Navigant Research Blog

Companies Aim to Fast Track Ultrafast EV Charging

— January 31, 2017

The fast charging of EVs at power levels surpassing 350 kW is quickly moving from concept to reality. In 2016, momentum accelerated for developing solutions that can charge a battery electric vehicle (BEV) to 80% capacity in 5 to 10 minutes, and 2017 will see the first solutions available. Many automakers are excited about the potential for closing the gap between electric and gasoline refueling, though there is currently no definitive standard or available light duty vehicle charging at 350 kW or higher.

At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, EV charging company ChargePoint unveiled the ChargePoint Express Plus, a modular charging system that can be upgraded to higher power levels over time, up to a maximum of 400 kW. Power to multiple charging stations are provided by ChargePoint-designed Power Cubes, which offer up to 500 kW of direct current (DC) output and can be coupled with other Cubes to accommodate more charging stations at a single location. According to the company, power can be distributed to up to four charging stations from a single Power Cube, and power output is dynamically distributed to the vehicles being charged.

ChargePoint Express charging stations will be constructed of multiple Power Modules that deliver up to 31.25 kW of power each, a unique approach for future-proofing charging stations. ChargePoint says the systems will be available in July 2017.

ChargePoint Express Plus

(Source: ChargePoint)

Last November, several automakers announced plans to co-develop a fast charging network in Europe that will provide 350 kW charging. Just a few weeks later, Energy company Enel joined with Verbund, Renault, Volkswagen, Nissan, and BMW in announcing EVA+, a fast charging network connecting Italy and Austria that will enable BEVs to be charged in 20 minutes. Never one to be upstaged, Elon Musk tweeted in December that Tesla Motors would be adding capabilities to the SuperCharger network to surpass 350 kW of power delivery for its proprietary network.

With the knowledge that BEVs are being developed with much faster charging capabilities, companies considering adding DC fast charging stations are now challenged on how to future-proof their investments. The tradeoff is between keeping the not inconsequential cost of offering DC fast charging under control today while preventing the sites from having to undergo costly increases in power delivery from the utility and having to replace the existing equipment in future years.

Companies investing in 350 kW fast charging stations today are hard pressed to get payback in electricity sales within 3-5 years, so to ask them to make ready a location with distribution equipment and capacity for up to 1 GW of EV charging is a tall order. Site hosts anticipating the ultrafast future of charging will also need to work with utilities to identify locations where they will not be disrupting the distribution grid.

 

Data Analysis Key to Unlocking EV Demand

— January 5, 2017

The term big data has quickly entered the lexicon of technologists in energy, IT, transportation, healthcare, security, and other industries for the potential of using data to get a better systems-level understanding of how industries function. In the nascent industry of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), sharing data on how these vehicles are driven in comparison to gasoline vehicles, as well as vehicle charging habits and requirements, are viewed as critical to growing the market beyond today’s less than 2% penetration rates.

Recognizing this, the White House assembled a group of government and private sector data enthusiasts (from automakers, charging networks, and others) for a Datathon in late November last year. The event featured presentations by many leading researchers who shared their latest work to get their peers interested in comparing, processing, and combining these data sets to increase the understanding of market requirements. Participants heard from the following:

  • The Idaho National Laboratory—the granddaddy of EV data, having housed and analyzed EV data since the early EV Project, and most recently included recommendations on residential and workplace charging based on its extensive experience.
  • The Argonne National Lab offers the Downloadable Dynamometer Database, which houses test data evaluating the energy consumption of PEVs as well as conventional drive vehicles in cold, average, and warm driving temperatures.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offers the Transportation Secure Data Center, providing access to regional travel surveys and studies to understand the differences in the driving patterns in the United States. This data for all types of vehicles can be used to see how PEV driving habits compare to gasoline cars, and how PEV usage may evolve once the promised 200+ mile range EVs hit the market. As an example, NREL hosts the 2014-2015 Puget Sound Regional Travel Study, which contains records of more than 10,000 individual driving trips in the area, including time of day, the distance of the trips, and the time required for the trips.
  • Another great resource is the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which has a bevy of travel and fuel consumption data about vehicles of all sizes, from cars to buses to trucks and rail.

Not long after the Datathon, the DOT announced grants totaling $300 million for the nation’s dozens of University Transportation Centers, which share the common goal to “advance US technology and expertise in the many disciplines composing transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer … .” These Centers contribute to the DOT’s research housed in the USDOT Research Hub, the central repository for research data not only for highway vehicles, but also aviation and maritime vehicles.

Transforming the US Highways

The Federal Highway Administration published a map that shows the recently designated Alternative Fuels Corridors, where signs will be posted to direct PEV drivers to the charging stations located near the highways. This map provides useful data for utilities to anticipate where additional DC fast charging stations are likely to be installed. This could affect grid operations and could also provide a new revenue stream.

Highway Information: Electric Vehicle

(Source: US Department of Transportation)

In late December 2016, the US Department of Energy announced that it is further committing $18 million to researching electric and other alternative fuel vehicles, which will no doubt generate some interesting additional data. By continuing to add new research and by diving deeper into this plethora of data, we can continue to chip away at burning PEV questions such as, “How is the range limitation of EVs preventing their expansion to selling in larger numbers?” and, based on where people, work, live, and recreate, “Where should charging stations be located to be frequently utilized and better serve EV drivers?”

