The first gas-powered vehicle was created in the late 1800s. By 1920, 9 million were on the road. Gas stations needed to be built to accommodate drivers. As a result, nearly 150,000 gas stations were constructed in the last century to serve motorists across the U.S.
William Morrison, a chemist in Des Moines, Iowa, created one of the first electric vehicles (EVs) around the same time as the first gas-powered vehicle. His EV had a top speed of about 14 miles per hour and was roughly two and a half times more expensive than Henry Ford’s Model T. EVs accounted for roughly a third of all vehicles by 1900, but gas vehicles continued to outpace them throughout the 20th century.
A gas shortage around 1970 revived interest in expanded EV manufacturing. In 2000, the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle. Tesla Motors rose to prominence in the 2010s after securing a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy to produce an all-electric, full-size vehicle along with a factory to produce components.
Though there’s been growth in EV adoption rates, there are still challenges. Part of the issue is the complexity of adding more charging infrastructure to the energy grid. More EVs means increased electrical demand in homes, at businesses and along major travel routes.
An EV needs about 350 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy each month, or 4,300 kWh annually. Multiply that by the thousands of EVs a Bloomberg forecast expects by 2030, and it will require massive investments both in charging station infrastructure and to bolster the grid itself.
President Biden’s administration announced an effort earlier this year to accelerate EV adoption across the nation by 2030. The effort includes tax credits for the purchase of EVs and funding programs that support EV charger infrastructure expansion in communities across the nation. Without expanded infrastructure, such as additional generating facilities and upgraded transmission and distribution lines, American EV owners may see long lines to charge their cars or restricted times and locations for a charger.
To help ease concerns about restrictions on charging, the Department of Energy is simultaneously conducting a National Transmission Planning Study. This aims to identify transmission projects that can provide broad benefits to electric customers.
As EVs are more broadly adopted, utilities and customers will need to adapt. Our own electrification team has partnered with and provided support to help businesses in our service territory leverage funding from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program to install EV chargers.
If you’re interested in going electric, check out our EV webpage.
Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in Alliant Energy’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.