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EVs: Meeting the Charging Station Demand

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Source : Mouser Electronics

For many years, the electric vehicle (EV) industry has been in slow growth mode, but that’s beginning to change in a big way. Today, there are more than one million EVs on US roads, based on about eight years of EV sales, according to a recent report from Electric Edison Institute. Yet sales of new EVs is twice what it was this time a year ago, and analysts estimate that it will take only three years to sell the second million. By 2030, there will be more than 18 million EVs on US roads and anywhere from 125 to 220 million EVs operating globally.

However, EVs are not yet mainstream, largely because there is one major barrier standing in the way: The availability of charging stations. The Verge reports that there are roughly 22,000 (Level 2 or fast charge) public charging stations in the US and Canada, but the Edison Electric Institute estimates that 9.6 million charging ports (including public, workplace, and home ports) will be needed to keep pace with EV sales in the US alone. Clearly, somebody has to build a lot of EV charging infrastructure in the next ten years. What does that involve, and who’s going to do it? This article examines charging system types, charging station infrastructure, and the organizations and agencies working to meet the increasing demand.

Charging System Types

There are a number of EV charging technologies in use today. Different EV manufacturers and regions of the world have different preferences. Table 1describes the standard categories of charging technology as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Table 1: SAE charging system defintions.

System Type

AC

DC

Charge Time

Level 1 120V single-phase
Up to 16A and 1.9kW
Typically 12A
200-450V
Up to 36kW, 80A
1-hour charge provides @ 6km of range
Level 2 240V single-phase
Up to 80A and 19.2kW
Typically 32A
200-450V
Up to 90kW, 200A
1-hour charge
produces @ 15-30km
of range
Level 3 AC charging above Level 2
Some EVs support three-
phase AC up to 4kW
Also called DC Fast Charge,
or DCFC
200-600VDC
Up to 240kW, 400A
30-minute charge produces > 130km of range

Note that most people who talk about Level 3 fast charge are referring specifically to DC fast charge, or DCFS. When they talk about AC fast charge, they typically refer to it as AC fast charge, not Level 3.

EVs have AC to DC converters built-in, enabling AC power sources to connect directly to the car. In DC charging, AC to DC conversion happens outside the EV. The EV’s DC power connection runs directly to the car’s battery pack, bypassing the car’s built-in AC to DC converter.

In addition to these standard charging systems, several companies offer wireless charging capabilities. There are two types of wireless charging:

  • Electromagnetic induction: When a primary coil, typically located in a pad under the car, is powered up, it induces an AC current in a secondary coil attached to the car.
  • Magnetic resonance: This is similar to induction, except the primary and secondary coils operate at the same resonant frequency, which increases the efficiency of wireless power transfer.

At present, wireless charging requires retrofitting EVs with secondary coils and installing the primary coil pad in a suitable location, such as a parking space.

EV Charging Models and Complexities

An EV charging infrastructure is very different from the filling station model we know so well. Although some traditional filling stations may add EV charging services, the time it takes to fully charge an EV requires charging opportunities in places where cars are typically at rest. Table 2 summarizes the most common models for charging EVs.

Table 2: EV charging models: Home, workplace, and public.

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Location

Description

Typical Charging Systems

Typical Charging
Opportunity Time

Home Single and multi-family dwellings, typically with garages or assigned parking Level 1 or Level 2 12 hours (overnight)
Workplace Employee parking Level 2 8 hours
Public Public parking garages or lots, commercial charging stations located at filling stations, highway rest areas, public chargin stations provided by businesses for their customers Level 2

DCFC

2+ hours

30 minutes

In their most recent electric vehicles forecast, the Edison Electric Institute breaks down the 9.6 million estimated charging ports required by 2030 in this way:

  • Home: 78 percent, 7.5 million ports (Level 2)
  • Workplace: 13 percent, 1.2 million ports (Level 2)
  • Public Level 2: 8 percent, 800,000 ports
  • Public DCFC: 1 percent, 100,000 ports

Charging stations vary in cost and complexity, depending on the loads they are expected to serve (home vs public), and the type of charge (Level 1, 2 or DCFC). Beyond that, three layers of service equipment are required to support an EV charging infrastructure:

