The Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park parking lot is pretty full during the summer.
The Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park parking lot is pretty full during the summer. (Credit: Sarah Grieb / NPS)

According to Carnegie Mellon researchers, current parking and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is inadequate and a major obstacle to the adoption of electric vehicles. Despite some isolated efforts, such as those made by Tesla Motors, today’s charging infrastructure is lacking and is further limited by insufficient residential parking.

Elizabeth Traut, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, Jeremy Michalek, a professor of mechanical engineering and public policy, and Chris Hendrickson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public policy, analyzed parking and charging availability for electric vehicles in the U.S.

“The discussion of electric vehicle (EV) charging has focused on public-use chargers, but most EV charging will be done at home. And most car-buyers will expect to have reliable daily access to a charger before investing in an EV,” Hendrickson said.

EVs include battery electric vehicles, which run on electricity instead of gasoline, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which use a mix of gasoline and electricity.

The good news is that today’s infrastructure can already support some EV adoption.

“About 40 percent of U.S. households have an existing electrical outlet near a parking space suitable for charging a low-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle overnight,” Michalek said, “but many households own multiple vehicles—often without enough garage or off-street parking for all of their vehicles.”

The bad news is that charging potential is limited by parking availability.

“On the whole, less than half of U.S. vehicles have dedicated off-street parking at an owned residence in a location suitable for installing a charger,” Michalek said. “That means if we want more than half of the vehicles on the road to be electric, we’re going to need major changes in residential parking—and that doesn’t happen quickly.”

The study is to appear in the journal Transportation Research (Part D).

The study comes as vehicle manufacturers are introducing new EVs for sale and federal and state governments are offering incentives for purchasing EVs. States like California also have introduced mandates that effectively force most automakers to sell EVs.

“Analysts have ignored the barrier that parking may present to electric vehicle adoption,” Traut said. “We’ve seen studies that predict EV adoption as high as 80 percent by 2030. But to sell that many EVs we would not only need to make them less costly and more attractive to consumers—we would also need to address parking.”

“Even if everyone wanted and was willing to pay for EVs, we couldn’t convert the whole fleet without major infrastructure changes,” Traut added. “Landlords have little incentive to invest in chargers that only some of their tenants may use, and homeowners simply don’t have enough dedicated parking spaces to charge all of their vehicles.”

“The bottom line, is that we are ready for many households to adopt some EVs now, but we should not expect EVs to dominate the market any time soon,” Hendrickson said. “They will more likely be part of a diverse transportation strategy in the future. If we want EVs to be a larger part of our future transportation solution, we need to be thinking now about parking and charging availability. Incentivizing landlords, where appropriate, and designing adequate parking and charging capability in new construction would be a start.”

Just yesterday, we reported about Honda’s new fuel cell electric vehicle—while not without its shortcomings, this technology may be a partial solution to the problem.

  • Bruce Parmenter

    In the 1990’s, Carnegie Mellon researchers were paid by Oil companies to create and release to the media, an anti-EV report stating unsubstantiated negative-factoids on EVs. This news piece reads like another one, and smells as Oily as