Navigant Research Blog

Fast EV Charging Ready to Accelerate

John Gartner — August 3, 2016

EV RefuelingBattery electric vehicles (BEVs) are getting better with each model announced by automakers, with greater driving ranges, better styling, and more features, all at lower costs. The 2016 sales figures indicate that American buyers increasingly prefer going all-electric rather than plug-in hybrid with a gasoline backup.

By 2018, we’ll have a handful of relatively affordable 200+ mile BEVs available from a variety of automakers, which will require not only more commercial charging locations, but also faster chargers to cut down the time needed to fully recharge the bigger batteries that these vehicles utilize.

Navigant Research’s recently published DC Charging Map for the United States report projects that adding a network of 408 fast chargers could enable drivers to get around and between the top 100 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. Plug-in hybrids, with much smaller battery packs, aren’t expected to support these higher charging levels.

DC Charging Stations for Long-Distance BEV Demand, Top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas

DC Charging Map

 (Sources: Navigant Research, Esri, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Federal Highway Administration)

These higher power stations (greater than 100 kW, compared to most non-Tesla charging stations that max out at 50 kW) would help encourage greater EV adoption by giving drivers the freedom to roam across their state or the entire country knowing that a charging station is within reach.

The federal government is doubling down on its bet on EVs through a slew of initiatives announced in July that support EV charging with the hope of increasing EV sales. The White House, in conjunction with the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation and other agencies, announced the availability of up to $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for companies to invest in EV charging infrastructure. Government agencies will also be working together to get more EVs into their fleets through combined purchases.

Speeding Up the Charge

In looking to get charge times closer to 10 minutes for BEVs, the U.S. Department of Energy will fund research into the feasibility of 350 kW charging and is inviting the private sector to assist. In theory, being able to recharge a BEV at near the time it takes to fill an SUV with gas would remove one barrier for time-conscious consumers. However, the high power has implications for safety (higher voltage and amperage), heat generation (potential to melt connectors), the lifecycle of the receiving batteries, and the site host.

Many utilities levy demand charges for peak power delivered over a specified threshold during the month that can cost up to thousands of dollars in recurring fees. Utilities are beginning to address the cost issue by developing new rate structures that consider fast charging, or by considering operating fast charging equipment themselves.

Seattle City Light will install and operate 20 fast charging stations to get a better understanding of the impacts of EVs on its grid. Also in Washington state, utility Avista will install seven direct current (DC) fast chargers with energy services company Greenlots as part of a larger project to evaluate EVs in demand response and smart charging programs.

And if 350 kW EV charging isn’t fast enough, electric buses in Geneva, Switzerland will soon be charging at a whopping 600 kW. ABB will be using stationary batteries to help limit the impact of fast charging 12 buses. In the world of EV charging, “fast” is rapidly becoming a relative term.

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