Navigant Research Blog

U.S. Federal Government Expands EV Charging Infrastructure Support

— February 1, 2016

EV RefuelingThe FAST Act transportation bill that became law in December 2015 contains an important provision to increase the coordination of activities of all players in the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure ecosystem. Thanks to funding reauthorizations in the law, individuals and organizations that purchase EV charging equipment in the future will receive a federal tax credit for either commercial and residential chargers, as reported by Green Car Reports. This incentive is expected to spur additional sales of charging infrastructure that reduces range anxiety and increases sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

More significantly, the Act requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to “designate national electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling corridors,” as well as to identify “standardization needs for electricity providers. …”

Increasing Installations

Since 2009, there has been considerable effort to increase the installation of publicly accessible EV chargers. These include the federal EV Project and ChargePoint America programs, as well as recent collaborations such as those between BMW and Nissan—notable because they support different fast charging standards—and Nissan’s growing effort in using multiple charging networks to provide free charging to customers as they roam.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) EV Workplace Charging Challenge, a voluntary program for employers that install EV infrastructure, continues to progress rapidly, as highlighted in the program’s recently published interim report. According to the report, individuals whose employers offer workplace charging are 6 times more likely to own an EV than the average person. And workplace chargers aren’t just sitting idle; the report states they are delivering an average of 9.6 kWh of power per day.

Thus far, however, there has not been a national effort that adds utilities, state governments, and other key players to the development of charging networks and infrastructure. The FAST Act is looking to greatly encourage coordination by requiring the Secretary of Transportation to engage with stakeholders to include:

  • The heads of other federal agencies
  • State and local officials
  • Representatives of:
    • Energy utilities
    • The electric, fuel cell electric, propane, and natural gas vehicle industries
    • The freight and shipping industry
    • Clean technology firms
    • The hospitality industry
    • The restaurant industry
    • Highway rest stop vendors
    • Industrial gas and hydrogen manufacturers

The DOT has 1 year to identify these corridors, a not insignificant task that will require analyzing EV sales data, forecasts for future purchases for both plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and the expected required volume of charging infrastructure, analysis of vehicle miles traveled by region. Identification of locations (using geographic information systems mapping) of the logical linkages between EV hotbeds where roadside charging is likely to be most beneficial is also a needed step. The corridors will require primarily DC fast chargers to enable BEVs to travel longer distances by recharging in under an hour, as well as some Level 2 chargers for extending the electric range of plug-in hybrid EVs that don’t have fast charge capabilities.

If these corridors are successfully electrified, we can expect greater concentrations of EVs in adjacent cities, ultimately resulting in improved urban air quality and reduced CO2 emissions.


U.S. PEV Market Looks to Bounce Back in 2016

— January 26, 2016

EV RefuelingThe plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market in the United States took a step backward in 2015, with sales falling off after 5 years of strong growth. A surprising decline in the price per barrel of crude oil along with customers waiting for refreshes of existing PEV models such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt contributed to the slump. However, a bevy of new model launches and improvements in vehicles and charging infrastructure provide hope that 2015 was only a speed bump along the journey toward vehicle electrification.

The slowdown enabled China to surpass the United States as the largest PEV market in 2015, and according to Navigant Research’s recently published Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts report, the Asia Pacific region is expected to pull away from North America in the coming years. According to Automotive News China, total production of EVs and plug-in hybrids grew by 300% during the first 11 months of 2015, climbing to 279,200 commercial and passenger vehicles.

However, by 2017, American consumers will have more variety and total choices in PEVs as Ford, Audi, Tesla, General Motors, BMW, and others are set to launch new models in multiple segments. This will likely prompt a rebound in PEV sales growth, especially if the cost of gasoline returns to pre-2014 levels.

Addressing Inconvenience

According to survey data from Navigant Research, consumers in the United States see the availability and inconvenience of charging PEVs as the main reasons not to switch from gasoline to electric powered cars. More than a third (36%) of consumers who responded to an open-ended question about the primary drawback to owning a PEV cited a lack of infrastructure or other vehicle charging-related hassles. Of the small sample size (14) of those surveyed who currently own a PEV, three mentioned the lack of infrastructure availability as a drawback to owning a PEV, while none mentioned the range of the vehicle itself.

Automakers are increasingly addressing the perceived lack of charging infrastructure, and several now include a free year of access to charging at dealerships and other locations when a PEV is purchased. While the number of public, workplace, and private Level 1 and Level 2 chargers continues to grow, increased fast charging is viewed as a necessity in growing the PEV market. BMW and Nissan recently teamed up to deploy 120 DC fast chargers across the United States. This partnership is particularly interesting since each of these two companies back a different fast charging standard, with Nissan supplying its vehicles with CHAdeMO ports and BMW offering SAE Combo ports on its cars. Each of the fast chargers deployed will included charging cables for both standards, so agreeing to disagree while contributing financially to equipment that supports all PEVs is an important development for automakers. Many EV charging companies now offer chargers that support both fast charging standards, and that trend is another reason to believe the PEV sales will rebound in 2016.


Colorado Moves to Increase EV Adoption

— December 2, 2015

When it comes to supporting and selling plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), California exceeds expectations. The state is expected to represent 48% of all PEV sales in the United States in 2015, and has far outspent any other state in supporting electric vehicles (EVs) while also creating a highly favorable regulatory environment. The recently enacted Senate Bill 350 is a legislative U-turn for the state, which went from preventing utilities from owning EV charging stations to requiring them to participate in and support EV charging.

