New EV Charging Rules Sound Good, but May Not Go Far Enough

Better compatibility and more

  • New federal rules are intended to make the national EV charging network more user-friendly. 
  • The national EV charging network would have similar payment systems, pricing information, and charging speeds.
  • But some experts say that proposed rules must go further to help all EV drivers.
A couple in a parking lot plugging an electric vehicle into a charging cord.

Maskot / Getty Images

Charging your electric vehicle (EV) on the road may soon get easier, but experts say more needs to be done to keep the energy flowing during long-distance trips. 

The US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration announced standards intended to make the national EV charging network more user-friendly, with similar payment systems, pricing information, charging speeds, and more. The proposed rule would establish the groundwork for states to build federally-funded charging station projects across a national EV charging network. 

"For long-distance travel, a robust network of chargers along major routes, like highway rest stops, is needed," Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering, who studies EVs, told Lifewire in an email interview. "But it's tricky because demand for chargers on peak travel days, like holidays, will be dramatically higher than on ordinary days, and it takes longer to charge an electric vehicle than to fill a gas tank." 

But, said Michalek, "If the network is sized for ordinary days, there will be huge queues and massive wait times on peak travel days. If the network is sized for peak travel days, there will be a lot of investment in infrastructure that goes unused on most days."

New Road Rules

The new rules are part of a $7.5 billion federal effort to develop the country's EV-charging infrastructure. The goal of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to install 500,000 public chargers nationwide by 2030. A recent report by McKinsey & Company found that nearly half of US consumers say that battery or charging issues are their top concerns about buying EVs.

"We're tackling range anxiety and vehicle charging deserts by making sure that charging stations are easily and equally accessible, allowing every American can get coast to coast in an electric vehicle," said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in the news release. 

Under the proposed rules, charging stations would be required to contain a minimum number and type of chargers capable of supporting drivers' fast charging needs. The rule would also specify the required minimum density of provided chargers, payment methods, and requirements for customer support services.

Currently, electric vehicle owners can buy converters to use chargers with different plugs than their cars have, Michalek said. For example, Tesla uses a different plug standard than other automakers, but Tesla owners can buy converters enabling them to use non-Tesla chargers, and owners of non-Tesla electric vehicles can buy converters enabling them to use Tesla chargers. However, Tesla doesn't allow non-Tesla vehicles to use their fastest superchargers.

The proposed rules will also set certification standards for the workers installing, operating, and maintaining electric vehicle chargers. Other requirements would help create a national network of EV charging infrastructure that could communicate and operate on the same software platforms from one state to another; address traffic control devices and on-premise signage; data submittal requirements to help create a public EV charging database; and network connectivity requirements to allow for secure remote monitoring, diagnostics, control, and updates.

The new rules require EV chargers to allow for remote monitoring, control, and updates, Rinus Strydom, the chief revenue officer of Particle, a company that works with EV charging, pointed out in an email interview. Manufacturers will have to build connectivity into their charging stations and have a plan to push software updates to them over the air, especially as the chargers are deployed in more remote locations.

An EV Connected to a street-level charger.

Martin Pickard / Getty Images

More Power Needed

Despite the billions promised for the new infrastructure, Blake Snider, the CEO of the EV charging company EOS Linx, warned in an email that the new regulations will only go so far. 

"Properly implementing electric vehicle charging infrastructure represents a fundamental and cultural shift in transportation and the associated economics," Snider said. "For the EV driver, chargers must be widely available, reliable, and accessible to all communities, which is what the proposed regulations aim to do. This is no easy task, and significant public and private investments are needed to ensure there is a unified charging network."

And not every EV owner may be covered. Logistics expert Marc Taylor said in an email that a big segment of potential EV owners is forgotten. "Namely those that live in apartments and/or those that do not have off-road parking," he added. "So while there are certainly options out there, the percentage of people that can access them still isn't big enough, in my opinion."

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