Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

In another episode, we talked about electric cars and how they’re not only better for the environment, but also cheaper in the long run. 

But it’s not that easy to just switch everyone over to electric vehicles. What kind of systems do we need to make sure all those cars can stay charged and on the road? 

We had Harrison Katz and Fatima Husain from our Possibly team look into this question. Welcome Harrison and Fatima!

Harrison Katz: Hi, Megan!

Fatima Husain: Hello! 

Megan Hall: So, what makes switching over to electric vehicles so complicated?

Harrison Katz: Well, the main culprit is charging stations. Currently the United States has about 43,000 public places to charge your electric vehicle. 

Fatima Husain: Compare that to the nearly 115,000 gas stations in this country and the problem is pretty obvious: we need more charging stations!

Harrison Katz: And they have to charge faster. Many charging stations can power an EV up overnight, but that’s not helpful if you’re in the middle of a road trip and need to charge up on the highway. 

Fatima Husain: Also, charging a car overnight is tricky for people who live in apartment buildings that don’t have outdoor outlets that are powerful enough to charge an EV.

Megan Hall: We don’t have any stations that can give you a quick charge?

Harrison Katz: There are some, but not many, unless you own a Tesla, which has its own network of charging stations.  

Megan Hall: So, how do we fix this?

Harrison Katz: Well, MIT had the same question. Researchers there recently completed a study on charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Fatima Husain: They took a look at major cities across the country and tried to figure out what changes would need to happen to support a huge increase in electric cars. 

Megan Hall: What did they find out?

Harrison Katz: Installing charging stations on residential city streets would make the biggest difference. This would make sure everyone has access to charging, wherever they live.

Megan Hall: But what if I’m taking a long trip, or one charge just isn’t enough to get me through the day? 

Fatima Husain: The researchers thought of that too, Megan! Their study concluded that installing high-speed charging stations along highways would take care of most of those needs. 

Megan Hall: So, those two changes would fix it?

Harrison Katz: Almost! A third and fourth step would be increasing access to electric rental cars, and adding charging stations to public places like grocery stores and malls. 

Fatima Husain: The emphasis on each of these four changes would need to vary by city, but in general, they’d be enough to support a rapid transition to electric vehicles.

Megan Hall: Okay, but how much is all of this going to cost?

Harrison Katz: The average cost to install a commercial EV charging port is around $2,500.

Fatima Husain: Multiply that by the number of ports per charging station and the number of charging stations needed, and then add in maintenance and amenities cost, and the numbers add up quickly.

Harrison Katz: But the current infrastructure bill being debated in Congress has plans to allocate billions of dollars to EV charging stations, so an electric vehicle future might be closer than you’d think!

Megan Hall: Great! Thanks, Harrison and Fatima! 

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.

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