President Joe Biden’s plan to wean U.S. drivers off fossil fuels requires massive investment in public charging stations to power the electric-car revolution. So far, none of the companies that deploy the equipment has figured out how to make a profit. The dilemma boils down to demand, and there’s a certain chicken-and-egg quality to it. Most electric-vehicle drivers charge their cars at home, so many public charging stations get little use. But lots of people still driving gasoline-powered cars won’t consider going electric until they see charging stations widely deployed, for fear that they will run out of juice on the road.

“It’s definitely going to require years of investment before they get any return,” said Chris Nelder, who has studied the economics of charging for the RMI energy research institute.

Slow Growth for Public Chargers

Annual U.S. installations of EV charging stations have risen slowly.

Source: BloombergNEF

Nelder is sure that electric-vehicle charging will eventually be profitable. But when that tipping point will arrive is one of the biggest questions hanging over charging companies.