Urban EV fast charging in US cities: What to expect in 2024
What happened in the EV fast charging market in the US in 2023, and what opportunities lie ahead in 2024? We created a first-of-its-kind, geospatial analysis that breaks down the top US cities for EV charging in 2023, details the most popular location types and charging networks, and outlines our projections for 2024.
This analysis focuses on public fast charging in cities, an area that has not received as much attention as corridor-based fast charging or slower types of public charging, where we see opportunity for growth.
While there is strong federal policy momentum for corridor-based fast charging to resolve range anxiety challenges, the same cannot be said yet for cities, which need to rapidly scale fast charging infrastructure to accommodate those living in apartments and increasingly electric taxi fleets.
Looking ahead, we’ll start conversation around what the fast charging industry needs to do better, and provide simple, digestible, and interactive information for users to examine progress and trends in fast charging in their own cities.
Let’s begin with what we see today – what did the urban charging landscape look like by the end of 2023? Using geospatial analysis techniques on publicly available charging data to merge geographic information from the 500-biggest US cities with charger data, we created an enhanced public charging dataset to underpin our insight.
By coding charger location types, where public data frequently has no information, we were able to produce more granular insights into where EV charging is being deployed—creating a tool that reveals growth trends in charging for any city or group of cities.
Read on for our findings from 2023.
Speeding up the growth of fast charging in metro areas
Overall, growth in urban direct-current fast charging (DCFC) in the US was fairly robust in 2023. There are now over 11,000 urban DCFCs in the US, with roughly 3,000 added in 2023 (a 36% growth rate). However, growth was smaller relative to corridor-based (outside of urban areas) DCFC, which grew by nearly 7,000 to over 26,000 stations (also a 36 percent growth rate, but from a larger base).
This growth is inadequate for two reasons. Firstly, EV sales grew by nearly 50 percent in each month, year-over-year, in 2023. And historically, the vast majority of new EVs are registered in urban environments with the top 50 metro areas making up 80 percent of new EV registrations in 2019.1 The same study concluded the top cities contain almost three times the number of EVs as the rest of the country combined. Secondly, EV charging infrastructure must lead EV sales to encourage the next wave of buyers, especially in cities without home charging infrastructure access. While faster EV adoption, relative to fast charger deployment, will improve charging owners’ utilisation and profitability, it will also lead to challenges such as longer wait times and dragging EV adoption in urban charging deserts.
Because of federal funding’s focus on corridors, as well as the relative ease of deployment in non-urban areas (from less-burdensome permitting, for example), there’s an opportunity for the EV charging industry to renew its focus on urban fast charging hubs, in partnership with entities such as rideshare fleets (Revel in New York City and Hertz TNC rentals nationally) and others with growing demand for urban fast charging.
More consistent growth
Of the 10-largest urban areas by installed DCFC stations, Houston, TX (127) and Los Angeles, CA (71) topped the charts for DCFC added in 2023, while other major cities struggled. Chicago, IL managed to add only six DCFC all year, with no progress since August.
Just 29 cities added 25 or more DCFC in 2023. And 224 of the largest 500 US metros failed to add a single DCFC. Both metrics must change drastically to meet local, state, and federal decarbonization goals. Additionally, even in Houston and Los Angeles, growth is highly uneven during the year, driven by a few large sites opening in some months, then seeing many months with little to no growth at all. City planners and utilities can take the initiative to review their cities’ urban DCFC growth pipeline for 2024, and work to remove barriers to the private sector (such as permitting and utility interconnection) while continuing to develop programs, such as make-ready incentives or removal demand charge tariffs, that support the healthy growth of DCFC chargers.
Doubling down on grocery store partnerships
Tesla still dominates the urban DCFC market, with over 7,000 stations (nearly two-thirds of the roughly 11,000 urban DCFC). EVgo holds a distant second place, with nearly 1,400 stations, while no other network eclipses 1,000 urban DCFC.
On a location basis, shopping centers still comprise the plurality of location types (over 3,000), with grocery stores, standalone parking lots, and convenience stores comprising between 500 to 1,000 stations. In urban settings, grocery stores, and to a lesser extent convenience stores, represent a no-brainer use case for apartment dwellers: charge while you shop each week for 30 minutes. The industry can double-down on partnerships with grocery stores in urban areas, especially those with high multi-unit dwelling penetrations. We also see an opportunity for traditionally corridor-focused charging owners, such as Electrify America—which deployed fewer than 100 urban DCFC in 2023—to expand their focus to cities as well.
Grocery store chains can enter the charging ownership game themselves, as Walmart and Meijer have announced, opposed to simply acting as real estate leasing entities to other third parties that own charging infrastructure. This vertical integration will dramatically shorten charger development times, as real estate business development, which can take months to years, will be largely eliminated.
Taking inspiration from small urban areas charger density
While the largest cities understandably dominate DCFC counts, this is mainly due to their high population and real estate footprint. When we normalise for both population and city area, we find that the most EV-charging-friendly cities tend to be small to mid-sized, reflecting the relative capability of these metro areas to deploy scaled infrastructure more quickly. For example, in California, both Santa Monica and Tustin have significantly more chargers per population and area, compared to Los Angeles. New York City has the lowest fast charging infrastructure per population of any of the top 500 metro areas that have more than 50 fast chargers (to remove outliers). Houston sits near the bottom of the rankings in DCFC per area.
The denser the fast charging infrastructure, and the fewer people competing to use such chargers, the more likely it is that prospective buyers will be confident that there are sufficient charging options for them to make the switch to an EV. There is likely a push and a pull driving the lack of charger density: it’s both harder to permit and build things in bigger cities, and there’s also less demand for charging in denser urban cores. Again, cities and utilities should redouble efforts to streamline permitting and interconnection approval.
What to expect next…
While our analysis focuses on urban DCFC, we don’t want to discount the important work being done in the public Level 2 space. But there is an acute challenge. The pace of urban DCFC deployment must accelerate by many times over to support the next wave of EV adoption. Level 2 charging happens much more quickly and has fewer barriers to deployment. Further phases of this analysis will examine the charging landscape according to additional parameters such as utility service territories, Justice40 census tracts, and other variables.
While we observe challenges in the urban DCFC ecosystem today, we remain optimistic. Here’s to a great year of urban charging progress.