Charging ahead

Meet an engineering graduate working on innovations in electric vehicle charging stations.

charing station rendering
Conceptual rendering reimagining existing gas stations as charging hubs for electric vehicles.

Published on Show Me Mizzou Sept. 4, 2023
Story by Kelsey Allen BA, BJ ’10 

Jeffrey Lee
Jeffrey Lee, BS HES ’12, is part of team working on future renewable energy terminals. “It’s not just a charging station,” he says. “What does the community need? Can these spaces also serve them?”

To reach the federal target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the U.S. is going to need a lot more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Mizzou architectural studies graduate Jeffrey Lee, BS HES ’12, just gave the charging infrastructure project a jolt of new energy. With Level Studio co-founders Christopher Taurasi and Lexi White, the team’s EV charging station concept, Electric Oasis, won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s 2023 Forge Prize. Embracing steel as the primary building material, the design reimagines existing gas stations as charging hubs for electric vehicles.

With the shift away from gas-powered vehicles — the goal is to have EVs make up at least 50% of new car sales by 2030 — conventional gas stations could be driven out of business. But half of gas stations are on petroleum-contaminated land that requires stringent remediation. “You can’t just demo and rebuild,” Lee says. The studio’s design features “tree-like” steel canopies that integrate into their foundation an innovative remediation aeration system that eliminates ethanol contamination that would typically render such sites unusable.

The concept also addresses the lengthy EV charging process. Filling a tank of gas usually takes around five to 10 minutes, whereas the time required for an EV to reach a full change can take up to 4 1/2 hours. “Our solution was to create more spaces — to reimagine the typology from what you know now as the gas station to something that’s more of a destination,” Lee says. “The design is modular, so it can be adapted to different sites.” 

For example, an Electric Oasis in a small farming town in California might feature a health care clinic and a day care with canopies designed to provide shade. The canopies at a charging station in Seattle might collect rainwater and services might include different entertainment, dining and retail options. “It’s not just a charging station,” Lee says. “What does the community need? Can these spaces also serve them?”

Lee formed Level Studio in 2021 with Taurasi and White, whom he met in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis. For now, the studio is a side project. “We’re doing this on nights and weekends,” Lee says. During the day, he’s an architectural designer at Davis Brody Bond in New York City. But the team is pursuing leads and is open to partnering with interested fabricators or development teams to bring their Electric Oasis design to life.

To read more articles like this, become a Mizzou Alumni Association member and receive MIZZOU magazine in your mailbox. Click here to join.

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.