But a person can only eat so much fast food—if my journey had been much longer and I needed to stop more than once, the pit stop might not have felt quite so convenient. Especially when, by comparison, gas stations can get internal-combustion vehicles back on the road in just a few minutes.
But fast charging might be getting even faster soon. Last week, the world’s largest EV-battery maker announced plans to make new battery cells that can charge nearly twice as quickly as the competition. It could be a big deal, as I wrote about in a recent story. But there’s more to charging than just batteries, so let’s dive into fast charging: Why is it so crucial, and what will it take to speed things up?
Charging speed is “very important” for EV uptake, especially as EVs start to gain ground in the market against gas-powered cars, says Jiayan Shi, an analyst for BNEF, an energy research firm.
But despite its crucial role, things aren’t going so well in charging. A lack of reliable charging infrastructure is one of the main barriers to EV adoption, according to the International Energy Agency.
Existing stations are still too sparse in many parts of the world, including major EV markets like the US and Europe. The state of fast chargers, the kind that can add up to 80% of a vehicle’s range in under 30 minutes, is especially rough.
The US added about 6,300 fast chargers to its stock in 2022, bringing the total to around 28,000, according to the IEA. It’s a big number, but not nearly enough—by 2025, the country will need to quadruple the total number of installed chargers (including both fast and slow varieties) from 2022 levels to meet expected demand from all the EVs coming onto the roads, according to a report by S&P Global.
Things are going better in other parts of the world. Globally, about 330,000 new fast chargers were built in 2022, and nearly all that growth happened in China.
But even today’s fastest chargers still can’t come close to competing with a trip to the gas station. So in addition to getting more infrastructure built and keeping chargers reliably online, some companies want to speed up charging even more.