New Harvard-MIT Initiative: Driving Towards Seamless Public EV Charging

Widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption is critical to confronting climate change – but a lack of sufficient public charging infrastructure is holding many potential EV drivers back. A team of researchers from Harvard and the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research will work to accelerate progress on public EV charging.

Facilitating the swift and effective rollout of public EV charging in the U.S. and making it seamless for EV drivers to find public charging.

EV drivers want a seamless charging experience, as easy and reliable as finding a gas station. 

While many early adopters can do most of their charging at home, the EV transition requires making charging simple for any vehicle owner and all use cases, including longer road trips. Achieving widespread adoption requires convenient charging for drivers who live in multifamily buildings, rent their homes, or park on the street. Bad experiences with public charging by today’s EV drivers could slow EV adoption, undermining the climate benefits. The stakes are high: light-duty vehicles accounted for 17% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and successful electrification is key to decarbonizing this vehicle category.

The team will drive solutions to EV charging challenges by engaging directly with stakeholders and collaborating with other researchers in the Harvard community. The team will seek to enable EV drivers to find one-stop access to real-time information on public chargers, including locations, charging speed, pricing, and availability by catalyzing information sharing.

The team will also work with experts at Harvard, MIT and beyond to explore additional strategies to accelerate progress on public EV charging, including:

  • Using zoning to stimulate investment in EV charging where drivers live, work, and spend time, by developing and conveying best practices for municipalities.
  • Informing targeted electrical grid investment by evaluating grid impacts of EV charging in the face of conflicting research, rising power demand for both EVs and electrification of heating, offsetting efficiency improvements, and increasing residential solar investments.
  • Designing electricity rate structures to incentivize daytime charging during hours when renewable energy supply is highest and excess power supply is common, thereby driving down the emissions from powering Evs.

The team of Harvard and MIT researchers will collaborate with a broad set of public and private sector stakeholders to identify solutions, agree on ways to remove obstacles, and support progress toward meaningful results that will support EV adoption and the resulting climate benefits.  The project will also identify important questions for further research and spur Harvard and MIT researchers to work on these issues critical to addressing climate change.

Collaborators

  • James Stock, Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability and Director of the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, Harvard University
  • Elaine Buckberg, Senior Fellow, The Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, Harvard University
  • Christopher R. Knittel, George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics, Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, and Deputy Director for Policy, MIT Energy Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology