April 4, 2023

A Bright Future for EVs if Enough Electricians Can Be Found


6 Min. Read

Electrical contractors have every reason to feel optimistic about their future.

The shift to renewable energy sources and electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing demand for their services, particularly for those skilled workers knowledgeable about EV charging stations, battery storage, and green energy.

In fact, the government projected strong employment growth of 7% from 2021 to 2031 for electricians. Auto market trends, the pending retirement of many experienced electrical contractors, and government incentives to build out a charging infrastructure are fueling substantial demand for those first entering the field and those with more experience to master the latest skills.

EV Adoption Grows in Various Market Segments

A massive driver for electrician demand is the bright future for EVs. The list of automakers committed to transforming their production lines to deliver exclusively EVs by 2035 keeps growing. General Motors, Jaguar, Lexus, Volvo, Lotus, Audi Bentley, and BMW’s Mini are some of the auto brands committed to going all-electric by 2035.

This transition to electric autos and trucks was slow initially but is now driven by mandates in various jurisdictions, such as California, where the only new automobiles sold as of 2035 will be electric or zero-emission models.

The American vehicle market is largely divided between light-duty vehicles versus medium or heavy-duty ones, principally in commercial use. Currently, 91% of EVs on US roads are light-duty, i.e., conventional vehicles, SUVs, and pickup trucks with gross vehicle weights (GVWR) below 10,000 lbs.

Several new EVs in that market segment debuted in recent years. For those assuming EVs are out of their budget, automakers have indicated affordable models are coming soon with the potential to entice more people to consider buying an EV, especially if they are aware of government and utility financial incentives, vehicle efficiency, and the lower long-term ownership costs delivered.

In 2023, vehicles hitting showroom floors include the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Ariya, and Chevy Blazer. GM aims to have 20 EVs in the marketplace soon. In 2024, their Buick line will revamp its Electra brand, now in an electric car. Ford and other automakers are also planning to launch new models.

While the segmented EV market focused mainly on light-duty vehicles for years, more vehicles with higher GVWRs and carrying capacity are debuting. The medium-duty Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup truck is expected to compete with the instantly popular Ford F-150 Lightning EV. Ram plans to launch their full-sized electric pickup next year.

Larger, heavy-duty trucks (a GVWR over 26,001 lbs) have different requirements for power, charging, and reliability. The biggest hurdle to broader adoption is range limitations. Many semis traverse thousands of miles between refueling stops, but EV heavy-duty trucks do not achieve more range than today’s electric autos.

Accordingly, that range capacity limits their utilization to regional or urban distribution routes. Several companies, including Anheuser-Busch and Walmart, are testing heavy-duty EVs or have placed orders for them. Freightliner, Kenworth, BYD, and Peterbilt already offer battery-powered semis in the US. Volvo is currently selling medium-duty battery-powered trucks and is already accepting orders for three types of heavy-duty electric trucks it plans to begin producing this fall.

Electric buses are also being adopted slowly. Almost 500 school districts in 39 states employed or ordered electric school buses as of September 2022. This is an 86% increase in districts over the summer of 2021; however, this is a small portion of districts nationwide and half of those are in EV-friendly California.

Various government efforts are also boosting the use of EVs and other zero-emission vehicles in their fleets. The federal government announced plans to buy only electric light-duty vehicles by 2027 and nothing but EVs in all vehicle classes by 2035. A dozen states have also increased their EV purchasing.

EV Market Growth Creates Demand for Charging Infrastructure

Fueling the estimated 26.4 million EVs projected to be on US roads by 2030 will require approximately 12.9 million charging ports. Early adopters heavily relied on charging at home, but that isn’t a solution in heavily populated urban areas or along heavily traveled longer stretches of highway.

Currently, the U.S. has about 140,000 public EV chargers at about 53,000 charging stations. This is a relatively small fraction (38%) of the 145,000 gasoline fueling stations throughout the country. Considering that filling up an EV battery takes considerably more time than filling a gas tank, there is undoubtedly a need for more chargers than the current supply of gas station pumps.

Three different types of charger installations are used to charge electric cars:

  • Level 1 chargers plug directly into standard residential outlets so they are used for home charging. However, it can take all day to charge an EV at a rate of 2 to 5 miles or range added per hour.
  • Level 2 chargers are the most heavily deployed public charging stations. They account for about 80% of US public charging outlets. They typically add about 25-60 miles of range per hour of charging. Many homeowners with EVs have upgraded their electric panels or circuits to install a Level 2 charger, which requires a 240-volt outlet, at home.
  • DC fast chargers account for about 15-18% of public charging outlets in the US. At 400 kW, they charge at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per minute. Fast chargers require direct current, which is not available in more residential areas, so they require specialized electrical installations in more commercial locations.

There were an estimated 42,000 public Level 2 and DC fast charging outlets accessible in the US as of May 2021. An Electric Transportation Community Development Corporation report illustrated the sizable workload for electricians in this arena. They estimate the buildout of a national network of 500,000 EV fast chargers by 2030 will require about 28,950 job years.

Extrapolating to 12.9 million charge ports suggests a staggering requirement of 405,000 job years. These are conservative estimates. Some experts believe that if half of all vehicles sold are EVs by 2030—in line with federal targets— the U.S. will need about 1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private ones by then.

Currently, most charging stations are in higher-income areas. 70% of survey respondents who don’t own EVs said their areas lack access to EV charging stations. Future charger installations need to be in areas accessible at all income levels to make EV ownership more practical.

Constraint Caused by Shortage of Skilled Electricians

With robust forecasts of the bright future for EVs, an accelerated demand for building out a charging infrastructure highlights a bright future for electrical contractors; however, one blockage must be overcome — the shortage of skilled electricians.

State regulations require skilled electricians to install Level 2 and DC fast chargers. The supply and demand for electricians, however, are extremely mismatched. In 2022, there was an estimated 81,922 electrician jobs posted and unfilled throughout the US. Factors exacerbating the electrician shortage include the retirements of skilled Baby Boomer electricians and a need for young adults to train for those jobs.

What Qmerit is Doing to Help

At Qmerit, we are here to help building and business owners, property managers, homeowners, and others join the energy transition by implementing sustainable electrical solutions and leveraging our network of local contractors to do so.

As the nation’s leader in installing Level 2 charging stations, Qmerit is working hard to resolve the electrician shortage by creating solutions, establishing training, and offering resources for electricians. The Qmerit team has helped contractors in adopting best practices for hiring apprentice and journeyman electricians.

Qmerit also advises contractors in training and retaining skilled electricians. Through the Qmerit Resource Center or QRC, and a Certified Solutions Partner (CSP) program, Qmerit allows electrical contractors to learn new techniques in electrification technologies.

Through continued and in-depth training, expert tutorials, technical guides, and updates on the latest electrification trends and technologies, electrical contractors are able to bolster their electrification- and EV-specific abilities to meet the demand for new EV charging infrastructure. We also provide business coaching workforce development for electrical contractors.

To open up a new customer base for your electrical contracting company, provide the needed training and resources, and make you a leader in your local market, contact Qmerit today.

Author: David Santillo

David Santillo

Senior Vice President, Contractor Support