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New Mobility Paradigms Influence Electric Vehicle Charging Requirements

Analysis pinpoints increased demand for fast chargers as ride-hailing companies consider adding electric vehicles to their fleets

October 30, 2018

Today's electric vehicle (EV) owners usually charge their vehicles at home, seldom using public fast chargers. Ride-hailing companies' growing interest in operating EVs in their fleets could trigger a significant increase in the demand for public fast chargers, ultimately making them more economically feasible.

Heat map image depicting roadways with varying levels of use, with the roads traveled most frequently appearing brighter than the roads traveled less frequently.

Drawing on a large dataset representing more than one billion miles of driving, this heat map shows where drivers traveled most frequently in Columbus, Ohio, in a given timeframe.

Despite their ability to charge EVs quickly, fast-charging stations are not yet commonplace due to high installation and operating costs. Boosting their utilization could go a long way toward driving down costs. But what is the right number of fast-charging stations in a given area and where should they be located?

To answer these questions, researchers from NREL and Argonne and Idaho national laboratories conducted simulations and analyses to estimate fast-charger requirements—i.e., optimal station locations and number of plugs as well as associated electricity demand—for a ride-hailing fleet.

Because ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft typically don't share their travel data, the research team developed a heuristic algorithm to emulate EV operation within a hypothetical fleet, drawing on a large global positioning system dataset from Columbus, Ohio. Employing the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection (EVI-Pro) tool, the team assessed the economic feasibility and ideal number and locations of potential fast-charging stations in the city.

EV Fast Chargers: On the Road to Economic Viability

Siting fast-charging stations in areas amenable to high utilization is an important factor in their economic viability, but it's not the only factor. Controlling highly variable installation and operation costs plays a key role as well. For example, siting stations in areas with overhead utility lines can avert the high cost of extending underground utility lines.

While this body of research focused on the Columbus region, the methodology developed for the study can be applied to project ride-hailing fleets' EV charging infrastructure needs in other areas of the country and arm stakeholders with crucial information to optimize station placement, use, and affordability. In this case, 12 was determined as the ideal number of stations for the hypothetical ride-hailing fleet, with specific site recommendations spread across Columbus.

For more information, refer to this technical paper on the study or visit NREL's transportation research website.