Carnegie Melon Says Limited Residential Parking Will Ultimately Hinder EV Adoption


Carnegie Mellon researchers say that limited residential parking may be what ultimately hinders the adoption of electric vehicles.

Don't Even Think of Parking to Charge Here

Don’t Even Think of Parking to Charge Here

Elizabeth Traut, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, Jeremy Michalek, a professor of mechanical engineering and public policy, and Chris Hendrickson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon put their collective heads together to analyze the overall parking and charging picture for electric vehicles in the US.

Their findings suggest that “most car-buyers will expect to have reliable daily access to a charger before investing in an EV,” but that it’s not actually possible for roughly 60% of the US population to gain easy daily access to a residential charger.

Michalek states:

“About 40 percent of U.S. households have an existing electrical outlet near a parking space suitable for charging a low-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle overnight, but many households own multiple vehicles — often without enough garage or off-street parking for all of their vehicles.”

Here's a Solution

Here’s a Solution

Michalek adds:

“On the whole, less than half of U.S. vehicles have dedicated off-street parking at an owned residence in a location suitable for installing a charger.  That means if we want more than half of the vehicles on the road to be electric, we’re going to need major changes in residential parking — and that doesn’t happen quickly.”

Meanwhile, Traut says this:

“Analysts have ignored the barrier that parking may present to electric vehicle adoption.  We’ve seen studies that predict EV adoption as high as 80 percent by 2030. But to sell that many EVs we would not only need to make them less costly and more attractive to consumers — we would also need to address parking.

“Even if everyone wanted and was willing to pay for EVs, we couldn’t convert the whole fleet without major infrastructure changes.  Landlords have little incentive to invest in chargers that only some of their tenants may use, and homeowners simply don’t have enough dedicated parking spaces to charge all of their vehicles.”

Hendrickson joins the conversation with this statement:

“The bottom line, is that we are ready for many households to adopt some EVs now, but we should not expect EVs to dominate the market any time soon.  They will more likely be part of a diverse transportation strategy in the future. If we want EVs to be a larger part of our future transportation solution, we need to be thinking now about parking and charging availability. Incentivizing landlords, where appropriate, and designing adequate parking and charging capability in new construction would be a start.”

We get the point and, on several of the topics discussed, we actually agree.  We’ve heard countless stories now where those who reside in multi-unit dwellings can’t get access to a charger and this is certainly a problem. So, yeah, we should start thinking about how to address this issue.  Some have stated that we need to band together and push for change at the grassroots level.  Others think the state and federal governments need to step in.  One thing is for certain, this limited parking/charging issue will eventually need to be addressed.

Source:  Carnegie Mellon University

Category: Charging

21 responses to "Carnegie Melon Says Limited Residential Parking Will Ultimately Hinder EV Adoption"
  1. kdawg says:

    Maybe by the time plugs reach 5-10% of the market, we will have chargers (wireless?) in a lot more public places. The question is when will this happen, and in the chicken/egg scenario, who goes first.. EV’s or chargers. I think we have at LEAST10 years before we reach this level of sales.

  2. Anon says:

    Pittsburgh parking in areas like Libertyville, are pretty sketchy. Street parking is so rare, the locals have developed (now a multi-generational tradition), a technique to place a territorial claim called, “Chairing”. It is more commonly done after shoveling out a space in winter, and making sure no one else benifits from your efforts, after you leave. People who mess with someone else’s chair, risk physical retrobution. Hillsides are literally covered in chairs during work hours.

    I can’t see an easy solution for potential EV owners who live in such areas.

    1. Jeff D says:

      This could be where wireless charging comes in. Your chairs, your charger and parking space. I suppose it would work for wired chargers as well. Maybe they would be put in by a joint city and property owner plan.

    2. Independent Observer says:

      Speaking of snow, how would the on street chargers hold up to snow plows that throw snow against them? I have seen parking meters get beat bad in Wisconsin. The snow states will have problems in winter. Many apartment complexes hire a non-professional snow removal guy who happens to have a plow on a truck. Their goal is to push snow around so people can resonably park and walk. They work fast as they generally have a number of parking lots on their dance card. I don’t think these guys are going to work delicately around charging stations. When a charger is in your garage, or even if it is on the outside of your house, you will take care not to damage. Not sure how chargers built into the road bed of a parking space would work and layers of snow, salt or ice. How would they work with ice/snow build up under the car?

      1. kdawg says:

        Ice/snow has no effect on wireless chargers.

  3. Malcolm Scott says:

    Same here in Melbourne Australia. I’ve been looking for a rental property from inner CBD up to 1 hr train travel away. In a locality where solar pv penetration is 12% of eligible buildings, I’ve been surprised as to how few rental properties have solar PV (probably no more than 6 across the entire city). Tenants are clearly missing out on the benefits that home owners have.