Analyzing real-world data to better understand how PEVs can most appropriately fit into the overall transportation market will enable automakers, utilities, charging networks, and the other stakeholders to improve their decision-making and reduce the risk in this rapidly evolving market.

 

Preparations Continue for Tesla Model 3 Launch

— November 21, 2016

Electric Vehicle 2For the hundreds of thousands who put down a deposit on the upcoming Tesla Model 3, the future can’t come soon enough. The much anticipated EV, which is scheduled to start shipping sometime between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, is one of several vehicles due out in the next 18 months that are expected to push plug-in EVs (PEVs) into the mainstream.

A new book, Getting Ready for Model 3: A Guide for Future Tesla Model 3 Owners by Roger Pressman, details many of the expected technical details about the car’s performance as well as considerations for keeping it charged. For those who like the minutiae of how cars function, the chapters on performance and autonomous vehicles give digestible overviews of how EV and assisted driving technologies work in general, as well as Tesla’s likely implementation.

One aspect of PEVs that is often overlooked or misunderstood is the efficiency of electric motors in providing more torque at low to medium RPMs than conventional vehicles. Pressman does well in explaining the details about this feature, which alone should have prospective Model 3 owners excited. Tesla’s prior vehicles are admired for their speedy and nimble driving, and bringing that capability to the Model 3 helps explain the long reservation list.

Autonomous Driving

Tesla’s Autopilot feature has gained praise for its role in pushing the edges of driver assistance (as well as a fair amount of notoriety), and Pressman provides an overview of the levels of autonomy and underlying technologies. The Model 3 will include the hardware and software for Tesla’s self-driving technology, though customers of Tesla’s least expensive vehicle to date will have to pay to unlock the feature. A recent survey of Tesla owners indicates that while the vast majority understand the limits of the technology, the minority who believe Tesla cars can fully drive themselves can have serious consequences. With the Model 3 likely to outsell all previous Tesla cars combined, barring an expanded education push, the number of misinformed drivers putting too much faith in Autopilot could skyrocket.

For those who haven’t owned a PEV before, how to keep the 215-mile-range, all-electric car sufficiently charged is worth reading up on. As my colleague Sam Abuelsamid correctly anticipated, Model 3 owners (and all Tesla buyers who purchase a vehicle after January 1, 2017) won’t have unlimited use of the Supercharger network, but will be capped at around 400 kWh worth of free charging, with a pay-as-you-go model kicking in after that.

To supplement the Supercharger network, Tesla has been busy working with partners to build out its Destination Charging network. As pictured below, this network provides slightly above Level 2 (up to 16 kW) charging at hotels, parking garages, restaurants, and other locations across the United States.

Tesla’s Destination Charging Network

DestinationCharging

Source: Tesla Motors

Tesla will also be introducing a new type of glass in the Model 3 as the company continues to expand its research and development efforts to leverage the synergies with recently acquired SolarCity. There is justified enthusiasm surrounding the Model 3 and other more affordable PEVs coming out in the next 18 months. It will be interesting to see to what degree that excitement turns into growing sales.

 

Startups Mine Traffic Data to Drive City Efficiency

— November 2, 2016

Connected VehiclesThe traffic jam. It frustrates commuters, causes huge losses in productivity, and negatively affects air quality. This aggravating problem (and the often futile attempts to prevent it) dates back to the horse and buggy, and startups are now creating innovative analytics to better understand the causes of jams and developing services to increase the flow of vehicles.

Examining Intersections

RSM Traffic, based in Dublin, Ireland, focuses on collecting data from intersections within a city to enhance the effectiveness of traffic light timing. The company’s Simon platform analyzes the sensor data located at multiple intersections to create a network to better understand the interaction of traffic flows across locations.

Kathryn Mullins, Head of Strategic Partnerships at RSM, said the company uses radar to study the flow of vehicles, and its open software application programming interface (API) is data agnostic, enabling data collection from other sources such as city data repositories. Mullins said RSM’s target audience includes cities, commercial property owners, and media companies looking to get better data on the traffic flow around outdoor advertisements. RSM said Simon is not currently using data received from vehicle telematics systems, but the platform has the capability to accept data via dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), which would provide additional granularity in understanding driving routes.

Navigation Analysis

San Francisco, home to some of the worst traffic conditions in the United States, is also home to StreetLight Data. Founder and CEO Laura Schewel said the company uses data from relationships with in-car navigation system providers and mobile phone applications to understand the location and length of driving trips. Schewel said the company has anonymized data from millions of vehicles, which has been used to support nearly 200 transportation projects.

StreetLight Data aggregates location data on the origin and destination of trips, enabling retailers or city managers to understand where vehicles come from and where they go next. The mobile phone data is analyzed for the time and distance traveled in order to differentiate between driving and other trips such as biking or walking, according to Schewel. In October, the company announced a deal to integrate its Travel Metrics service into products from transportation modeling and forecasting software provider PTV Group.

StreetLight Data’s services are delivered via a web portal and has particular applications for the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market. Commercial property owners, charging networks, or utilities looking to find locations where PEV traffic is sufficiently dense can use StreetLight Data’s information to optimize the siting of charging infrastructure. The company can analyze trip data to find locations where PEV drivers are likely to need a charge based on where they live and common distances driven.

While the term big data may seem Orwellian to some, services like RSM Traffic and StreetLight Data will play a significant role in enabling smart cities to be safer and more livable by increasing the traffic flow and enabling the growth of emissions-free PEVs.

 

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