  • EV Service Connection Upgrades to the power grid: New substations and transformers
  • EV Power Supply Infrastructure: Meters and panels
  • EV Charging Equipment (also called EV service equipment or EVSE): Charging stations, ports, cabling, and  connectors

One of the challenges to long-term planning for building out charging infrastructure is the lack of standardization. Different charging systems (Level 1, 2, and DCFC) provide cost and performance advantages in different charging models. EV owners can easily engage with all these charging models in a typical daily EV usage scenario, so all of them are necessary, but not in the same places. Also, different EV’s have different charging requirements, including the use of a variety of connector types. Some, such as Tesla, use a proprietary connector.

Other factors complicate infrastructure planning. For instance, several companies offer wireless charging solutions, but what’s the best way to use this technology? Is it primarily for home use, or could there be public parking and roadway applications? Any public application of wireless charging would be a different kind of charging model with significant infrastructure implications.

There’s also the matter of how EVs themselves will be used in the coming years. As EVs develop, so do autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services. From the perspective of how people use cars today, analysts predict that most charging ports in the next ten years will be home based. But ten years from now, changing EV usage patterns may shift demand to different kinds of charging models.

Regardless of these uncertainties, charging stations are being built, and a number of players are involved. They all have an economic stake in the future of EVs.

Who’s Building the EV Charging Infrastructure?

Today’s EV infrastructure builders include specialized EV charging network companies, auto companies, oil companies, power utilities, and government agencies. Here’s how they shake out:

EV Charging Network Companies

This is a relatively new business segment that includes businesses who own or operate networks of charging stations. ChargePoint is the largest, operating a global network of 41,000 charging locations. ChargePoint manufactures and sells charging equipment (EVSE) to property owners, and it manages branding, but property owners set their own prices for charging. Blink is another EV charging network that owns most of its charging stations. EV charging networks offer several payment models, including usage-based, subscription fees, and even free (a sponsor pays for the electricity).

Auto Manufacturers

Many auto manufacturers are actively building charging stations as a way to encourage consumer acceptance of EVs. Tesla was one of the first to do this, and today leads the others with about 12,011 individual DCFS charging stalls in 1,422 locations worldwide. Ionity is a partnership between BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, and the Volkswagen group. Its goal is to establish a high power charging network in Europe. As part of the settlement for its diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen created Electrify America, a subsidiary that is in the process of building 2000 charging stations across the US by mid-2019.

Oil Companies

Many oil companies see their retail locations as places to offer charging services, and some have begun moving in that direction. Shell has purchased Europe’s largest EV charging network (NewMotion), and BP has invested in a company that manufactures EVSE. Even ExxonMobil, which has not looked favorably on EVs in the past, is taking a serious look at EV charging services, according to Axios.

Electric Utilities

Electric Utilities are interested in selling electricity, and some are being proactive about getting into the EV charging business. Utilities in California and Maryland have submitted proposals to build thousands of EV charging stations in their respective states. There are various approaches that utilities are taking, from their traditional role of offering incentives to business that want to build EV charging stations, to actually building the infrastructure up to but not including the EVSE, to building the entire thing and actively getting into the EV charging business. As of now, there is no clear path that the utilities are taking.

Governments

A number of state governments are actively funding EV charging infrastructure, with California being a leader in this trend. In many cases, this is driven by a desire to have a positive impact on reducing greenhouse gasses. Twenty-seven percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US come from ICE vehicles, according to a recent Center for American Progress report.

What’s Next?

Getting from the 22,000 public charging stations in the US today to the one million that will be needed over the next decade will require big investments from business and government. This is not an effort that will be led by two or three major market players. There will be continued active involvement from many different market segments.

Today auto manufacturers and EV charging network companies have taken the lead in building out this infrastructure. They have the most direct financial incentives for doing so, and money is the ultimate driver for continued growth of charging infrastructure. This build-out will move in step with the growth in EV sales.

The market opportunity for EV manufactures is to make it easier for consumers to buy, and also to earn revenue from EV charging stations. The opportunity for almost everyone else is the possibility of earning charging revenue from wherever EVs come to rest.

To learn more, visit www.mouser.com

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