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Key considerations for deploying EV infrastructure

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In the first half of this year, sales of electric vehicles (EVs) have reached an all-time record high with over 12,000 in May and almost 12,000 in June. Comparing these numbers to the total plug-in electric vehicles sold in 2013 at 7,500, the current trend is already up 43% in 2014.

As of June 2014, there are 222,245 PEV in the U.S. This number includes BEV (battery operated electric vehicle) and PHEV (Plug-in hybrid vehicle). Joel Pointon, Electric Transportation Program Manger at San Diego Gas & Electric Company, presented these numbers at the Plug-In Conference 2014 in San Jose, CA. While sales and current public adoption of EVs are still low, the infrastructure we are building today is not for the vehicles we have today. Pointon sent out a strong message, saying that, today, we are building the infrastructure for tomorrow, when millions of EVs will run on our roads.

According to wikipedia.org, since 2008 over 226,000 highway-capable plug-in electric cars have been sold in the U.S. through June 2014. California accounts for about one third of U.S. total sales. Further, as of June 2014, the U.S. is the world's leader in plug-in electric car sales with a 45% share of global sales.

The difference in the number may be due to which drivetrains are accounted: The wikipedia sources include plug-in electric vehicle (PEV), all-electric or battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and electric vehicle conversions of both hybrid electric vehicles and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

When focusing on charging infrastructure, we need to look at several elements:

  • Evaluate driving patterns; locations/parking; existing parking utilization; community utilization,
  • The range of vehicle batteries today, as well as, in the future
  • Utilities concerns and challenges (such as developing the capacity to deploy and operate various loads, demand-response, planning and coordination of roll outs, load profiles and patterns, etc.)
  • Regulation - local, state and federal. This includes the existing regulation, as well as local laws that are already in the pipe-line, or new ones.
  • Develop new workable economical business models. The business models would need to address profitability and economies of scale

At the Plug-In Conference, Watson Collins, Business Development Manager at Northeast Utilities, said that most commuters are satisfied with Level 1 & 2 type chargers and these meet their EV ‘juicing’ needs. Charging at home is favored, however commuters need to have the ability to charge their vehicles at the workplace, especially those who live in areas that are out of battery range. In this case, employers can provide several hours of charging, where the employees are ‘stationary’ at work.

However, the picture is different in retail and restaurants; Here, customers park for short time periods while shopping or eating and they do not plan to park their vehicles for many hours. Utilizing Level 1 or 2 charge stations are a challenge here, and therefore, focusing on DC Fast charging in these business sectors may be a solution. On the other hand, fast chargers are more complicated and aren't that easy to implement in comparison to Level 2 (Level 1 is the easiest).

According to Pike Research, at least 1 million electric vehicles will be sold annually around the world by 2017, where that time is predicted to be the tipping point in consumer interest. By 2020, Pike Research estimates more than 1.7 million electric cars for sale per year.

Adoption of various types of EVs are expected to grow in the second half of our decade due to several considerations:

  • Gradual increase in gasoline or diesel costs
  • Existing and potentially new government incentives
  • Further public eduction programs to increase awareness to zero-net emission vehicles, air-pollution, carbon footprint, as well as heightened awareness to fuel economy, driving patterns, etc.
  • On-going and future technology developments (in the automotive industry, materials, design, safety, batteries, Connected Car telematics, and more)

In the past few years, the automotive industry hasn’t focused solely on zero-net emission vehicles, as automakers don’t want to ‘place all their eggs in one basket’. Although they have been investing in improving their combustion gasoline-operated cars, many car manufacturers have made a strong commitment to electric vehicles and several have started programs to support charging infrastructure, like Nissan and Tesla. EVs viability as a significant alternative transportation mode is apparent.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

1. Plug-In Annual Conference website: http://www.plugin2014.com

The conference is organized by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a highly regarded organization which has done an extensive research in the Electric Transportation space. The institute conducts research and development on vehicle and infrastructure technologies that enable the use of electricity as a transportation fuel. Click here for EPRI's website and research information.

2. EV charging forecasts for 2014-2018 and 2013-2019 by Yahoo News (August 18, 2014 /PRNewswire): Click here.

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