EV Chargers Go Upscale

When Automobili Pininfarina’s fully electric Battista supercar is released, owners won’t have to worry about figuring out which home charger to get. The world-renowned design house teamed up with Swiss electric vehicle charger manufacturer and network operator Green Motion SA to produce a bespoke home charger designed not only for function, but also for aesthetics.

The result of this innovative partnership, the Residenza home charger, will charge the Battista’s 120 kWh battery at speeds of 22 kW in Europe and 7.2 kW in the U.S. The Residenza is constructed with recycled and organic materials, and can be customized to match the color of the vehicle. The unit will have an integrated cable management system in the U.S. and a coiled cable in Europe. To take advantage of time-of-use pricing at home, customers can remotely schedule charging and they can also monitor charging status in real-time, both with a dedicated app, 

Most charging will be at home with the Residenza, and for longer journeys the Battista can fill up from 20% to 80% in about 25 minutes using a 180 kW DC fast charger.

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Electric Vehicles Save Consumers Time, Energy, and Money While Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Introduction

This week the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) reported, based on a study from Argonne National Labs, that light-duty (i.e., passenger) plug-in electric vehicles last year saved Americans 44.8 trillion Btu, the equivalent of 470 million gallons of gasoline. Switching from gasoline to electricity also avoided 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

Probably of greater interest to consumers, EV drivers saved about $1.2 billion based on the $2.60/gallon nationwide average price of gasoline last year. And because a huge percentage of the nation’s EVs are in California, where gasoline averaged $3.72, actual savings were closer to $1.7 billion.

Graph showing energy savings due to plug-in electric vehicles, 2011-2019.
Source: Argonne National Laboratory, Assessment of Light-Duty Plug-In Electric Vehicles in the U.S., 2010–2019 (June 2020).

Benefits Expected to Improve Due to Longer All-Electric Ranges

These numbers are expected to improve in the years to come. The reason is that the electric driving range of the vehicles on the market during the past several years was, on average, lower than today’s electric driving range. And while vehicle performance is getting better, we’re also seeing more and more models gaining plug-in electric capabilities. This means that more vehicles will be able to drive at least a modest number of miles using electricity.

There will also be more fully electric vehicles on the road; even better, unlike during the study period when a fully electric vehicle’s range averaged less than 150 miles, today the base range is typically more than 200 miles and many vehicles offer ranges that exceed 300 miles. This is significant because, as shown in the table below, the Argonne report’s authors assumed lower-than-average annual driving for fully electric vehicles. Without that discount, the savings would have been even greater. As shown in the following table, once a vehicle’s electric driving range hits about 300 miles, it is assumed to be driven the same number of miles annually (about 13,500) as an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Assumed driving range for PHEVs and EVs, 2010-2019.

Of course EVs do need to fuel up, but using electricity to power a vehicle costs the equivalent of about $1/gallon, which is a big savings no matter where you are. Electric vehicles continue to save money because they require hardly any maintenance or servicing. And all that extra time saved from not going to the gas station and mechanic certainly has a value too.

Environmental Benefits: Good and Getting Better

Finally, driving with electricity is better for the environment because producing a kWh for driving creates less carbon dioxide (CO2) than using an equivalent amount of gasoline.

  • Internal combustion engines: The amount of tailpipe emissions from an internal combustion engine vehicle can be found by multiplying the miles driven by the number of grams of CO2 per gallon of gasoline (8,887) and dividing by the fuel economy (in miles per gallon, or mpg).
  • Electric vehicles: The emissions to drive an electric vehicle are found by multiplying the miles driven by the electricity consumption (in kWh per mile) by the emission rate. Deriving emissions from electricity isn’t as straightforward because the carbon content of electricity isn’t constant; rather, it is based on the fuel source (e.g., nuclear, coal, gas, wind, solar). According to the EPA, electricity production in the U.S. emitted an average of 430 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour in 2018.

Despite that variability in electricity, the benefits are overwhelming. A gasoline-powered vehicle consuming 30 mpg emits 300 g CO2 / mile, while a BEV consuming 0.33 kWh / mile in 2018 was responsible for 142 g CO2 / mile. The true savings is likely to be even greater, because so many EVs are charged in California and other states where electricity’s carbon intensity is lower than the national average,. Moreover, EV drivers are likely to have even cleaner energy due to home solar panels or through the voluntary purchase of clean energy from their utility.

