Archive for the ‘Charging’ Category

 

Jan 20

Toyota Exec Thinks Plug-in Cars Will Produce Local Power Outages, GM Doesn’t Agree

 

[ad#post_ad]There is ample evidence that the US electricity grid can handle substantial numbers of electric cars. A study by EPRI and the NRDC determined that there is enough excess capacity to assimilate up to 50 million electric cars with out building any more capacity, assuming charging is done at night.

Some automakers and other stakeholders are concerned not so much with this big picture, but are concerned about smaller sections of the grid

Bill Reinert is Toyota’s outspoken national manager of advanced technology.

In an interview with Autoblog, he predicted that plugin cars “are going to cluster by ZIP code.”

“The Prius has…all hybrids cluster by ZIP code and you can assume that EVs will cluster by ZIP code,” he said. “They tend to cluster in affluent neighborhoods.”

The problem as Reinert sees it is that those affluent neighborhoods where most early adopters live contain older homes with older local electricity and transformer infrastructure.

“A lof of these neighborhoods…have undersized transformers,” he said.

He believes this highly focused high intensity electric demand could spell disaster.

“You can have a situation where you have three electric cars on the same transformer and all start charging at the same time on Level 2, 220-volt charging and you can bring down the transformer,” said Reinert.

Britta Gross who is GM’s director of infrastructure doesn’t exactly agree.

“I’m just as concerned about clusters of plasma screen TVs, air conditioners, pool heaters, etc,” she said. “This is what utilities do…they make sure that the electric grid keeps up with load growth in their communities.”

“The good news is that large numbers of plasma screen TVs and PEVs don’t get installed in a single night and surprise the utilities – the load growth happens over a time frame in which utilities can respond,” she said.

 

Dec 12

Will Garage Charger Installation Turn Off Would be Electric Car Buyers?

 

MINIEcharger

[ad#post_ad]The whole point of driving an electric car is to drive without the use of gasoline.  For the car to get that energy, it has to be plugged into an outlet daily for a significant period of time.

The time to charge a car fully depends on several things:  the size of its battery, the current and voltage available to it, and the capability of its charger.

The Volt, for example, has 8 kwh of usable energy in its battery, and the maximum charge power allowed is 3.3 kw.

It’s important to know the following formula:  POWER (WATTS) = VOLTS x AMPERES.

Thus for the Chevy Volt at 220 Volts: 3300 watts =220 volts  x 15 amps.  The time to obtain 8kwh of charge is then 8000 wh/3300 watts = 2.42 hours.  The 110 volt 12 amp charger at household current of 110 volts would take: 110 volts x 12 amps = 1320 watts, and thus 8000 wh/1320 w = 6 hours.  The available 8 amp option for a non dedicated circuit would take  8000 wh/880 w =9 hours.

The MINI E has a a 35 kwh battery of which 28 kwh are usable.  At 110 volts and 12 amps: 28000/1320 = 21 hours 12 minutes, and for the Nissan LEAF with 24 kwh and 19.2 kwh usable, 14 hours and 33 minutes.

So though the Volt is manageable if only using standard 110 volt household current, a pure EV may not be.

And that’s part of the problem for their adoption, explains a CNN article in which I was quoted.

As BMW found out with its MINI-E field trial there are significant barriers to installing 240 Volt garage chargers.  They can’t be legally installed by do-it-yourselfers, but have to be hard-wired into the house by licensed electricians and receive approval by local municipalities.  Those rules vary widely state by state and town by town, and right now in some cases can take a frustrating number of weeks or even months.

All of us early adopters are likely to be forgiving and patient with this process, as I was accurately descibed as being in the CNN piece.  The general population might not be so acquiescent.

This is why automakers like GM and Nissan are going out of their way to make sure initial rollout areas are prepared to manage this process swiftly and painlessly for consumers.

Part of this plug-in readiness planning is the introduction of some public chargers as well.  These will be essential for apartment-dwellers but for many people they will act more as a placebo for range anxiety. Drivers will be made to feel comfortable having them there, but likely won’t use them.  80% of prospective buyers expect only to charge at home.

Source (CNN)

 

Nov 30

Live in LA: Plug-in Ready Panel Discussion

 

Volt

GM is hosting a plug-in ready panel discussion in downtown LA.  I will be there for the discussion.

It is led by Chevrolet vice president Brent Dewar and includes representatives from utility companies, local governments and other stakeholders.

