CHICAGO (CBS) — Electric vehicles have become much more popular among environmentally conscious drivers, but fast-charging stations remain too few and far between for many drivers to reliably travel long distances.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole hit the road with Adam Fendelman, a kind of gadget head addicted to his electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3.
“The battery is the entire floorboard of the car, so it’s hidden. You never see it,” Fendelman said.
The web designer travels barely five miles to work and charges his battery for several hours every week-and-a-half.
“I was driving a 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass for nine years,” he said. “It had no airbags, terrible gas efficiency.”
Recently, Fendelman did something many electric vehicle drivers are reluctant to try. He logged more than 1,000 long-distance miles road tripping from Chicago to Nashville to St. Louis and back.
Along the way, he relied on super charger stations, capable of providing an 80% battery charge in about 40 minutes.
“There’s this concept called range anxiety where it’s like your car is going to run out of energy, and then I’m going to be stuck,” Fendelman said. “But it’s the same thing as gas. You don’t want to run out of gas, and if you’re running out of gas, go to a gas station. The difference with this is, go to a charging station.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are roughly 68,800 charging units at approximately 20,000 charging stations across the country. However, only about 16% — or 10,860 — are fast-charging units, which make long-distance travel easier.
That’s why, even though electric sales in the U.S. last year reached a record 361,000 cars, they still represent only 2% of all cars on the road.
“If we are going to have many more electric vehicles, we need to have many more charging stations,” said Illinois Institute of Technology professor Mohammad Shahidehpour, director of the Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation. “It’s a chicken and egg issue.”
Shahidehpour said the government and automakers both need to invest in fast-charging infrastructure to fuel more electric vehicle sales.
“I have a strong feeling that the charging stations do have to come first in order to convince the public,” he said.
The software in Fendelman’s Tesla routes him to super charger stations along the way from one long-distance destination to the next. Tesla currently operates 12 such stations in Chicago, and seven more will come online in the coming months.
It’s a lifestyle miles away from Fendelman’s merry old Oldsmobile, but now he’s charged up.