Conclusion

All of the benefits described above are only getting better with time. While fully electric vehicles deliver the biggest benefits, even plug-in hybrids will also offer advantages such as electric driving for quick errands and stop-and-go traffic, both of which cause disproportionately more pollution per mile driven. Of course an important consideration for plug-in hybrids is whether drivers actually plug them in and enjoy the benefits, so public policy should strongly support home charging through efforts such as utility-funded outreach and education, as well as discounted or free chargers.

The bottom line is that the market is maturing, more manufacturers are offering plug-in options, and consumers are getting accustomed to driving electric. On the technology side, batteries are getting less expensive and becoming more efficient, which together will result in more miles of electric driving.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Vehicle To Grid (V2G) Technology Achieves Milestone Toward Commercialization

Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology offers what might be characterized as the holy grail for electric vehicles, and the future got a lot closer on March 12 with the news that a bidirectional EV charging system by Fermata Energy was the first such system in the world to earn the UL 9741 safety standard. UL 9741 features the ability to prevent the discharge of energy when a connected device is not capable of safely receiving backfed power and is a critical milestone toward commercial deployment of V2G.

According to Francisco Martinez, business development director of UL’s Energy Systems and eMobility division, “UL’s role in making the most of the stored energy in electric vehicles is to help ensure that this happens safely,” said Martinez.

Photo of Nissan Leaf plugged in to Fermata Energy V2G

The ability of electric vehicles to discharge energy holds great potential because the vehicles tend to have large batteries with more energy than drivers typically need on any given day; moreover, as with most noncommercial passenger vehicles, EVs are are parked an average of 95% of the hours in a year. The combination of having excess energy and being available a large percentage of time results in benefits that will accrue to:

  • The grid, which can use energy from EV batteries to displace higher cost and potentially dirtier energy from power plants when demand for energy is high; and
  • EV owners, who can monetize the energy as it is dispensed (assuming the energy was purchased and stored at a lower cost).

All indications are that V2G is going to introduce significant new resources to the grid. According to comments this week in Berlin by Volkswagen’s chief strategist Michael Jost:

By 2025 [Volkswagen] will have 350 gigawatt hours worth of energy storage at our disposal through our electric car fleet. Between 2025 and 2030 this will grow to 1 terawatt hours worth of storage. That’s more energy than is currently generated by all the hydroelectric power stations in the world. We can guarantee that energy will be used and stored and this will be a new area of business.

Even today’s relatively small number of EVs is providing hundreds of millions of dollars in net revenue to utilities, according to a recent report by Synapse Energy Economics and as illustrated in the following table from the Synapse report:

Table showing net benefits EVs deliver through V2G technology
Total costs and contributions of incremental EV load, 2019-2030.

As vehicles begin to not only consume energy (providing revenues to the system) but also provide value by sending energy back to the grid, the financial and environmental benefits to EV owners, utilities, and all other utility customers will multiply.

“By unlocking the full potential of electric vehicles, Fermata Energy is helping to accelerate the shift to more electric vehicle usage,” said David Slutzky, CEO and founder of Fermata Energy. “We believe bidirectional energy solutions such as Fermata Energy’s V2G system will play an important role in reducing energy costs, improving grid resilience and combating climate change. We’re excited to be the first company to receive UL 9741 certification and look forward to partnering with other organizations to advance V2G applications.”

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

EV Charging Network ChargeLab Bets Future on Open Standards and Interoperability

Electric vehicle charging network provider ChargeLab announced this week that eligible multi-family communities and office buildings in Canada can receive EV charger installations for $0 in upfront costs.

Canada’s new Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP) program (funded by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)) offers 50% of the total project cost, up to a maximum of $5 million. And for a limited time, ChargeLab is matching NRCan’s contribution for eligible projects, bringing the upfront deployment cost for buildings to $0. These investments are subject to repayment over time based on pay-per-use fees generated by the EV chargers installed.

Innovative financing models like this signal the expectation that while limited co-investment by the public sector may be required in the short run, over the long run EV charging will be a successful commercial venture. As described in the video below by ChargeLab CEO Zachary Lefevre, one of the company’s distinguishing features is its support of interoperability and open standards such as Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). OCPP avoids vendor-lock by allowing station owners to switch networks by simply downloading new software over the air.