Many states that want to clean their skies and reduce fuel imports envy California and are looking for ways to copy its success with EVs. Public and private sector organizations in northern Colorado are accelerating efforts to move the state from the middle of the pack toward becoming an EV leader.

In a recent study, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) evaluated 30 activities that states, cities, and utilities can do to support EVs. Denver is in the middle of the pack, ranking 13th out of the 25 cities evaluated by ICCT, while San Francisco ranked first. According to ICCT, Denver’s primary utility, Xcel Energy, is participating in two of the six recommended utility activities.

EV Promotion Actions

John Blog Chart - Nov 11(Source: International Council on Clean Transportation)

Denver ranks 11th among metropolitan statistical areas in Navigant Research’s PEV Index, which evaluates populations for the likelihood of purchasing PEVs according to a variety of demographic characteristics including age, education level, and economic factors. According to Navigant Research’s Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts report, nearly 45,000 PEVs will be in use in the Denver metro area by 2024, a tenfold increase from 2014. In addition, Colorado is expected to rank 13th among states in PEV sales as a percentage of new light duty vehicle sales in 2015, and PEVs are projected to reach 4% of new vehicle sales in 2024.

To make EV charging more readily available, non-profit Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC) has been encouraging organizations to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge. According to Annie Freyschlag, deployment community associate at DENC, 17 employers have joined the Challenge initiative, adding that residents of northern Colorado are within 6 miles of an EV charging station at any given time.

Colorado has strong financial incentives to purchase PEVs and charging equipment that should help the state pass others in PEV adoption. The state offers up to $6,000 for a PEV purchase, which uniquely includes used PEVs brought in from other states, and the Charge Ahead Colorado program can reimburse up to 80% of the incremental cost of purchasing a PEV or EV charging equipment.

Groups within the state are currently lobbying the legislature to provide high-occupancy vehicle lane access to PEVs as a stress and time-reducing incentive. The Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition, in partnership with the American Lung Association, also has several initiatives to encourage PEV adoption, including Project Fever.

To enable PEV owners to fill their batteries with clean power, Boulder, Adams, and Denver counties joined together in the fall of 2015 to facilitate discounts for rooftop solar and EV purchases. As reported by the Daily Camera, the Solar Benefits Colorado program offered homeowners an estimated 15% discount on solar rooftop systems and roughly $8,300 off the cost of a Nissan LEAF.

Freyschlag says the biggest barrier to EV adoption in Colorado continues to be lack of direct consumer experiences, as the majority of the public still have never driven a PEV. Also, most people do not think about the financial cost of owning and operating a vehicle over longer than a 3-5 year span.


Battery Makers Preparing for Post-Lithium Ion Era

— November 6, 2015

Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries, we hardly knew ye.

Today’s mass-marketed light duty plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) uniformly rely on batteries with Li-ion chemistries, but advancing the technology will hit an upper limit of performance by the end of the decade. Battery makers that spoke at the late October eCarTec conference in Munich stated that the energy density can be doubled while cutting the cell cost of PEV batteries in half by 2020, but that beyond that, battery makers will need to shift to other technologies.

Energy storage and automotive power electronics company Robert Bosch and automaker Renault both presented similar timelines for the beginning of the phaseout of Li-ion batteries. Li-ion cell prices will come down thanks to efficiencies in volume manufacturing at plants run by companies such as Tesla and LG Chem and reductions in the amounts of precious metals used. According to Navigant Research’s report Advanced Energy Storage for Automotive ApplicationsLi-ion pack prices (which include the battery management systems, cooling systems, electronic controls, and wiring) will continue to decline by 5%-6% annually through the remainder of the decade.

Once manufacturing and raw material costs have been optimized, other technologies such as lithium-air, lithium sulfur, and solid-state batteries will begin to take over as the technologies that will offer increased performance in PEVs, said Dr. Holger Fink, senior vice president of Engineering at Robert Bosch Battery Systems GmbH. Fink said that solid state battery technology is the most likely of the alternative battery technologies to be commercialized in the short term, with lithium sulfur unlikely to be commercially viable until closer to 2030.

Bosch is developing solid state battery technology based on the intellectual property it acquired when the company purchased startup battery company SEEO in September 2015. Fink said the solid-state batteries that Bosch are developing feature lithium metal anodes that have increased storage capacity and replaces a flammable liquid electrolyte with a safer dry polymer. One challenge for solid state batteries is the high minimal operating temperature of at least 80°C, which Fink said the company is focusing on in its research.

According to Navigant Research, and as seen in the chart below, by 2020, the global market for Li-ion batteries in automotive applications will reach $25 billion.

 Total Light Duty Consumer Vehicle Li-ion Battery Revenue by Powertrain Type, World Markets: 2015-2024

John Li-Ion Blog Chart(Source: Navigant Research)

Masato Origuchi, chief battery engineer for EV/HEV at Renault and another speaker at eCarTec, echoed Fink’s comments about the 5-year timeframe for Li-ion battery performance gains peaking. He said that improvements in energy density in Li-ion batteries will be able to provide 200 miles of driving range in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the Nissan LEAF (a Renault-Nissan Alliance partner) by 2020. Origuchi said that further improvements in energy density via other technologies could extend the range of a BEV to 600 km (372 miles) or more.

Disruptive innovations in energy storage and many other automotive technologies often takes years longer than initially expected to gain market share over the incumbents due to higher prices and the cautious nature of automakers. As a result, the market share for Li-ion batteries can be expected to erode slowly, even after better performing technologies are first commercialized.


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