A few years ago the term range anxiety hadn’t been invented. Now, it’s impossible to talk about electric vehicle charging without mentioning it. The fear that your car’s battery might not have enough power to make it to your destination, leaving you stranded has got many people feeling anxious. Talk of wind speed calculations and how many hills you’ll encounter could turn this into a full-blown meltdown. Fear not, though because technological advances will turn your EV charging fears into cheers. Allow us to explain as we delve deep into the future of EV charging infrastructure.
EV CHARGING STATIONS
Tesla put EVs on the map and today there are over a million EVs on the road in the US. By 2030 that number is expected to jump to 15 million. In 2018 there were 20,000 charging stations with a quarter of them based in California. There was a good reason to be anxious. However, the next five years will see explosive growth in charging stations, with the global EV charging market expected to have a 30.41 billion dollar value by 2023. That growth will result in far less fossil fuel usage but far greater electricity usage which also raises a lot of questions. Thankfully, advances in charging technology are keeping pace with EV and charging demand. Here’s how:
BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE
Home charging is fairly straightforward. The homeowner sees an additional cost on their electricity bill and pays it as normal. However, for firms with a lot of employees that need to charge their cars or are reliant on a large fleet of cars for business, the cost of charging is a major issue.
In the form of tariffs, demand charges from utility companies are currently priced at over $15 per kilowatt. A demand charge is applied at a rate equal to peak 15-minute energy usage during a billing cycle. A DC fast charger can increase your peak demand usage by the rated output of the charger. For example, a $20 demand charge on a 50kW fast charger will result in an extra $1000 per billing cycle. That’ll add up, especially when businesses with large fleets of vehicles or hundreds of employees are charging their cars at once.
A battery energy storage solution, such as that provided by EVESCO, takes the heavy load during peak energy usage times, usually during regular working hours. Doing so smooths out the energy spikes that cause the most damage to load profile, aka your electricity bill. Other high contributors to this would be heating and cooling costs, lighting, and tech usage (computers, servers, etc.).
The reason battery energy storage works so well is because they are charged during off-peak times when demand is less and the peak tariff charges don’t apply. Think of it as going to a sporting event, but instead of buying food at extortionate prices from a concession stand during the game, you bring your own food with you.
Sizing up the right size battery energy storage system for your business can be a complex undertaking. At EVESCO we can help you find the right one for your needs.
WIRELESS EV CHARGING
It almost sounds too good to be true — being able to wirelessly charge a car the same way as you would a phone. It is possible, though, with a few modifications.
As the power goes up, a number of additional factors need to be considered, such as thermal losses and thermal management,” Michael Rai Anderson, CEO of Plugless Power told Power Electronic News. “The higher the inefficiency and the higher the power, the higher the heat losses and more that must be done to manage that heat.”
Unlike a smartphone which can be placed directly on a wireless charger, a car is a different animal or rather electronic device, that requires considerably more power. This brings into question environmental concerns as well as cost. To make EV charging possible requires the following:
• An additional charger integrated into the vehicle (increasing vehicle cost).
• Wireless chargers integrated into public places (at a considerable cost).
• Decreasing the distance between the charger (interface with the transmitter antenna) and the car to increase efficiency.
Many car and EVSE manufacturers such as Genesis/WiTricity, DKE and Project STILLE (Germany), and CATARC (China) are working on wirelessly car charging technology. It’s no longer restricted to science fiction. In fact, it’s already here. Perfecting it is all that stands in the way of its widespread availability.
MEGAWATT CHARGING SYSTEMS (MCS)
If you have a hard time understanding how a heavy-duty truck or bus is expected to power its way across the country using an electric charge, read on.
The answer lies with High Power Charging, or MegaWatt Charging, as it is also known. To make a MCS a reality, and not just a concept, the following factors need to be addressed:
- Implementing large capacity EV batteries and increased charging power through larger cables.
- Facilitating manual charging by the customer/driver.
- Making the operation completely safe, despite the high amounts of charge being transferred.
- Make charging fast and efficient (fast charging should take between 15-20 minutes for 1MW of power).
- Allow fast-charging stations to charge several vehicles at once.
As part of the global shift towards electrification, the US government is throwing its weight behind MW Charging, supporting non-profit company CharIN — a leader in this field — who recently announced the opening of its first electric truck charging site in Portland, Oregon.
Megawatt charging technology is also being adapted to light electric airplanes, ferries, and other marine vessels. Battery energy storage will be essential with the introduction of Megawatt charging to help deal with the high peak electricity demand on the grid.
MOBILE EV CHARGING
Mobile electric vehicle charging includes portable chargers, charging vans or trailers, and temporary chargers, Think of them as chargers that can be moved and do not require any permanent charging infrastructure. With mobile electric vehicle charging, you can bring the charging to where the vehicles are, this is ideal for a number of applications including charging in a car dealership and recovery vehicles with mobile charging for drivers who have run out of battery on the road.
Mobilis TBI in the Netherlands introduced a completely off-grid mobile electric vehicle charging station which they use at locations with no electric grid infrastructure. The charging station consists of a large array of lead acid batteries, a bio-fuel generator, solar panels, and wind turbines. The system can be moved from location to location depending on charging requirements.
AUTONOMOUS EV CHARGING
This is another concept seemingly plucked from the future and put into the present day. Although autonomous and wireless charging are somewhat interchangeable, the difference between them is that wireless charging usually requires some kind of input from the driver of the vehicle, such as parking over a charging pad. Autonomous charging, though, as the name suggests, is done completely automatically, without the driver’s input.
Israeli firm, Electreon Wireless has been installing charging plates under the asphalt on a $2Km stretch of road, allowing an electric bus to charge on the move. Car parks are also a great place to install autonomous charging pads beneath the asphalt along with home garages.
German tech giant Siemans recently debuted their autonomous charging system for all-electric vehicles with a standardized CCS charging connector. It relies on a robotic charger automatically connecting to the car — a process that takes about a minute.
“Automatic charging is especially important for autonomous vehicles; that is, cars that operate without human drivers,” said Stefan Perras of the Siemens Technology research unit. While it will be a few years until driverless cars are on public roads, they are already used in some capacity in container port loading areas. Siemens technology could be adapted quite quickly as an aid for disabled drivers who might not be able to get out of their cars to manually charge them.
The current challenge for autonomous/wireless (inductive) charging concerns its speed. It currently lags far behind conductive high-speed charging that uses cables. For this reason, robotic chargers might prove a more viable autonomous public charging option for the near future.
As the electrification of our roads takes hold, more efficient EV charging infrastructure will inevitably evolve as well. In turn, cars and our whole road system are likely to evolve, with automated and wireless charging devices likely seen and unseen all around us. Evolving along with it will be the cost of this additional electricity. Battery energy storage solutions will not simply become an option but a necessity as the world looks for an affordable way to ween itself off its reliance on fossil fuels.