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Climate change

Charging Infrastructure Is a $2.7 Trillion Barrier to Electric Cars

October 11, 2017

Making sure that there's always somewhere to juice up your ride is going to be big business. That's according to financial services firm Morgan Stanley, which, according to Bloomberg, estimates that the world will need to spend a dizzying $2.7 trillion on charging infrastructure if it's to support 500 million electric vehicles.

(That may sound like a lot of cars and trucks, but it's worth noting that there are over a billion on our roads right now. So even if robo-taxis erode the number of cars in city centers and autonomous trucks cut the number of 18-wheelers we need to run, it's not a crazy number.)

The rollout of charging points is often cited as a key incentive to convice a public with range anxiety to adopt electric vehicles. Without a place to charge in a city center or, more important, beside a long and lonely highway, nobody would take the plunge and buy an electric car. In turn, that would render impotent even the most ambitious of regulatory pushes to incentivize automakers to build electric vehicles.

So far, building out a suitable network has seemed to require both private and public investment. We've already seen that to be the case, with the likes of Tesla building its own charging stations and the U.S. government committing to build a series of national electric-vehicle charging corridors around the country.

That will continue to be the case. But with such a huge amount of money potentially there for the taking, we may expect to see some more original thinking about the best ways to build and run charging points. After all, there's nothing like the prospect of a fistful of dollars to get the creative juices—and, with any luck, the electrons—flowing.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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