Live webcast is below, and you can submit questions too:






 

Oct 20

Electrical Infrastructure and the Chevy Volt

 

People often grumble when GM raises the idea of getting the electric grid infrastructure ready in anticipation of the Chevy Volt’s launch.  Since charging the Volt is like running two plasma screen TVs at night, what’s the fuss?  I had the chance to ask that question and others of Britta Gross who is GM’s direct of infrastructure development.  Today at 4PM EDT you can ask her your own questions as well when she joins Mark Duvall, director of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in the live chatbox below.

If there is excess capacity at night and we are going to charge our cars at night, and studies show there is plenty of capacity, why are we so worried about infrastructure?
We’re really not. But there will come a day when there are millions of vehicles and the road and we want to make sure we’ve anticipated correctly what that will mean. It’s not those low numbers in the thousands were worried about.

Although at night there is capacity, there will be people charging during the day. There is a lot of excess grid capacity even during the day too, for many months of the year.

It comes down to about a dozen days a year, mostly during hot summer day afternoons from four to six PMs and for a few places very cold mornings when they get close to their peak power-generating capacity. And so even if low numbers of vehicles are charging at that time, we care about what that might mean for the grid.

So we want to make sure everything is thought through, that we have the right smarts on the vehicle and the right smarts on the grid and the utilities to be able to communicate with the vehicles to simply delay charging if it happens to be at a peak time. Consumers might agree to let utilities delay their charging in exchange for lower rates.

For people to benefit from this won’t they need a special variable rate meter?
Yes, time of use metering.

If someone doesn’t have one of these meters they can’t benefit from delaying charging, so how will you educate people?
That’s exactly the dialog we’re working on. Utilities are growing right now and evolving. I have a list of things I want them to consider doing in their states to help make the transition to electric cars smoother.

Historically people buy cars on how they look, behave and cost, and now you’re throwing in a fourth variable, and it seems having to educate people more deeply might make it harder to make a sale?
And for that reason I don’t want to overcomplicate it. I think we’ve learned a lesson in the last 12 months. When people ask me about public charging I say its a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘must have’. The vehicle has been designed to plug into standard outlets. So it’s as simple as finding a plug. We want to go the extra mile and consider the needs of apartment-dwellers or people who want to extend their range and charge at work. We are going to look at some ways of enticing corporations to allow employee charging at work.

Also keep in mind the average cost of electricity is 10 cents per kwh so for most people without off peak considerations it will cost 80 cents per day to drive 40 miles. We’d like to get that to 40 cents, but never lose site of how easy the basics are.

 

Sep 28

Interview with CEO of eTec on Charging Infrastructure

 

eTec is the wholly-owned and largest subsidiary of Ecotality (ETLY.OB) and recently received a $99 million matched DOE grant to deploy and study EV charging infrastructure using Nissan LEAF vehicles.

I had the chance to speak with eTec’s CEO Don Karner about the coming electric car charging infrastructure revolution.

Tell us about your recent DOE grant and what it means?
The grant is to evaluate charge infrastructure and to try and develop a model for the effects of deployment of charge infrastructure in support of grid-connected vehicles.

It’s not a vehicle demonstration, and its not an infrastructure demonstration per se. The idea is to develop a mature charge infrastructure in five different geographic areas, diverse areas that have different demographics, different geography, different customs and value systems, different employers and to look at deploying infrastructure both at people’s residences after they buy a vehicle and in commercial locations which could be employers, parking structures or retail locations. Also deploying them in true street side public applications, city-owned parking that’s open to the public.

Then to look at utilization of that charging infrastructure such as which chargers are being used, and which ones are not. Why is one charger used more than another or one location more effective than another? How are people willing to extend the mission capability of the vehicle by using charging away from home?

Obviously if all you have is home charging then basically you have a limited radius within which you can operate the vehicle. The infrastructure outside the home both commercial and public is to allow you to extend the range of the vehicle and its usefulness. And with the idea of range extension we’ll also be deploying some level 3 fast charge infrastructure in commercial locations.

Doing that on a grid is the concept initially going in so you’re never more than a certain distance from a fast charger. Now that will be modified somewhat by use. There may be some areas that have a heavier use so you’ll have denser locations or multiple chargers at that single location.
The infrastructure will be initially deployed using a roadmap developed by involving stakeholders in the areas; employers and city government to help us determine locations.

We have partners on board that have the ability to come up with specific locations. For example, a company called CB Richard Ellis which is a major commercial real estate manager so they have millions and millions of square feet being managed for clients and millions of square feet that they own and lease out. So in every one of these cities they have a number of buildings with parking garages and they have retail outlets with parking lots that if the stakeholders say we ought to have to chargers in this area, they might be a source for us to locate the chargers.

