Analyzing significant variabilities in cost estimates
To further elaborate on the variability of EV infrastructure cost, we recently acquired EV charging infrastructure cost data associated with projects funded by the California Energy Commission through the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP). The CALeVIP, implemented by the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), provides incentives for EV charger installations, and works with local partners on projects that support regional EV needs for Level 2 and DC fast-charging units (DCFCs).
Between December 2017 and October 2021, the program funded 244 projects to deploy more than 500 Level 2 chargers with charging capacities ranging from 7 kW to 10 kW and approximately 300 DCFCs with charging capacities ranging from 50 kW to 63 kW. A summary of the cost data from CALeVIP projects are illustrated in the two whisker-box plots below.
While on average, the equipment and installation cost for both Level 2 and DC fast chargers lines up with the recent published studies, this dataset clearly shows the significant variability across different projects. For Level 2 chargers, the total cost of EV charger deployment can vary between $2,700 to $24,000 per charger (excluding outliers), and for DCFCs, it can range from $70,000 to $130,000.
It is apparent that while there are some levels of variability across the equipment cost, the cost of installation is what mainly drives the variability for the total cost of deployment. For example, for DCFCs, while the equipment cost varies from $18,000 to $61,000 (excluding outliers), the installation costs range from as low as $4,000 to as high as $137,000.
The installation cost variability is an inherent challenge to EV charging infrastructure deployment. This is mainly because there are several different variables involved in determining the total cost of installing a charger including the number of chargers per site, permitting/code requirements, site preparation cost, availability of grid interconnection, grid capacity, utility upgrades (e.g., transformers/switchgears), parking availability, and the level of construction needed. With all these elements in mind, it should not be surprising to see such a wide range of cost for public charging stations. However, this could certainly pose a challenge when it comes to budgeting mass deployment of chargers across the nation.
While it will be hard to say how many chargers the IIJA can end up deploying, using the average cost data extracted from CALeVIP, $7.5 billion might be able to fund around 500,000 Level 2 chargers or approximately 73,000 DCFC units. However, those numbers can significantly change knowing the appreciable variability in the cost of installation. Of course, with proper planning and rigorous analysis of the available data on hand, we can find the most cost-effective and equitable ways of building the charging network across the nation to facilitate the much-needed transition to zero-emission transportation in this decade.
Using data to develop solutions
Unlike EV consumer purchases, the cost of developing EV infrastructure doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all price tag. Similarly, cities, states, and regions all face distinct challenges when it comes to implementation—ranging from weather to population density. As the nation works towards its latest zero-emission goals, proper EV infrastructure planning is required to ensure a successful deployment.
To optimize funding, stakeholders need to be aware that making federal EV ambitions a reality requires careful data analysis combined with expert industry knowledge. Our team’s deep knowledge of EV charging technology and its installation hurdles, combined with the latest tools, offer guidance to state and local agencies, transportation planners, and utilities as they embark on their EV infrastructure goals.