Future Electric Vehicle Charging Demand at Highway Rest Areas and Implications for Renewable Energy Penetration in California

California has goals to rapidly expand electric vehicle adoption, with executive orders calling for 1.5 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2025 and 5 million by 2030. Significant charging infrastructure will be needed to support these new vehicles. While many urban areas in California have prioritized construction of charging stations, most rural areas lack charging infrastructure. This deficit hinders electric vehicle adoption in rural areas and makes long distance electric vehicle travel difficult.

To address this issue, Caltrans has begun investing in charging infrastructure in rural and underserved areas around the state, particularly at highway rest areas. However, an understanding of potential future intercity charging demand will be needed to inform continued investments in support of a growing electric vehicle fleet.

This policy brief summarizes findings from researchers at the University of California, Davis, who collected state travel data and electricity demand data to run a model that identified optimal highway rest areas for electric vehicle charger installation and calculated how an increase in charging demand would affect the California electricity grid at selected highway locations. The project aimed to maximize the use and generation of solar and wind energy, while also increasing electric vehicle adoption and mobility in the state.