remaining 100 are in the other half. About 25 percent of California counties do not have any DC fast chargers.

The CEC to date has funded more private charging stations than public charging station (about 4,500 private stations and about 3,800 public), but plans to dramatically shift into the arena of public charging: Going forward, the commission has approved funding for about 1,500 public stations, in comparison to about 75 private stations.

In total, the CEC’s Clean Transportation Program has provided about $95 million in funds for electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, creating the largest network of publicly accessible EV chargers in the nation, the report said.

The CEC expects the bulk of charging at public locations to occur during the daytime, which creates an opportunity for electricity demand management and renewable-energy integration into the grid. If most charging takes place during the day, variable renewable-energy sources, such as wind and solar, can be used to decrease excess electricity supply and mitigate the state’s “duck curve,” while also incorporating more distributed energy resources into the electricity grid. However, according to the EVI-Pro tool, most light-duty EV charging currently takes place between 4 pm and midnight.

The report proposed $32.7 million in funding for light-duty charging stations in 2019-2020. An additional tidal wave of charging funding—$800 million—is coming over the next 10 years due to a settlement between the California Air Resources Board and Volkswagen. CARB sued VW after a software program in the automaker’s diesel passenger cars sold between 2009 and 2016 was found to allow emissions up to 40 times the legal amount to go undetected.

As the market for EVs becomes more developed, financing for charging stations will eventually need to switch from government incentives to private-sector lending, the CEC’s report said. In order to validate the profitability and feasibility of financing charging stations, the CEC funded the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Financing Program, but the program hasn’t seemed to work. Uncertain long-term payoff might be reducing the willingness of lenders to fund charging stations, according to the report, so the CEC said it needs to re-evaluate the program’s financing structures.

At an Aug. 5 workshop on the CEC’s transportation investment plan report, industry experts expressed an immediate need for the state to focus more on charging and EV solutions in rural and disadvantaged communities.

“Putting an electric charging station in a disadvantaged community that serves someone driving from LA to Tahoe and not the people living in the disadvantaged community doesn’t help the problem,” Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Group Chair Stan Greschner said.

The group recommended the CEC better define, measure, and track program benefits toward disadvantaged communities. The commission said a revised approach will need to be discussed and assessed, but did not provide further details on timing.

“Historically, we have relied upon the amount and location of program funding to assess impacts to disadvantaged communities,” Commissioner Patty Monahan said. “However, this approach does not necessarily capture all impacts, both positive and negative, to local communities.”

Staff Writer

David Krause is an energy reporter covering the California Energy Commission and Air Resources Board. He writes about transportation, climate change, utilities, and wildfires. He has an MFA in Writing, an MA in English, and a BS in Civil Engineering.