    Even brand new apartment buildings do not have electricity outlets near the parking spaces, let alone provision for connection back to the apartment’s smart meter. 1000GB fibre to the premises Internet connections and large spaces to lock up your bicycles on common areas in these new places, but no thought for future proofing the enablement of EVs. Leaf’s and the like you would have thought might be the choice of inner city dwellers.

    Only last week I attended a presentation given by Riccardo Pagliarella Environmental Policy Manager at Toyota Australia. The subject was EV charging technology. The take home points he left us to think about was, Fast DC charging has it’s purposes and place in the infrastructure, but if you had money to invest in enabling more EVs, is more Fast DC charging the way to go? More residential and L2 charging capability was very much his message and for many good practical reasons.

    1. kdawg says:

      And all you really need is L1 charging for overnight parking. The cost of one L3 DC charger would probably pay for twenty L1 charging spaces. (i just made that # up)

  4. Brian says:

    While these hurdles are certainly interesting, we need to pick our battles. I would love for EVs to be so successful that this is what holds them back, but we just aren’t there yet.

    I also wonder if by the end of the decade, there could be other solutions to this problem. Here are a couple that might work:

    1) Workplace charging is so common that many of these people don’t have to charge up at home
    2) DC quick charging is so common that you can top off the car on the go
    3) Batteries get more energy dense, so that charging needs to happen less frequently (e.g. once per week), making (1) and (2) less of a hassle, but also reducing the number of on-street spots that require charging infrastructure.

    1. sven says:

      Why wouldn’t you pick this battle? Excluding 60% of the U.S. population from ever considering purchasing an EV is one of the biggest hurdles to increasing EV adoption.

      1. Brian says:

        Because today EV sales are still less than 1% of new cars. I’m all for preparing for the future, but this isn’t what is holding back EV sales in 2013. IMHO, education is the #1 barrier to EV sales. People don’t really know what to expect from an EV, so even though 40% of the US population could buy and benefit from an EV today, very few of them are biting.

        1. Assaf says:

          Brian, take a 2x +1 from me! Nicely summed up on both comments.

          1. Rick says:

            Brian, education is not the #1 barrier to EV sales, battery cost is. Car buyers aren’t as ignorant as you think. Once battery costs come down to a point where EVs are cost competitive with ICE cars, the charging issue will have already been solved by quick charging and denser batteries, since those things have to happen for EVs to be cost competitive.

            1. Assaf says:

              Rick, here’s a news flash:

              The cost-of-ownership for a 3-year Nissan Leaf is lower than pretty much any comparable new ICE car. Here’s the math for you:


              And in states like Georgia, California and Colorado(?) with substantial state rebates, the 3-year cost-of-ownership for a Leaf is probably lower than *any* ICE car, no matter how old.

              There’s a reason why Atlanta is now the Leaf’s #1 market despite not being well-known for “green consumer fads”.

              1. Assaf says:

                I meant, a lease-based 3-year cost. Which is now nearly all EV drivers get their EVs nowadays.

      2. JakeY says:

        “Excluding 60% of the U.S. population from ever considering purchasing an EV is one of the biggest hurdles to increasing EV adoption.”
        It’s actually not a hurdle preventing EV adoption at this point. The big hurdle is convincing the 40% that COULD use an EV today to buy one. When we saturate that market (we are far from that point right now) we can start worrying about the ones that can’t. And the thing about public infrastructure is the chicken and egg problem (property owners won’t install chargers without enough demand). With 40% being EVs, then it makes more sense to install chargers.

        An analogy is the hybrid market. People keep saying it would save the most gas to convince truck/SUV buyers to switch to hybrids. However that strategy has failed miserably for automakers that tried. It makes much more sense to saturate the sedan market first (where people are willing to buy hybrids).

        For similar reasons, I don’t like the current focus on “city car” EVs by the large automakers. I think they should target those living in the suburbs and commuting rather than those in the city.

      3. sven says:

        I never said it was the biggest hurdle (“#1 hurdle”), but I did say it was one of the biggest hurdles.

        You’re saying the biggest hurdle is “educating” (Brian) or “convincing” (JakeY) the 40% about the benefits of EVs. I agree. But by expanding the pool of potential EVs purchasers would only increase the adoption rate by increasing the number of people educated or converted about the benefits of EVs. For example, if it became possible for 80%, rather than only 40%, of the US population to gain easy daily access to a residential charger then the EV adoption rate would be DOUBLE what it was when only 40% of the population has easy access. In other words a 1% adoption rate turns into a 2% adoption rate, 2% -> 4%, 5% -> 10%, 10% -> 20%, 20% -> 40%, etc. You’d just be “educating” or “convincing” a larger population.

