Navigant Research Blog

Fast EV Charging Ready to Accelerate

— 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.

 

BEVs Moving Beyond 200 Miles

— June 14, 2016

EV RefuelingBy the end of 2016, the first long-range battery electric vehicles (BEVs) for the mass market will finally become available. Over the next 3 years, the long-range BEV is expected to emerge as the market standard as BEVs with ranges below 100 miles disappear from automaker new vehicle lineups. The long-range BEV under $40,000 is a marked achievement in the industry that is expected to significantly increase plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) adoption past the 1% penetration rate it has struggled to surpass in all but a few global markets. But how far past 1% will the 200 miles/under $40,000 move penetrate?

Practical Limitations

The leap in range and affordability is a significant achievement, but BEVs still have to overcome significant hurdles before the tech can effectively replace the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. For all its flaws (expensive fuel, upkeep costs, and emissions), the conventional option cannot be matched yet in terms of cost, fueling convenience, range, and capability. Parity across all these factors, among all light vehicle types, is a long way off.

Even at a 200-, 250-, or 300-mile range, a BEV is a hard sell to anyone without a place to charge their vehicle at their residence or at their work. For those without this specific access, charging needs are likely only met through fast charging when the BEV state of charge nears depletion. Unless one is so fortunate to have access to a Tesla Supercharger, charging a 60 kWh+ BEV from 0% to 100% on public fast charging equipment (around 50 kW) will likely be an hour(s)-long engagement, and the energy cost savings analysis is not encouraging in this scenario unless subsidized.

In the United States, the share of the market without access to workplace or residential charging is not likely a minority. Over 56% of respondents to Navigant Research’s annual Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey indicated they did not have access to an electrical outlet at their residential parking space.

Analysis of survey responses reveals that people without access to residential charging are far less likely to consider BEVs than those with access. Near 30% of those without access indicated they would not consider a BEV regardless of range, while 34% of those without access that would consider a BEV would only do so if the vehicle achieved a range over 300 miles. In contrast, around 17% of those with access would not consider a BEV regardless of range and only 22% of those who would consider a BEV would only do so at over 300 miles.

As of yet, BEVs play particularly well to two or more car households where one conventional car can be used for more demanding driving requirements and the BEV can be utilized for short driving needs. 200 miles will likely expand the number of households replacing one vehicle with a BEV, but it will likely make little headway in convincing the two or more car household to replace an additional vehicle.

Addressing the Gaps

Residential and workplace charging are fundamental to market growth, but speedy increases in development will never address all the needs of those limited to on-street parking at both their residence and workplace. Public charging infrastructure that can match the speed of a pump alongside an actual marketing campaign for PEVs from the established OEMs will improve conditions for all consumers. However, the only way such an infrastructure is developed is if a robust fast charging business model emerges for fuel retailers—and the only way that happens is via the steady increase in the long-range BEV population (or via additional government support).

This is not to say that the battery will not eventually replace the ICE; it’s likely it will. But adoption will not follow the same speed of the disruptive technologies BEVs are so often compared with. An all-electric future is highly probable, but it is not near.

 

Ford Decides to Stick with 100-Mile EVs – for Now

— April 29, 2016

EV RefuelingDuring the recent SAE 2016 World Congress in Detroit, there was much discussion among attendees and speakers about the future of electric vehicles (EVs). For the most part, there was agreement that a 200-mile nominal range on a charge will be the minimum needed to get mainstream customers to start accepting EVs as a viable transportation alternative. One notable exception to that opinion, at least publicly, came from Kevin Layden, Ford director of electrification engineering, who told Automotive News that a 100-mile range provided a better balance of weight and cost while meeting the needs of most drivers.

Not coincidentally, this fall, Ford is slated to release an upgraded version of its sole battery electric vehicle (BEV), the Focus Electric, with that same 100-mile range. There is little reason to doubt that Ford has no immediate plans to directly challenge the Chevrolet Bolt (which is set to launch at nearly the same time as the refreshed Focus) or the upcoming Tesla Model 3.

Late BEV Addition

The current Focus debuted in 2011 and the BEV variant was a late addition to program. In fact, it wasn’t even originally conceived by Ford. Engineers at supplier Magna International built a pair of prototypes in 2008 to demonstrate their EV engineering capabilities and Ford adopted the program late in the year as part of its recovery plan following the financial meltdown. The next-generation Focus was already well in development by that time, but Ford worked with Magna to adapt the electric drive system and battery packaging to the new model. The packaging results were less than optimal, with severely compromised cargo space compared to the competitors such as the Nissan LEAF or the later Volkswagen e-Golf.

While advances in battery technology in the years since have enabled Ford to boost the original 76-mile range to 100 miles, packing in twice as much capacity into this generation of the Focus would simply be impossible. Given that like other large automakers, Ford still needs to sell a certain number of plug-in vehicles (PEVs) every year in order to meet the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandates, and it’s no surprise that the priority right now is to sell the upgraded Focus Electric as is. Given the new competition from the Bolt, Ford will likely emphasize the starting price before incentives of $29,170 for the Focus, some $10,000 less than its original price in 2012.

More Models on the Way

While Ford marketing tries to sell the current-generation Focus Electric for the next 2 to 3 years, the product development team is no doubt working overtime to match or beat the benchmarks set by Chevrolet and Tesla for the next-generation model. In December 2015, Ford announced a $4.5 billion investment to launch 13 new electrified models by 2020 and the chances are excellent that at least one of those will be a 200-mile BEV that can sell for $30,000. The next-generation Focus platform is expected to debut in 2018 and Ford will likely have made allowances in the design to package larger batteries to meet the market demand for EV capability. During the 1Q 2016 financial results call on April 28, Ford CEO Mark Fields commented that the company wants to be in a leadership position on EVs, implying that Ford intends to build longer-range models in the coming years.

Navigant Research’s Electric Vehicle Market Forecast report projects global light duty BEV sales of almost 1.6 million in 2024, with nearly 462,000 in the United States. If manufacturers are to meet their individual sales targets under the California EV mandates, they will have to create products that are meet increasing customer expectations. With multiple manufacturers openly committing to affordable BEVs with 200 miles or more of range, only very inexpensive vehicles are likely to be deemed acceptable with less.

 

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