Here's an exciting story from the folks at Cleantechnica: The number of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points grew by some 27% in Germany last year.
That's an impressive growth rate, and I believe it should be a big boost for much wider electric vehicle (EV) adoption. But not necessarily for the reasons you might assume.
Before I became an electric car driver, I figured that a massive increase in EV charging points was required, simply in order to go about one's daily business. In much the same way that we need gas stations in every neighborhood, I envisioned pulling in to "fill up" on a semi-regular basis. If this was indeed the case, then we'd need at least as many charge points as gas stations. In fact we'd need many times more, as cars would sit for much longer to get their fill.
For me, though, charge points have turned out to be more of a bonus than a necessity. And the same is true for many EV owners I know—we simply fill up every night at home, and rarely find ourselves in a position where we "have" to get a top up. That doesn't mean those charging points are unused, or unnecessary. They provide both peace of mind "in case" we start running short, and—when there's no charge to charge—they are a nice little perk which makes owning an EV just that little bit more awesome.
If my experience is indeed representative of a broader trend, then the relationship between charge point access and EV adoption ought to be non-linear. In other words, most of us don't use charging points most of the time, but we do want to see them around and know we "could" access them if we needed to. If that's true, then a 27% increase in charging points ought to facilitate a much larger increase in EV ownership. Add to that the fact that many—if not most—EV owners will install a Level 2 charge point at home, and now we see a society where most of us can top up our battery when we visit a friend or colleague—and we have options to swing by and "borrow some electrons" if we happen to be caught short.
Now add the arrival of long-range EVs to the equation, and I suspect that the relationship between the psychological and real world needs for more charging points will get even more out of whack.
Of course, there's one caveat to this discussion: If longer range EVs see more people taking road trips in them, then a significant build out of fast chargers on highways will still be very much required. But I can't help feeling that that's what trains were invented for.
In Germany, at least, they still have those.