Why the US’s $2.5 Billion Funding For EV Chargers Is the Wrong Move

It's still a lot easier than getting Americans to use public transport

  • The US Government is putting $2.5 billion into building an EV charging infrastructure. 
  • Even without gas, cars are a huge environmental problem, and a waste of space.
  • Public transit is the answer in cites, but its a difficult, expensive job. 
EV charging in a parking space

Sergii Iaremenko/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

The US government is going ahead with a $2.5 billion plan to scatter electric car chargers throughout the land, a plan which is great, and also misses the point.

The funding will be split, half for "alternative fueling" in community areas, and the other half for charging stations along interstates, highways, and other major roads. The idea is to get to half a million chargers as soon as possible, to reduce vehicle emissions by half before 2030. This is excellent, but really, this should be in concert with a plan to reduce private car use or eliminate it altogether in cities. And not just to curb pollution, but to make life better for everyone. 

"Electric vehicles represent the biggest opportunity this country has ever had to 'clean' our transportation sector. With mass adoption come measurable reductions in air pollution and fewer asthma-related ER visits (per a recent USC study) Nowhere are these effects felt more than in urban environments where air pollution from vehicle emissions is amplified by the high population density," Aaron Luque, founder and CEO of Georgia-based EV charging infrastructure company EnviroSpark, told Lifewire via email. 

Power Struggle

Aerial view directly above electric car being charged

Teamjackson / Getty Images

Americans love their cars, and so it seems obvious that the best way to clean up cars' carbon emissions is to switch to electric cars, while simultaneously increasing the capacity of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro. Nobody has to change their habits, and all the disastrous environmental consequences disappear. 

The government's EV charging plan aims to put chargers where they are needed, and not just where private companies can make them profitable. While electric vehicles are best suited for dense urban environments, where plentiful chargers make economic sense and trip distances are short, putting EV chargers into smaller, and more remote communities will also be possible.

But that's just one part of it. We will also need more electricity. While renewables seem to offer guilt-free car use, some of the most car-centric parts of the US already struggle to meet power demands. 

"States like California, where the electric grid is already maxed out, will simply tax their already strained power grid by forcing more EVs on people, as well as charging stations," Kyle MacDonald, VP at GPS vehicle fleet tracking company Mojio, told Lifewire via email.

And that's just the beginning. Cars, as we shall see, have plenty of other problems. 

Carbon Dated

It's not just about emissions. There are plenty of other reasons to remove cars from cities. Even if all cars were suddenly electrified, they are still noisy above walking pace, and dangerous to pedestrians and more vulnerable road users like cyclists. 

Cars also take up a lot of space that could be used for all kinds of better things. Between parking spaces, and the actual roads themselves, up to a third of urban land is wasted on cars around the world. This is especially insane when you consider how precious space is in most cities. If private vehicles could be eliminated, much of that extra space could go to housing, parks, squares, and so on. And the whole place would be a lot less ugly without cars parked all over the place. 

Banning private cars in cities isn't the answer. Or rather, it totally is the answer, but it needs to be done in concert with better public transport, and alternative transport infrastructure, like lanes for bikes and electric scooters. 

Simply banning private cars in cities isn't the answer; it needs to be done in concert with better public transport, and alternative transport infrastructure, like lanes for bikes and electric scooters. 

And of course, you have to convince car-dependent Americans to get out of their giant SUVs, and wean them off their coddled, cup-holder-filled existence, which might be the hardest part. 

"It's surprising how people are set in their ways. Those dependent on public transportation don’t think twice about hopping on the train or bus. But those who haven’t used public transit seem to have a lot of ideas about it that prevent them from ever utilizing the service," automotive industry expert and licensed insurance agent Brandon Frady told Lifewire via email.

Like any entrenched system, transport is a mess. But that doesn't mean we can't fix it. Even bike-and-public-transport poster child Copenhagen was once just another car-choked European city after all. 

Electric cars are way better than gas cars. But no cars is even better. 

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