It’s the subject that everybody’s talking about. The technology, production, and data around battery electric vehicles and the factors behind the infrastructure that is necessary to make electric cars part of the future of the transportation system in America are everywhere.
Motor vehicles are a big part of the climate policy conversation. It is the top priority of the current administration and one of the tenets to achieve those climate goals is the electrification of our transportation sector. The current goal calls for half a million EV chargers that are publicly accessible. This energy goal requires a complicated charging infrastructure. It involves not only advocates on Capitol Hill, but from a range of other constituents. Auto makers such as Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Tesla, Hyundai, even the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Ford f-150 are producing a version of an electric automobile. There are a lot of incentives both from the federal and state governments to build EV charging stations and incentives for EVs themselves. So in Washington, DC, they’re not stopping. BEVs are here. The question is, is the country ready for it?
About Electric Vehicles Research
The Road to Electric Vehicle Adoption
This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to make a transformative change in the mobility sector. Transportation Energy Institute has provided several important research reports on the various pieces of the puzzle. We have covered topics such as:
Charging infrastructure – how do batteries stay charged both for local and long-distance driving?
Lack of information – what sources do consumers have to determine whether they can still drive SUVs or a truck that requires gasoline? Do they need to look only at a model or car that runs on electricity or at hybrids?
How do the performance, speed, ratings, even torque and motors of these models compare with gas-run vehicles?
Barriers to Charging Infrastructure
There are several issues to consider as we move toward the government’s goal of electrifying America with sufficient charging infrastructure.
For instance, out in the western part of the country, where you have a lot of open space, people who are driving EVs are not going to easily have the opportunity to go back home and recharge. They’re going to need that charging infrastructure in various locations. Having access to restrooms, food, other amenities that you would want during those charger stops, is incredibly important. As well as thinking about how much it’s going to cost to put that charging infrastructure in any location.
Tapping into the existing electric grid system and having visibility as to where the cheapest options are to locate equipment are also considerations for stations who supply charging equipment. There are also safety and comfort issues, so many stations are making cases for placing their charging facilities in the front of their locations rather than in the back of their lots where the diesel trucks typically reside.
Retailers may see the need and growing demand for EV capabilities. However, the questions they need to consider are:
How many chargers do we need? Where do we need them? When do we need them? What type do we need?
Can we optimize the CapEx investment by looking at what kind of incentive programs are most effective?
How do you balance throughput? How many charging events do you have with the demanded charges and do the utilities need to charge in order to keep the wheels of the system operational?
If you get in too early, will you be like a sitting duck when nobody’s coming to the store? If you get in too late, will your cost be higher and will you be outcompeted?
One of the biggest questions we are asked is how we can make demand charges less punitive and help support a very young industry. Especially while we have very low volumes of electric vehicles, it is a chicken and egg situation. We can’t get more people to invest in an electric vehicle until we have more charging infrastructure, but we can’t have more charging infrastructure if we expect all of our charging station owners to take a really big hit on demand charges. Clearly, we are in a situation where we have to be creative. There are a lot of discussions as to how utilities can support this young industry on an intermediate basis and some public utility commissions, like those in California, have acknowledged this as an issue and have implemented what’s called ‘demand charge forgiveness programs.’ So, for a very limited duration of time, they approve utilities to rate base those demand charges and give some relief to fleet owners or charging station owners and until we know that there will be more demand for those stations and then they can recoup those costs for demand charges. And then the remainder is rate-based or recouped in some other way. So, there are certainly some ways to work around it, but it ultimately will largely depend on support from the utility regulators to approve these innovative options.
How and when should a retail operation enter the Electric Vehicle market?
From a retailer’s perspective, most know they eventually need to get into this realm, but want to get into it right at the right time. There are ways that a retailer could dabble in a charging station to see exactly what the demand might be and what the value to the site might be. Put in temporary charging infrastructure and potentially work around some of those long timelines that you would have to interconnect with a utility. There are companies like In-Charge for example, that will provide equipment as a service or that can help locate onsite utility power, (what they call a ‘grid on a skid’), which is essentially an integrated power center that will temporarily provide the level of power that you need for a fast starter, but that can be easily removed in the event that that system is no longer needed. During holiday seasons when the majority of travelers are on the roads, retailers could bring in battery storage units to use during those high-intensity times, which could help provide that additional power that is needed on demand, but doesn’t necessarily require a major investment.
Electric Vehicles Blogs
John Eichberger | June 2023 We have written about this many times before but given the