We have BP that operates the AM-PM chain of gas stations, one of the things we wanted to try was does it make sense to put some fast charging in traditional fueling stations?

We’ll deploy the infrastructure then we’ll look at how it’s being utilized and also look at how we can provide better information to the vehicle operators are about where chargers are, what their availability is, and in order to develop a balance between information and actual hardware. Obviously if you’re completely ignorant about where chargers are you want to have a lot of them out there so that if you’re driving down the road you see them. But if you have electronic information that told you where chargers were and what their availability is and aids to help you do trip planning, are those going to make it easier for you to extend the range of the vehicle and therefore get you to use the vehicle more or is it just that you still need lots of chargers out there.

So these are all different aspects of the study and evaluation that we’d like to do over a 24 month period while all the data is being collected.

So we deploy charge infrastructure, deploy vehicles, get the system operating and we need a significant enough density of vehicles and infrastructure that’s really representative of what a fully developed electric vehicle economy might look like. So even though it’s a thousand vehicles in each city we still have to mindful of keeping it fairly tight because there are big cities. Then we collect data, store it in a database at the Idaho national lab and then we have various partners like Ohio State University and University of California Davis, the Idaho lab personnel plus all the other scientists in the nation’s science laboratory system to help us look at that data evaluate it look at successes and failures because many times you learn more from something that didn’t work than something that did. At the end, come out with guidance for the next 50 or the next 500 cities as to how they should most effectively deploy infrastructure.

Are you only using the Nissan LEAF vehicles in this study?
The vehicle side will be LEAF vehicles. The chargers that are being deployed are compliant with the SAE J1772 standards so they’re available to any vehicle.

But you will only be studying the behavior of those people driving LEAFs?
That’s initially where we are at right now. That may change over time and its certainly one of the things that the DOE made some stimulus awards to other car companies. None of them were in the cities that we’re operating in, but there may be some interest on DOE’s part to gather data in the cities where those vehicles are being deployed or to make vehicle available for purchase in the cities where the infrastructure is. You’ve got a built in infrastructure it makes sense to use that as a market for all electric vehicle whether it’s a Volt or a Ford transit.

Is your company a hardware producing company or are you coordinating the hardware of others? I’m wondering how your company fits into this.

We build both the level 2 and level 3 hardware. And we were very involved in the late 90s and early 2000s in deployment of EVs in response to the zero emission mandate in California. So we installed all of Chrysler’s infrastructure nationwide for the Epic minivan. We installed a lot of infrastructure for Ford, but not so much for GM. They typically worked through utilities to make that happen. We were buying others EVSEs in those days. We did make the 90 kw fast charger for the Chrysler minivan. Then when the auto EVs went away we had already been working with airport ground support equipment and material handling lift trucks on fast charging and we continued to do that over those 8 or 9 years. So we are in a number of airports through North America supporting both the airports and the airlines with material handling chargers across the country. We’ve got like 5000 chargers deployed throughout North America in industrial applications. We also have a line of chargers for neighborhood vehicles and things like that.

Now with the auto EVS coming back into play were rolling back into fast chargers to support the auto road applications and the level 2 EVSE to support both home and commercial and public charging.

So level 2 is the 240V?
240 V, 40 amp breaker supplying nominal 32 amps to the vehicle. That’s just the AC pass-though stuff. AC charging is typically level 2 and we believe that’s what’s necessary even with PHEVs a lot of folks are advocating just plugging them into convenience outlets, but we think there’s a lot of advantage to having level two charging for those as well. That’s the infrastructure that’s going to roll out. It’s going to be out there so you might as well make the vehicles compatible with it.

Aren’t there several companies out there making level 2 chargers?

Clipper Creek has been in it for some time. They were there in the late 90s as well, in fact we sold a lot of Clipper Creek equipment back then, it was called EVI. The same principles that were part of EVI have now formed Clipper Creek and the box is very similar to what is was in the 90s. Its basically just a smart contactor that checks to make sure everything is safe and then turns on AC to the vehicles.

Now there’s Coulomb and they have a public charging solution for street side parking. In fact they are part of our program for cities that want to do street side parking and collect revenue. Coulomb has a very neat revenue system.

