If 95% of Charging Happens at Home or Work, Do Public Chargers Matter?

CC BY-SA 2.0. Glen Wallace

Yes, yes, they do. Here's why.

I've written many times about the fact that I do the vast majority of my charging at home. This latter tendency appears to be in keeping with the norm, as analysis from Transport & Environment shows that in Europe and the UK at least a whopping 95% of electric car charging happens either at home or in the workplace.

So, if most of us charge at home or work most of the time, do we need public charging at all?

I come down firmly on the side of the fact that we do. Indeed, I've written before about how—thanks to a growing network of public charging options—my Nissan Leaf goes further now than when I bought it. Even though I do plug in at home most of the time, the mere existence of public charging networks increases my comfort with which journeys I can take without opting for a switch to our family's (partially) gas-powered other vehicle.

It also tends to be the first question would-be electric car drivers ask me: Where can I charge up and what happens if I get stranded? In my experience, it's only after several months of living with their new vehicle that they realize how rarely they actually end up having to plug in.

That said, I don't want to paint the case for electric vehicle charging as being solely a psychological crutch. Because the way we use our electric cars is about to change dramatically. As truly long range electric cars become more commonplace, and as the customer market expands to include folks who may not have a dedicated driveway for home charging, electric cars will no longer be primarily used as the second car and/or urban runaround.

While early electric car trips were the preserve of the brave or the foolish, the increasing prevalence of 200+ mile range cars will mean demand for charging options outside the home, and at faster speeds, will inevitably rise too.

I guess the biggest takeaway from the Transport and Environment analysis is not whether we do or don't need public charging. It's simply that many more of us could be driving electric cars today with almost zero inconvenience, and that buys us time to expand charging infrastructure as adoption rates take off.