POTENTIAL ELECTRIC VEHICLE buyers have voiced their concerns repeatedly in surveys: Charging is a major source of anxiety.

While owning an EV offers many benefits comparable to traditional gas-powered vehicles, the charging process can be unfamiliar and inconvenient, particularly depending on one’s residential situation. The majority of current EV owners in the US charge at home, but approximately more than 20 percent of households lack consistent off-street parking for overnight charging. Moreover, the public charging network is often criticized for its reliability issues, with chargers frequently being poorly maintained or out of order.

The encouraging news is that various stakeholders, including automakers, policymakers, and governments, recognize the charging infrastructure deficit in the US. They are actively working to address it, driven by the collective goal of transitioning more people to electric vehicles. Automakers are ramping up EV production, governments are incentivizing EV adoption to combat climate change, and investments are being made to expand the charging network.

According to data from the US Department of Energy, the US currently boasts 188,600 public and private charging ports across 67,900 charging stations, a figure that has more than doubled since 2020, with an additional 240 stations in the pipeline. This growth is significant but still pales in comparison to the existing gas infrastructure, which comprises approximately 145,000 fueling stations, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

At WIRED, we pondered a hypothetical scenario: If every vehicle magically became electric overnight, how many charging stations would the US need?

Analysts at Coltura, an alternative fuel research and advocacy group, delved into the numbers:

Their analysis suggests that significant expansion of the charging infrastructure is necessary before achieving full electrification, a milestone projected to occur in the 2040s. However, the challenge may be more manageable than it appears.

According to Matthew Metz, Coltura’s executive director, and Ron Barzilay, its data and policy associate, the number of public chargers must increase sixfold to meet future demand. Metz emphasizes that the current trajectory is not necessarily off-track.

It’s essential to note that this thought experiment remains speculative. Many experts anticipate that despite a push toward electrification, gasoline-powered vehicles will persist in certain areas for the foreseeable future.

One reason for the relatively optimistic outlook on public charging infrastructure is the assumption that the majority of charging needs will be met at home. Coltura projects that 90 percent of housing units will have EV chargers, with an additional 10 percent fulfilled at workplaces. Public charging stations are expected to cater to the remaining 20 percent of charging demand, with approximately 70 percent of them being fast chargers.

However, Barzilay underscores the uncertainty of future technological advancements. Predicting the future of charging technology is challenging, and there’s a possibility that even faster and more efficient charging standards could emerge by the time full electrification is achieved, further improving the charging landscape.