Growing like electrified weedsWhile most plug-in vehicles are charged at home a majority of the time, publicly available charging stations - especially fast ones - are crucial to the electrification of transportation. They act as a safety net, calming range anxiety, and allow people to do long-distance travel over the maximum range of their batteries. They also have other side-benefits (more on that below) that shouldn't be underestimated.
According to Navigant Research, there are currently about 64,000 public charging stations worldwide right now:
Since the EVSE industry has become more dependent on private rather than public investment, innovative business models and practices are emerging to make the industry more streamlined, user friendly, and cost-effective. An example is the adoption of Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), a communications standard developed in Europe that allows PEV owners to use service networks of which they are not subscribers. Further innovations include charging optimization software and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies. The advancement of these technological innovations strengthens the business case for the increased adoption of EV technologies and will lay the foundation for future private and public EVSE network deployments.
Of course, the overall number isn't the only thing that matters. Not all charging stations are created equal: Some can handle many cars at once and recharge batteries very quickly (the fastest right now are Tesla's 480-volt, 120kW Superchargers) while some are much slower and can charge only 1 or 2 plug-ins at a time.
According to IHS, the number of these fast-charging stations should reach about 200,000 by 2020. "over 110 times the number of stations that existed as of last year (around 1800). The number of stations is expected to climb to just shy of 6,000 by the end of this year, and to just over 15,000 by the end of 2014."