Way back 18 months ago the Department of Energy announced that with its financial support, a company that most people had never heard of would install more than 12,000 electric vehicle chargers in a few select cities across the country. This prompted great interest in EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) vendor Ecotality, which as administrator of the program would be using its own equipment.
Fast forward to Q1 2011, (initial deployments were originally scheduled for summer 2010) and the pieces are just now falling into place for these installations to begin in earnest. Ecotality achieved UL certification for its Blink EVSEs in January 2011 and manufacturing partner Roush in February 2011 began to manufacture the Blink charging equipment in volume. 2011 will see most of the chargers installed in states including California, Arizona, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington, Texas, and the District of Columbia.
Installing EV charging infrastructure isn’t just about finding the homes and buildings and safely connecting the power. The greater challenge is in having the information about the vehicle charging being captured and transmitted. The EV Project is a test bed to understand how EVs will impact both the grid and overall household power consumption, and the charging data will be wired and wirelessly sent to a centralized repository.
To that end, during the past few weeks Ecotality has formed partnerships with Sprint to streamline wireless communications and with Cisco to enable the Blink chargers to interface with home Cisco’s home energy management system. Connecting EV charging with the smart grid will be a technical challenge due to a lack of standards and utilities that aren’t quite ready to invest. Pike Research estimates that the investment in IT to enable smart charging will total $1.2 billion by 2015.
Ecotality also received a $2.87 million contract play a similar administrative role for the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District. This project will include 20 “fast” DC chargers that initially will be compatible with EVs from Nissan and Mitsubshi that have special ports installed. These DC chargers will include 42-inch display screen, which seems an excessive use of public funds to people who have yet to move to a flat screen in their homes.
Ecotality may also be connected its charging network to equipment from ABB, a global player in building power equipment that invested $10 million in Ecotality earlier this year.
Many of Ecotality’s chargers will be idle most of the time as the dozens of people in each metro area who are able to get a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt this year are expected to primarily charge at home. Led by Ecotality and fellow California companies Coulomb Technologies and AeroVironment, the EVSE market is now charged and ready to go.