How about level 3 chargers, there are claims about 10 or 30 minute fast charges, and EEStor says they can recharge 52 kwh in 5 minutes. Is all of this stuff realistically possible on today’s grid. Is your equipment able to do that and what are the special demands that such equipment would have?
Well, we’re capable of doing almost anything with respect to fast charging. But you put your finger on it, what’s practical? What’s practical is probably in the 40 to 50 kw range as a power level. And 200 amps as a current level, because you have to get the current onto the vehicle, and once you go above 200 amps, the cord and the connector get very large and some people talk about water cooling and it gets to be a very complicated device. So that translates to if you take the LEAF and you say it has a 30 kwh pack, if you’re charging at 40 kw if you came in at let’s say 40% state of charge and you want to go to 80% state of charge, you have to put in 12 kwh. I’ve got a 40 kw charger so its going to be about a third of an hour or twenty minutes. That’s a very reasonable power range. Can you charge harder? Absolutely, but then you start looking at whether you have the power available at a retail location where somebody wants to come and charge. Let’s say it’s a Starbucks and you want to come in and get a latte, do you really need to turn the vehicle around in 5 minutes? And if so, is Starbucks willing to double the electrical service that they have to supply that power? That hasn’t been our experience in the past. If that’s where everybody goes and it turns out absolute speed is of the utmost importance, then the market will adapt. What we’re looking at with the LEAF is in that 40 kw range and that fits very nicely in strip centers and other commercial locations. You can fit 40 kw into their existing electrical service and you don’t have to spend a lot of money expanding the electrical service.

Does the 40 kw charger run on 200 amps?
It would output a maximum of 200 amps. So if you had a battery pack that was let’s say 400V, to get to 40kw you only need 100 amps. So your cord and connector that connect to the vehicle would be limited to 200 amps. Let’s say you pull up to the vehicle that only has a 150 volt battery. I’m only going to be able to charge that at 200 amps so Im going to be limited to 30 kw. I may have more power capability in my charger but I’m limited by my cord and connector.

Most of the EVs, in fact all of them, all are in the range of 300 to 400 volts. To get the 40 kw you only need the battery to be above 200 Volts to stay below the 200 amps and virtually everyone is doing that.

I don’t think that 200 maps is very restrictive based on what coming to market.

Don’t most residential homes have 200 amp service?
It just depends on where you are in the country. We’re in Phoenix and yes 200 amps is pretty much the standard. A lot of homes out here actually go to 400 amps because there’s a lot of air conditioning load in Phoenix. So typically we don’t have any problem out here, plus all of the houses are relatively new.

If you go to a beach community in California, you may find only a 60 amp service on a little bungalow that doesn’t have air conditioning, for example. If you go to the northeast, an old brownstone there may only have a 50 or 60 amp service.

One of the challenges is to retrofit America with EVSE. In new construction many localities are going to the point where you have to put a 240V 40 amp service in the garage. Once you’ve done that actually installing the EVSE is a fifty dollar job. It’s no big deal. If you do it when the house is new, it’s easy. It’s the retrofit that’s expensive. We’ve got a lot of houses that will have to be retrofitted in America.

How about commercial places like parking garages, strip malls, and gas stations, do these places have a lot of current available?

Usually they’ve got plenty of electric service, the challenge there is typically you want the charger somewhere out in the parking lot and that power is not in the parking lot so you end up doing a lot of concrete and asphalt cutting and trenching with conduit but the electric service is there. If you do it as you build new facilities its very cheap because you’re trenching to put in light poles anyway.

When does your 2 year study actually start?
Nissan will be launching their vehicle in the fourth quarter of next year so well spend the next year basically working with stakeholders locating chargers and getting chargers installed in the commercial space. Then as the vehicles roll out we’ll be installing the chargers in residential places or if it is a fleet vehicle, the overnight location for that fleet vehicle.

Then we anticipate about 6 months of time to populate the vehicles and then we’ll operate in a data collection mode after that.

What are the 5 cities?
Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson and also the interstate corridor between those two cities. In Tennessee there are three cities that form a triangle; Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville.

No plans for NY?
Not as part of this project. Nissan will be looking at rolling the LEAF into NY but we won’t be studying infrastructure there.

Your company is national?

Yes. We cover all of North America.

What is the relationship with Ecotality?

Ecotality is our parent company and we are a wholly-owned subsidiary. Ecotality is a publicly traded company.

Do they do other things besides EV infrastructure?
Yes they have some other companies that do some fuel cell work and batteries and electronics assembly.

Is eTec a big portion?
We’re the biggest division of them.

Do you anticipate that the infrastructure rollout will take 10 years or more?

We’d like to think that coming out of this we’ll have some models in the commercial space that will show people there’s an economic benefit to them to install chargers whether it be an employer that receives employee benefits or a retailer that generates customer loyalty by having chargers. Or chargers that are installed with a subscription and revenue system like Coulomb’s.