In the absence of open and interoperable hardware and networks, station owners such as apartment and office building landlords may incur steep costs, including potentially replacement of the entire charger, just to switch networks. The position taken by ChargeLab, which is that customers should be able to have options about which network to run on a charger, and which is consistent with that of other networks including Greenlots and Driivz, is highly favorable to customers and will serve the industry well.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Multi-Billion Dollar Battery Investment Signals Big EV Future

Image of General Motors battery assembly line

General Motors and LG Chem announced today they will invest $2.3 billion to set up an electric vehicle (EV) battery cell joint venture plant in Ohio, creating one of the world’s largest battery facilities. The plant, to be built at a new site near GM’s closed assembly plant in Lordstown in northeast Ohio, will employ more than 1,100 people and have an annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours with the flexibility to expand.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said the investment in the Ohio battery plant will accelerate the automaker’s initiative to introduce 20 new EVs globally by 2023. “General Motors believes in the science of global warming and believes in an all-electric future,” she said.

Barra added that the new battery cells will be used in a new GM electric pickup which will start production in fall 2021 at the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

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Electric Vehicle Charging Can Save All Utility Customers Hundreds of Dollars

A study of Southern California Edison (SCE) customers finds that electric vehicle (EV) batteries used as a “virtual power plant” can shift the entire residential peak load to nighttime hours by using energy stored in batteries during the day and managing charging at night with EV market penetration of only 10 percent. Moreover, annual net savings were $560/EV customer.

Smoothing the utility’s load reduces all customers’ costs because peaks require additional power plants to be dispatched; when plants are dispatched only during peaks, the annual cost must be covered during a relatively small number of hours, which results in higher electricity prices for everyone.

The finding that a small EV market share can completely clip the residential peak (see charts below) and save participants $560/year even after paying for overnight charging has long been suspected but the study, by Jerry Jackson, provides highly credible evidence.

This important discovery highlights savings that help offset today’s higher EV sticker price. Meanwhile, for non-EV customers, lowering the system peak reduces the cost of electricity and supports the case for utilities investing in EV charging infrastructure.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.


Shop Class Reinvented for Electric Vehicle Era

Image of teacher and student in front of VW Cabriolet being converted to electric power.
Ron Grosinger and one of his students, Isamara Lozano, pose in front of electric-powered 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet.

As technology and STEM-focused curricula become ever more important, high school automotive shop classes have been suffering dwindling interest from teachers and students alike. Enter Ronald Grosinger, of Memorial High School in New Jersey, who figured out how to reposition the vocationally oriented course to appeal to a broader audience and prepare students for a wide range of career paths. “If you’re teaching students about gasoline cars, that’s basically the equivalent of 8-track players,” says Grosinger.

Grosinger persuaded his school to purchase a 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet so that his class could remove the internal combustion engine, install batteries, and rebuild the vehicle to be powered by electricity.

Photo of Volkswagen Cabriolet converted to electric power.

Over time, the students learned how to produce the various mechanical parts in cardboard, then wood, then steel. They welded parts, tackled wiring and learned to solve problems as they arose. Within a year, the student makeup of the class had expanded to include advanced math, science, physics and engineering students. Also, there were many more female students.

The curriculum has evolved over the past ten years, and now is structured around what Grosinger calls the Four Cornerstones of Engineering: Electrical, Fabrication, Design, and Mechanical.

Photo of chalk board containing electrical engineering drawings.

The department has expanded to four teachers, the school added an after-school automotive program, and several of Grosinger’s students have gone on to work in the automotive field. “Teachers should encourage students to explore new and more efficient ways to move a person from point A to point B, whether that system is a train with solar panels on it, a car with an electric motor in it or retrofitting an existing technology with a different energy source,” says Grosinger. “And don’t come up with the solutions for the students.”

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Porsche Introduces Fully Electric Taycan; Sets New Standard for Driving and Charging Performance

“This day marks the start of a new era.”

With those words Oliver Blume, the Chairman of Porsche, today unveiled the eagerly awaited Taycan, a “100% electric, 100% Porsche.” The Taycan Turbo S and the Taycan Turbo will be the first in a new series of vehicles that are part of a massive transformation taking place at the iconic automaker. By 2022, the company will have invested more than six billion euros in e-mobility. Despite this apparent paradigm shift, Porsche is by no means deviating from its esteemed heritage.

We promised a true Porsche for the age of electromobility – a fascinating sports car that not only excites in terms of its technology and driving dynamics, but also sparks a passion in people all over the world, just like its legendary predecessors have done. Now we are delivering on this promise.

Michael Steiner, Porsche’s Executive Board Member for Research & Development

Performance

Photo of Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

The flagship Turbo S version of the Taycan can produce up to 560 kW (750 hp) of overboost power with “Launch Control” enabled, while the Taycan Turbo produces up to 500 kW of power (670 hp).

