"Really, the weakest link right now in terms of EV adoption and relating that to the grid is getting people to understand charging," said Dustin Krause, head of e-mobility for Volkswagen of America and a former Tesla executive. "I think we're going to that marketplace over the long horizon where people are going to be buying electric vehicles because the benefits of EVs are going to become so apparent — it's like broadband compared to dial-up."
Even if EV penetration begins to expand far more quickly than it has, Krause says that all of those plugs aren't likely to overload the grid for one simple reason.
"People forget that most EVs aren't going to be charging from 0 to 100 percent every night. Because of the way people drive, they're only going to have to replenish 30 or 40 miles," Krause said. "They're mostly just topping off, so I think we'll be OK."
For EV buyers who can't charge at home, finding a plug will need to become as easy as finding a pump has been.
A number of companies are building local, regional and national charging networks of various types and speeds.
Krause, whose current and former employer have both made staggeringly large bets on the future of EVs, said automakers have been working with U.S. utility companies for years to make sure they're ready for what's coming, and in doing so, automakers have found an eager partner.
"Utility companies realize that this is their chance to be ExxonMobil," he said. "They've been very involved with us. Basically, the biggest thing they're worried about is: How much and how fast?"
"And frankly," added Krause, "that's the question we all have."