Energy infrastructure is key to any serious effort to make zero-emission vehicles practical for mass-market car buyers.
The world has spent more than a century building an efficient, global distribution and delivery system for gasoline and diesel fuel, and any new energy source requires the same.
Whether natural gas, hydrogen, or electricity, greener vehicles must have some way to take on new energy supplies that's convenient, easy, and no more costly than liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
We recently surveyed our Twitter followers on their expectations for when a pervasive hydrogen fueling infrastructure would arrive in the U.S.
A stunning 62 percent chose "Never," indicating the general skepticism about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles at least among readers who follow our tweets.
Then, we asked exactly the same question—with the same set of options—for the DC fast-charging networks that will make long-distance trips in battery-electric cars possible.
When will DC fast-charging for all electric cars be available everywhere in the U.S.?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) August 29, 2016
The difference in responses was striking.
Almost half our respondents (48 percent) expect pervasive DC fast-charging to be available 10 years hence, in 2025.
The rest are split equally (23 percent each) between sooner (2020) and later (2030 or after).
And only a mere 6 percent think it will never happen at all.
Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]
The results aren't statistically valid for a whole variety of reasons having to do with who saw the survey and who chose to respond.
But taken at a high level, they do underscore the prevalent belief among electric-car advocates that it will be far easier and cheaper to build a nationwide fast-charging network for electric cars than to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations that covers the same number of zero-emission vehicles.
Part of this is no doubt prompted by a company already having done exactly that.
The Tesla Motors Supercharger network, now operating at up to 145 kilowatts, shows exactly how to roll out a network of fast-charging stations for 200-mile electric cars in less than five years.
Tesla Supercharger network, North American coverage - March 2015
It now covers a majority of North American travel, and the company continues to open new stations and add additional Interstate highway routes to its list.
The challenge for the group of U.S. and German companies that use the competing Combined Charging Standard (CCS) fast-charging standard, also now heading toward 150 kw, will be to figure out who leads—and who pays.