• A study by utility company National Grid suggests that highway truck stops for electric vehicles could use as much electricity as a small city could use in the next two decades.
  • The study found that based on current traffic patterns, many highway charging stations (the equivalent of highway gas stations) would need 20 or more rapid chargers to meet EV demand.
  • The study focused on 71 freeways in New York and Massachusetts, with the goal of finding solutions for “promising” US highways for the era of electric vehicles.

There are many hurdles to clear between the current infrastructure and the seemingly inevitable future of widespread use of electric vehicles. New research from utility company National Grid shows how high some of these hurdles can be.

The study examined traffic patterns and projected charger usage on 71 freeways throughout New York and Massachusetts and considered the corresponding EV sales targets/mandates based on a scenario in which all passenger cars sold in the US would be electric by 2035. , and all medium-sized and heavy-duty vehicles sold will be electric vehicles by 2045. Think of highway lots as the equivalent of a highway truck stop or gas station. In the next 10 years, more than a quarter of the sites surveyed will need 20 or more fast chargers, or the equivalent capacity of a sports stadium, to meet peak-hour demand, according to the study.

National Grid’s Analysis of Electric Vehicle Charging Capacity Changes in the Northeast.

National network

Currently, fast charging on American highways is still in its infancy. Finding 20 chargers in one location, at least outside of California and outside of the Tesla Supercharger network, is far from the norm. Sometimes finding an open charger is only half the battle; finding a working fast charger becomes even more difficult. Gas stations can get by with just four or six pumps, but charging most EVs takes much longer than filling a tank of gas, meaning the charger will have more time to potentially shut down.

According to the results, more than a quarter of the sites studied will need the same amount of electricity as an outdoor sports stadium to meet charging demand in 10 years, and some will need the same amount of power as a small town within the next two decades. The study suggests connecting to the existing high-voltage electricity grid to “future-proof” high-traffic areas on the highway. Conveniently, the study notes, these power lines already tend to mirror highway routes.

The equivalent of a small town

The sites, which act as electrified truck stops, can require the same amount of energy needed to power a small city. Size and weight are especially important for electric vehicles. Take the nearly 10,000-pound GMC Hummer EV, with a 2,923-pound battery that took an hour and 49 minutes to charge from 10 to 90 percent. On the other hand, 4,800-pound Taycan, which takes a lower peak power than the Hummer, capable of charging from 5 to 80 percent state of charge in a claimed 23 minutes. It’s not hard to imagine that a parking lot full of electric semi-trucks towing around 40 tons would require a lot of power.

“No Regrets”

The transition of our road infrastructure will not and cannot be effectively switched over overnight. Of the $5 billion promised by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act last yearthe first $900 million or so was approved for electric vehicle chargers to cover 53,000 miles of highways across the country.

In his own summary of the study, National Grid says the goal is to figure out how to do “no-regret” upgrades at “no-regret” sites — “so we can build the grid infrastructure once and build it right.” The energy company says upgrading and building high-voltage connections along highways “could take years,” a point the study urges the industry to plan ahead. One thing is certain: in 10 or 20 years, the highway landscape will look different — and much more electrified.

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