More than a year ahead of a state deadline, California has installed 10,000 fast chargers for electric vehicles, the latest in a series of recent milestones in the state’s race to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.
Direct-current fast chargers, or DCFC, play an important role in the transition to electric vehicles, because they are a driver’s best option to quickly recharge a battery while on the road. Fast chargers typically offer power outputs between 50 kW to 350 kW, and some can charge an EV battery to 80 percent in as quickly as 20 minutes. In contrast, the next-fastest type of charger, a Level 2, takes between four to 10 hours to reach the same level of charge.
In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that mandated the state install 250,000 EV chargers, including 10,000 fast chargers, by 2025. Since then, the state has nearly quadrupled the number of public and “shared private” (chargers installed at places of business or apartment buildings) fast chargers to hit its target, from around 2,600 to more than 10,000.
“This is the future of transportation — and it’s happening right now all across California,” Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday at Climate Week NYC in New York, where he made the announcement.
But the state is further behind in its goal to reach 250,000 total chargers by 2025. It currently has less than half that: There are about 93,800 public and shared private chargers in total, but only 41,000 of those are fully public. Additionally, its goal of 250,000 chargers, set more than five years ago, no longer reflects the breakneck pace at which Californians are transitioning to electric vehicles.
There are more than 1.6 million EVs in the state, and 25 percent of new cars sold in the first quarter of 2023 were electric vehicles. An August report from the California Energy Commission found that the state will need more than 1 million public and shared private chargers — including 39,000 fast chargers — to support 7 million electric vehicles by 2030, a steep increase from current targets.
“With new EV sales increasing every month, the charging market needs to step up the pace,” John Gartner, senior director of transportation programs at the Center for Sustainable Energy, told Grist in an email.
Still, Gartner said that installing 10,000 fast chargers was significant, considering the high equipment costs and long wait times for permitting and connection confronting the industry. Gartner said federal and state incentive programs would be crucial in reducing financial risk and attracting private investment in EV infrastructure.
California has invested billions in incentives. Last week, it opened applications for $38 million in equity-focused incentives to fund public charging stations in low-income and disadvantaged communities in 28 counties. And a newly passed bill awaiting Newsom’s signature would provide close to $2 billion for zero-emission vehicle incentives and for supporting infrastructure through 2035.
The federal government is also making $5 billion available to states for EV infrastructure through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, and has a goal of installing 500,000 chargers by 2030.
The rest of the country has even farther to go on EV infrastructure. The three most populous states after California have only a fraction of the number of fast chargers. Florida has 2,038, Texas has 2,017 and New York has 1,283. Alaska has the fewest number of fast chargers, with 32.