        People also move fairly often. Why buy an EV if there is a 60% chance you won’t have residential charging in your home?

        Also think about demographics of the 60% who don’t have residential charging. The 60% are people who don’t own in a single family home with a garage. If they are young adults (Millennials) just starting to live on their own, they likely have to rent an apartment or buy a condo with parking space. Don’t you want their first new car purchase to be an EV? The 60% probably also includes a lot of empty nesters who downsized from a single family house to a condo or apartment. If they drove an EV when they owned their old house, do you think they would want to go back to driving an ICE? I also suspect that the 60% might tend to be less affluent than the 40% who have access to residential charging. Thus, if the 60% had access to a residential plug they would be more inclined to buy a pre-owned or used EV to cut their commuting/driving expenses.

        1. JakeY says:

          Sure, but how is an automaker going to solve that parking problem and how much money would need to be spent (either by them or the government)? Right now the 40% of the market is low hanging fruit and if they focus their attention on that I think they will get much better results than doing a so-so job of addressing both markets (that’s my criticism of the “city car” approach). I think as the market with residential parking gets saturated, it’ll naturally follow that more chargers will get built privately.

  5. sven says:

    “Analysts have ignored the barrier that parking may present to electric vehicle adoption.”

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  6. Car2Go has a fleet of 300 Smart EVs in San Diego that park mostly on the street with a predefined area. (Portland, OR also has a Car2Go fleet of 100+ Smart EVs)

    It would be interesting to hear from Car2Go about the practicality of non-dedicated (residential) EV charging and issues they may of had to overcome?

    As street lights are converted to LED lighting (saving power), one possibility is adding plugs to (or near) the light polls for overnight charging. It will likely be a few years before there are more EVs than there are parking places near light poles.

  7. Bill Howland says:

    I’m glad that we have two big experts figure out collectively that people will only buy a BEV if they can be reasonably assured of someplace to recharge their dead batteries.

  8. Nix says:

    There are what, about 150,000 EV’s in the US today, out of something crazy like 300 million cars. We are so far from even 1% penetration rate that it isn’t even funny (that would be something like 3 million, and we haven’t even hit 300K yet.). So worrying about approaching even 20% market penetration is silly at this point. It is a very long term problem at this point that we could only WISH that we had right now!

    With that said, people aren’t locked into their houses for life. They move. One of the things they consider when they move is whether or not their new house/apt/condo will suit all their needs. At a certain level, people who want to own EV’s and PHEV’s will solve this problem by self-selecting to live in the 40% of properties that will allow charging, or will either fix for themselves (or with the help of their landlords) whatever problem is keeping them from charging at any particular property. Again, this is a long term problem, not a short term problem, so this doesn’t have to happen today.

    Landlords aren’t stupid. They will soon realize that EV charging will draw in better renters who are more responsible with their money. (Did I just make a massive generalization? Yes I did. Deal with it.) Landlords who want to attract these renters will spend what is needed to attract them, and will charge rents appropriate for the amenities they offer — like access to EV chargers. If there is a demand, the market will follow, changing that ratio. Again, this is long term, measured in years, not months or weeks.

    Same with jobs. Ditto everything I said about landlords. Not all bosses are stupid (or screen scrape everything you type at work Hi Boss!!). There will be more chargers at work for the same reasons.

    We have the first generation of EV’s today, with the short ranges that come with them. That is not going to stay the same forever. If EV ranges are more like the range of the Model S over time, you no longer need to charge every day just to drive your typical 35 miles to work and back (plus some errands). At some point, charging just once a week and on long trips becomes acceptable, so you don’t need a charger in front of every home. It becomes more like the gas station model, where we don’t all need a gas station at home. Just pay to charge at the grocery store while you shop, or a restaurant while you eat, the mall, at work, etc. The latest Tesla chargers they are getting ready to install next year are already leaps and bounds beyond the old public chargers available for EV’s just 5 years ago. Charging rates and battery capacities aren’t locked in at what they are now, and future advances may all but eliminate the need to ever charge at home. 40% is a very long term problem, and nobody believes that there will be anywhere near 40% market penetration before we hit 2nd gen, 3rd gen, etc. There just isn’t enough capacity to even build enough 1st gen EV’s in that short of time before next gen cars start coming out.

    Of all the things to worry about, this is probably the one thing I’m worried about the least when it comes to EV’s and PHEV’s. Solve for price, solve for range, solve for charging speed, put out EV’s/PHEV’s in all the different categories that there are gas cars, and stuff like this will largely resolve itself over time.