Acceleration for the Turbo S is zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, while the Taycan Turbo completes this sprint in 3.1 seconds. The top speed of both all-wheel-drive models is 162 miles per hour.

Range is superior as well: The Turbo S has a range of up to 256 miles, and the Turbo a range of up to 280 miles. The Performance Battery Plus is capable of storing 93.4 kWh of energy.

Charging

The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts for electric vehicles. Higher voltage allows for lighter wiring; lighter wiring permits design flexibility, results in lighter vehicle weight, and enables higher charging speeds. This last point is a particular advantage when needing to charge up during long distance drives. The 800V system is capable of charging at a rate of up to 270 kW, which can provide 60 miles of range in about five minutes.

Charging an EV is similar to filling a container of water; the emptier it is, the faster you can fill it. This means that a charger will output the maximum amount of energy for the longest period of time when the battery is nearly depleted. When the battery is nearly full, on the other hand, a charger will dispense energy more slowly.

To take full advantage of the Taycan’s charging capabilities, then, a driver would strive to begin charging at a low state of charge (SOC). The charging time for 5 percent to 80 percent SOC with a maximum charge rate of 270 kW under ideal conditions is a mere 22.5 minutes. By comparison, a 50 kW charger would take about an hour and a half.

Image of 2020 Porsche Taycan charging port

The Taycan will come with the CCS DC Fast Charger port. This is not compatible with Tesla or CHAdeMO chargers, but most charging station developers other than Tesla, such as EVgo and Electrify America (a related company under the Volkswagen corporate umbrella), are deploying chargers capable of 150 kW and 350 kW.

At the moment, most DC fast chargers in the U.S. (other than Tesla) are only 50 kW, but the Taycan is backward-compatible, meaning it can use the legacy CCS chargers but will be able to draw only the amount of power the chargers are capable of dispensing.

For home charging, the Taycan can fill up at a rate of 30 miles per hour (for the Turbo S) and 33 miles per hour for the Turbo (which gets slightly better mileage than the Turbo S) using an 11 kW Level 2 charger on a 60 Amp breaker. Charging at that rate from 0% to 100% would take a little less than 8.5 hours.

Design

According to Michael Mauer, Head of Style Porsche, the company at first considered an SUV as its first fully electric vehicle, but ultimately decided that taking the first step with a sports car would make a clear statement “that this is the dawn of the new, purely electric era.”

Electric vehicles are typically higher than their gasoline counterparts due to battery placement, so sports car engineers must find a way to store the batteries while providing a comfortable seating position for passengers while maintaining the lowest possible center of gravity. Porsche’s solution is what Maurer refers to as his greatest challenge is “foot garages,” which are created by arranging the batteries in a staggered stair-step position.

Graphic showing chassis and electrical system of Porsche 2020 Taycan

Dispensing with a large internal combustion engine under the hood also allowed engineers to employ a look reminiscent of the iconic 911.

Photo of Porsche Taycan
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com
Photo of Porsche Taycan
Photography: Christoph Bauer Postproduction: Wagnerchic – www.wagnerchic.com

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Volkswagen’s All-Electric Dune Buggy Illustrates Flexibility, Efficiency, of “MEB” Global Electric Vehicle Powertrain

Given the high cost and complexity of developing new vehicles, mass market automakers tend to stick to models with broad appeal while shying away from particularly distinctive or offbeat designs. But Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB), the central element in the company’s electric vehicle future, will help Volkswagen deliver a wide array of vehicles customized for particular regions and purposes, in addition to offering global efficiencies for all models by using a single cost-effective platform.

To illustrate this efficiency and flexibility, and show that the MEB platform can be used for more than just large-scale series production models, Volkswagen at next month’s International Geneva Motor Show will unveil an MEB-based fully electric dune buggy.

Image of Volkswagen electric I.D. Buggy concept

Why did Volkswagen choose a dune buggy? Says Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer at Volkswagen, “A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels. These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, non-retro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create.”

MEB: The Heart of Volkswagen’s Electric Vehicle Strategy

According to a recent report in Automotive News, Volkswagen’s electrification seeds were planted at a crisis meeting arising out of the company’s emissions cheating scandal. Held in Wolfsburg on October 10, 2015, then-VW brand chief Herbert Diess convened nine top managers on a Saturday to discuss the way forward in the aftermath of the scandal that cost the company more than €27 billion in fines.

“It was an intense discussion, so was the realization that this could be an opportunity, if we jump far enough,” said Juergen Stackmann, VW brand’s board member for sales. “It was an initial planning session to do more than just play with the idea of electric cars,” he told Reuters. “We asked ourselves ‘What is our vision for the future of the brand? Everything that you see today is connected to this.'”

