Working Paper

City charging infrastructure needs to reach 100% electric vehicles: The case of San Francisco

This working paper demonstrates how cities can utilize local data to estimate charging infrastructure needs to plan for the transition to electric mobility. The research quantifies the number, type, and distribution of charging infrastructure needed to support rapid electric vehicle uptake in San Francisco to meet the city’s goal of 100% EV sales by 2030. It also considers additional city-level interventions aiming to reduce personal vehicle travel demand and assesses their impact on the charging infrastructure needs.

The analysis supports the following conclusions:

City electric vehicle goals require substantial charging infrastructure deployment. Achieving a 100% EV sales goal in 2030 could result in more than 170 thousand EVs on San Francisco’s roads that year. Much more charging infrastructure is needed to support these EVs. Publicly accessible charging (i.e., public Level 2, DC fast, and workplace chargers) in San Francisco would need to increase from approximately 800 in 2019 to 2,000 by 2025, and over 5,000 by 2030. This means six times more charging is needed by 2030 from what was installed by the end of 2019. Cities with similar electric vehicle adoption goals likely require similar expansion in the availability of public charging infrastructure.

Access to home charging remains a key pillar in the infrastructure ecosystem. While public and workplace charging options are needed to support mass market adoption, the vast majority of EV charging will continue to be at home if 2020 charging patterns persist. Widespread access to overnight home charging, including at homes, multi-unit dwellings, residential curbsides, and other near-home locations, is key to minimizing public charging demand. This analysis finds that over 90% of the total chargers needed across San Francisco in 2030 are home chargers, and home chargers supply over half of the total EV charging demand. Home chargers are typically the least expensive charger type to install and charge from, and lower-power overnight charging can reduce overall grid upgrade costs and provide demand management flexibility.

Achieving city electric vehicle goals and the associated charging infrastructure will require supporting policy. San Francisco will need to see the deployment of charging continue to increase at about 18% per year through 2030, which is in line with recent charging infrastructure growth rates. Increasingly stronger city policies like EV-ready building codes, streamlined permitting, prioritized zoning, and preferential EV parking can continue to encourage private infrastructure investment and lay the groundwork for widespread EV adoption and infrastructure deployment. Continued public-private collaboration between city agencies, utilities, and charging providers will be essential. Such collaboration is important to identify and address areas that need charging more quickly due to EV demand and to address grid considerations associated with charging behavior and power demand.

Implementing policies to reduce personal vehicle use can be especially important for cities to reduce charging infrastructure needs. The analysis reveals how public EV charging infrastructure needs by 2030 are reduced by 45%, from approximately 5,100 to 2,900 chargers, and annual 2019-2030 public charger growth rate is reduced from 18% to 12% if the city interventions are implemented. Shifting mobility from private vehicle trips to sustainable modes of transport like public transit, reducing trips into the city core through congestion pricing, and equipping curbside parking with EV charging substantially reduce the need for public and workplace chargers. Doing so would require continued collaboration across city agencies to simultaneously support multiple city goals.