Navigant Research Blog

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.

 

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.

 

Washington Utility Tests New Path to Integrating EVs

— July 27, 2016

EV RefuelingEastern Washington isn’t an especially well-known plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market, given most PEV sales in the state are concentrated in Seattle and along the Pacific coast. However, the utility serving a large portion of eastern Washington, Avista, has made an ambitious and refreshingly unique move in preparation for the emerging technology. On July 27, Avista announced it will develop a pilot to demonstrate vehicle-grid integration (VGI) technologies in partnership with Greenlots across 200 Level 2 chargers and seven direct current (DC) fast chargers at residential, workplace, and public charging sites.

The purpose of the pilot is to determine how much PEV load can be shifted from peak load times to off-peak times without using time-of-use (TOU) rates. The hope is that the pilot will show that PEV load may be managed in a manner that reduces grid operating costs and increases grid reliability, thus optimizing potential benefits of PEVs to both utilities and ratepayers.

A Unique Approach

What makes Avista’s pilot unique is its holistic approach encompassing all forms of charging and the use of more nuanced demand-side management mechanisms than TOU rates. Including residential, workplace, and public charging within the pilot enables Avista to collect data on the uninfluenced charging behavior of program participants and then assess how demand response (DR) signals sent to PEV owners changes charging behavior across the charging network. The use of DR signals rather than TOU rates prevents new peak creation at the beginning of off-peak periods and maintains higher levels of revenue per kWh consumed by PEVs than would a TOU rate while still providing energy savings to PEV owners.

The pilot kicks off this August and will run for 2 years. Single-family and multi-unit dwelling residences will have 120 chargers installed, while the remaining 80 chargers will be placed at select workplaces or public locations alongside the seven aforementioned DC fast chargers. The chargers will be integrated into Greenlots’ SKY charge management platform, which is also being leveraged in a similar pilot for Southern California Edison that looks specifically at workplace charging.

Fast Growing Customer Base

Avista’s pilot comes in response to the strong possibility that its PEV population is going to increase dramatically. Washington’s Electric Vehicle Action Plan seeks to ensure 50,000 PEVs are on the state’s roads by 2020, up from the 12,000 registered in early 2015. As of the writing of the action plan, only a few hundred of these registrations were in counties served by Avista. Yet, the market for PEVs is anticipated to increase significantly in the next 3 years as 200-mile range battery EVs (BEVs) at under $40,000 are introduced.

On behalf of mass market long-range BEVs, Navigant Research forecasts in its Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts report that Washington will meet its 2020 goal sometime in 2018, with sales expanding into suburban and rural markets. If the PEV market lives up to this forecast, then PEV populations in eastern Washington counties are expected to be at least 7 times greater than current levels by the end of 2020.

PEVs in Use in Eastern Washington Counties: 2016-2020

Washington PEV

(Source: Navigant Research)

 

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