This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate a number of value chains that can associate with the chargers. The hope is that when we come out of the project we’ll have demonstrated various way that people can make these chargers economically viable. And we’ll get some viral expansion with OEMS coming into areas to sell vehicles and retailers will decide to put in chargers to make money, and this thing starts to grow by itself.

So do you expect a strong national infrastructure in under ten years?

Yes. I think if we’re going to have a successful rollout of battery electric vehicles we have to have infrastructure to support it. If we’re going to roll out PHEVs and were going to receive benefit from them, again having a strong infrastructure is going to be important. If you have a 20 mile PHEV and you drive 18 miles to work, you’re going to want to be able to plug in at work so you run home on electric.

This infrastructure allows the vehicles to be used in more expansive missions to allow more of what people need to do on a daily basis, and so it’s going to expand the market for those too.

How much does a Level 3 charger cost?
The biggest part of the cost tends to be the installation, but generally in power electronics like that you can look anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar a watt. So you’re looking at 20 to $40,000. It’s on the order of what it costs to install a gasoline pump.

It seems like level 3 chargers are going to be a relatively small contribution to the overall charging infrastructure?
One would think so, that’s what you’d like to have happen. You’d like people to mostly charge at home and at night, that’s the prime objective. The usable available infrastructure is there to help them extend the usability of their vehicles.

The level 3 chargers provide an insurance policy, so if you decide you need to go farther you can stop for 10 minutes, get a hit, get another 20 or 30 miles and then you can do what you need to do and get home.

You could imagine its not like a gas pump, if you have one level 3 charger and everyone is pulling up with EV’s the lines would be miles long if it takes a half an hour to recharge.

Right, and that goes back to information, people need to know availability, because you’ll have several chargers within a relative short radius. If we’re seeing chargers continually busy during peak tines it’s a signal of success, but tells us we probably need to put in more chargers

 

Aug 31

Why GM is Concerned About Plugin Readiness Infrastructure

 

GM has for months been discussing and promoting the idea of community plug-in readiness.  This relates to the development of public charging infrastructure and government incentives to enhance the adoption of electric cars.  In fact, GM has clearly stated that those communities which have demonstrated sufficient plugin readiness will be rewarded with being the first rollout locations for the Volt.

People often wonder why GM needs to go through all of this effort.  I asked the following questions about it of Tony Posawatz, GM’s Volt vehicle line engineer.

A lot of people ask why is GM focusing on plugin readiness.  They say if its just like a plasma screen TV being plugged into an outlet in your garage, what’s the big deal?

There’s a little bit of history to this. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our history and we’ve learned.  GM has already failed three times on infrastructure.

We have not succeeded on E85 yet its a really cleaver idea. I’m not referring to corn but the more advanced stuff.

Hydrogen…I don’t know what happened to the hydrogen superhighway, no infrastructure there.

Also I would argue for EV-1, we didn’t set up a good infrastructure there.

So we said fool me once, fool me twice…

The Volt was designed to make the infrastructure challenge easier.

The Volt doesn’t need public charging the Volt needs number one really good charging at home. Just plug it in? Not so fast my friend, the data we look at says.

Let’s say we don’t have a ready city initiative, or the region your going into, the education.  The electric company is a driver of special benefits too.  People would be losing out. Wouldn’t you want someone to set a standard that EV drivers get the best parking or the HOV lane?  This helps mitigate the initial cost because you get the extra value. You may get free charging. This is our effort because we have some leverage. We recognize that one of the issues with Volt is a cost issue.

If you live in a 1947 farmhouse in Connecticut and you want to plug it in, but it its not a dedicated circuit, and every morning when your vehicle is charging and your daughter turns on the hairdryer and the fuse blows.  Who’s going to get blamed?  Who are they going to call?  Its a very real situation. Many houses are not wired to code, they are wired in a very cheap manner.

We’ve learned, and we so much want to make this work we are not missing anything.

We are negotiating with some prominent companies to get the home ready… house installations, or if you want the plug moved or a dedicated circuit or a special meter or 220V.

GM won’t have its own wiring subsidiary?
No we will actively be involved in setting the requirements for a partner. There are companies that did the EV-1.

The 240 V cord has to go directly into the wall?
Yes, that’s by code.

In the showroom we want to have a system available in parallel to get the house ready.

This is why were so big on infrastructure. Number one to see if we can bring additional benefits to the customer, and to build this thing for the future so we can engage partners and build new opportunities that I can’t tell you about yet. Once your in someone’s home what kind of things well be able to do and you say to yourself, this is more than just a car.


 
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