Just three days after the emergency meeting of the VW brand’s management board, Volkswagen announced plans to develop an electric vehicle platform, codenamed MEB, paving the way for mass production of an affordable electric car.

Fast-forward a few years, and the MEB is firmly positioned to make the manufacture of electric vehicles more efficient — i.e., less expensive — in the long term. The MEB will allow Volkswagen to produce electric vehicles with a more systematic focus and to cater to increasing demand for electric vehicles. The MEB also ensures vehicles using the platform are optimally equipped for EV-specific requirements by taking into account what axles, drive units, wheelbases, and weight ratios need to look like. It also considers the best design and position for the batteries.

Image of Volkswagen MEB Platform

The Plan: Transform 2025+

Streamlining vehicle architecture is key to the electrification aspect of Volkswagen’s Transform 2025+ plan. A big part of Transform 2025+ is an electric offensive aimed at making the company a global market leader and be the world’s first manufacturer to sell more than 1 million pure electric vehicles.

To that end, Volkswagen is investing €30 billion in electrification (in addition to tens of millions of euros in battery technology) and plans to have about 20 fully electric vehicles by 2025 with annual production of 3 million units. The company anticipates sales of 100,000 units during the first full production year, in part by deploying MEB at eight sites on three continents by 2022.

Map showing Volkswagen's MEB Deployment Sites

Volkswagen is currently converting its Zwickau plant to be run as an e-mobility site, and the company announced that Emden and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover will switch to the production of electric vehicles in 2022. Collectively, these three sites will become Europe’s largest e-production network. Two EV plants are also taking shape in Anting and Foshan in China, with MEB scheduled for 2020. For North America, VW announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it will invest $800 million to construct a second assembly plant dedicated to EVs in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Image of Volkswagen ID. Crozz concept vehicle
Volkswagen ID. CROZZ concept, expected to enter production in Zwickau in 2020

Conclusion

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Predicting EV “Tsunami,” Volvo Invests in Mobile Electric Vehicle Charging Company FreeWire

Photo of Volvo vehicles with Freewire charging.Volvo announced this week an investment in FreeWire Technologies, a company specializing in mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging units. Other investors in FreeWire’s $15 million Series A include the integrated energy giant BP, manufacturing powerhouse Stanley Black & Decker, and the United Kingdom’s Innovate UK.

FreeWire was founded about five years ago by Arcady Sosinov, who was born just outside of Chernobyl in the year of the nuclear catastrophe. His family emigrated to the U.S. when Arcady was young, but the life-altering experience of growing up in a disaster zone influenced his decision to pursue a career in cleantech. Arcady identified electric vehicle charging infrastructure as a pain point, and today the goal of minimizing EV charging infrastructure guides his company’s direction.

 

The move into charging makes sense for Volvo, which is aggressively embracing transportation electrification.

“Volvo Cars’ future is electric, as reflected by our industry-leading commitment to electrify our entire product range,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank. Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

Earlier this year Volvo committed that every new car launched from 2019 will be electrified, with plans for half of all sales by 2025 to be fully electric. Describing itself as “a human-centric car company,” Volvo’s Fasihuddin explains that one of the company’s goals is to make customers’ lives easier. This explains the fit with FreeWire, which offers mobile “infrastructure light” chargers that can be installed quickly without major construction, along with portable batteries that the company is marketing to workplaces and multifamily communities that lack electrical infrastructure. Lastly, FreeWire can deliver truck-based mobile batteries that pull up to an EV and provide a charge wherever the customer’s vehicle happens to be.

To deliver on its promise to investors, FreeWire has entered into partnerships with contract manufacturers here in the U.S. as it lays the groundwork for scaling up manufacturing capabilities from dozens of systems to hundreds. Within about a year, says founder and CEO Sosinov, FreeWire expects to have a full production line shipping hundreds of units per month to customers around the world. To get to that point, the company has hired staff including a COO and VP of Operations to bulk up its supply chain expertise, documentation, and testing to maintain consistency and reliability.

Volvo’s electrification strategy does not envision direct ownership of charging or service stations, but the investment in FreeWire reinforces the company’s overall commitment to supporting a widespread transition to electric mobility together with other partners.

In an interview with Automotive News Europe about EVs and EV charging, Volvo’s Fasihuddin said “There are so many issues to think about and we want to get out ahead of that because we think there is a tsunami coming. And we’re part of creating that.”

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