President Obama is making it a little easier for electric car owners to make cross-country drives.
The White House said Thursday that it's officially designating 48 U.S. interstates as electric vehicle charging corridors, meaning drivers on those highways will be able to expect charging stations every 50 miles or so.
The routes will have signs pointing drivers to nearby charging points, just as drivers of traditional cars currently benefit from highway signs notifying them of gas stations ahead. The new signs cover roughly 25,000 miles of roadway and will eventually be posted in 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Obama administration.
Here's a map of the EV charging corridors.
One of the biggest barriers to electric car adoption, analysts say, is "range anxiety" — the fear of being unable to recharge an EV's battery while out and about. For commuters who can plug in their cars every night, this is less of a problem. But for long-haul drives, the uncertainty can be crippling. Volkswagen's e-Golf, Chevrolet's Spark and BMW's i3 all travel roughly 80 miles on a single charge. Newer mainstream vehicles such as Tesla's Model 3 and Chevy's Bolt EV can deliver more than twice that, but those vehicles have yet to hit the market. Other, more capable models exist, but are largely out of reach of regular consumers.
Thursday's announcement doesn't just cover electric vehicles. It also identifies several interstates as refueling corridors for cars that run on hydrogen, propane and natural gas.
But the initiative primarily targets electric vehicles as more automakers have begun competing to produce a mainstream, affordable electric car.
"The Obama administration’s continued efforts to increase accessibility to electric vehicle charging at our highways, homes, and businesses will help speed our transition to a 21st century clean transportation system,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club's Electric Vehicles Initiative.
Some of the world's biggest companies have agreed to support the EV charging corridors. They include BMW, General Electric, General Motors, Nissan and PG&E, among others. In addition, the Department of Transportation is expected to produce two studies on charging technology, one of which will aim to determine how many charging stations the country needs for a fully fledged EV charging network.
While consumers may be relatively slow to adopt electric cars in their own garages, businesses nationwide are thinking ahead. Companies such as Ford and Uber view electric vehicles as an energy-efficient way to support ride-hailing and shared car usage, for example. With the advent of wireless electric charging, vehicle fleets could someday be able to refuel themselves without any human intervention at all.