Rethinking EV Infrastructure

Jan 26, 2019

There are now 19 EV models that go over 200 miles on a charge and there are many more to come. This creates a completely different set of demands for EV charging infrastructure then the direction we were and are going in.

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Because of the distinct nature of electric vehicles (EVs) they are fundamentally different from internal combustion engined (ICE) cars. The change in thinking a person who is going to have to make to make the leap to electric vehicles is that the "gas station" has moved from being away from home to being the place where you park your car the longest and the most consistently. For homeowners that have a garage or carport or driveway their "gas station" goes in your garage, carport or driveway. For an apartment or condo dweller you will need a designated parking spot that you can electrify.

Almost everyone stops driving for a longer period of time at least to sleep. For daily driving the eightish hours of down time and sleep will be more than enough to cover the 32 miles that 97% of us drive each day. A 240v 30 amp access to electricity that we can install at home will be more than enough to provide the electricity that our EVs will need for daily use. The going to the "gas station" is now getting our "gas" from your electric "gas station pump" at home. Maybe you can convince your kids to plug you in, wash your windows and check your tire pressure to turn where you park at home a "full service station."

Since you are getting your electric fuel from home and you always wake-up with a full tank or near full tank of gas you won't need an electric charger / "gas station" unless you need to go longer than the 200+ miles that you have in your battery (think electric gas tank and when you hear "range" think the distance an EV can go on a charger). Since the introduction of the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt, affordable EVs with 200+ miles range, the floor for the minimum range of an EV is going to need to sell into the market will be over 200 miles. This means that a basic EV is going to have near 200 miles range. This has largely already come true. There are 19 models of EVs on the market today with ranges of over 200 miles, and many more 200+ mile EVs are in the pipeline set for production in the next few years. This also means that a base model EV is going to typically have 6 times the range on its batteries than it needs to use in a typical day, which in turn means that you will almost never need to use a charger (electric gas station) outside the one you already have installed at home.

This means that the model of having thousands upon thousands of chargers away from home or the idea of having a one to one swap of gas stations with electric charging locations doesn't work. Ninety seven percent of the time you use your car you won't need a charging station away from your home charger. If you have a gas pump at home and fill up every night you will never need to stop at a gas station away from your house for your daily routine.

Where you will need an electric charger / "gas station" is on long distance trips that are over your vehicles 200 mile range. And for long trips you are going to want something that can charge your car fast. You want to pull in, plug in, charge up and be on your way within an hour or shorter if it can be done. Well, it can be done. Tesla has already built out a charging infrastructure that makes it possible to cross the US, Europe and large parts of China. The other car companies have not invested so much on their DC fast charger networks. One of the problems is that there are three quick charging standards in the US, Chademo championed by Asian countries, CCS championed by US and European manufacturers and Tesla's Supercharger system. Today Tesla's system is the fastest system for charging away from home. CCS in Europe is changing its standard so that it will be able to charge at much faster rates. We are talking in the around 15 minute to 80%, which is crazy fast.

In Europe there is strong governmental leadership to make one standard for all EVs, improve the standard so that it can charge EVs very fast and build out the infrastructure of these super fast chargers. In the United States the government is mostly absent. The automakers other than Tesla do little to nothing to buildout the needed infrastructure under the standards they insisted on. Standards I might add that lead to long waits at the chargers because they are too slow.

In conclusion, the article seems positive, but it fails to point out that with a 200+ mile threshold in range that is upon us now, plans to put in place thousands upon thousands of slow chargers in cities is going to be unnecessary. A 200 mile EV can cross a major city from one suburb all the way to another suburb directly on the other side 4 times or more. Theoretically one well placed DC fast charger location could service an entire city. Practically it would be better to have a few DC fast charger locations available at places of interests to visitors. However, for nearly all EV using commuters the access to DC fast charging in cities won't be necessary since they charge at home. Where chargers are needed mostly are on highways and byways so that EV owners can take their vehicles long distances. And to make that travel tolerable those chargers need to be truly fast DC fast chargers.

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