Navigant Research Blog

The Peer-to-Peer Future of EV Charging

— November 1, 2017

In cities where EV drivers believe they have limited access to publicly available charging infrastructure, the resulting range anxiety hinders plug-in EV (PEV) adoption rates. VW’s subsidiary, Electrify America, required investment in infrastructure because of the dieselgate settlement, which should help reduce range anxiety in many areas. A variety of new technologies are bringing new value to the existing EV charging infrastructure, a trend that could also help ease range anxiety and grow the EV market.

Communication Standards

Many standards from organizations such as the Society of Automotive Engineers have been established for communications between EVs and EV supply equipment (EVSE). Of note is International Standards Organization (ISO) 15118, which specifies a common understanding of all processes between an EV and EVSE. Specifically, ISO 15118 standardizes the communications between the EV communication controller and the supply equipment communication controller. The communication standards enable everything from bidirectional charging to transaction services. Vehicles that comply with ISO 15118 will allow for automatic owner account authentication at charging points that both prevents data manipulation and initiates seamless smart charging of EVs. The establishment of this standard enables bidirectional charging, which can provide utilities with grid services and creates the groundwork for the buying and selling of electricity between the grid, EVSE, and EVs.

RFID Technology

South Korea has been aggressively trying to support and expand its EV fleet. In 2015, the City of Seoul partnered with company Power Cube to give out special electric charger cables to enable drivers to recharge their vehicles at 100,000 locations with standard outlets. These cables are equipped with RFID readers that scan an RFID tag attached to the power outlet to be used. Power Cube then processes the transaction by transmitting the driver’s identity, time, place, and electricity purchased via a 3G wireless module included in the charging cable to Power Cube. Power Cube bills the user later, and then pays the electricity provider.

Seoul hoped that the giveaway would incentivize more private EV ownership; as of the program launch, the majority of EVs in Seoul were owned by public sector entities. It intended to give out all 100,000 cables by 2018. Each cable costs 1 million won (about $917) and has a charge capacity at 3.3 kW. While there has been no coverage of the program since its inception, there continues to be a market opportunity for transaction authentication in the EV charging space, with the City of Busan’s launch of a similar program in 2016.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain could offer a low cost and reliable way for transactions to be recorded and validated across a distributed network with no central point of authority. It also removes some of the technological barriers associated with dynamic and wireless charging; these services can use blockchain technology to record and validate the purchase of electricity from these chargers automatically, without driver intervention.

In Germany, blockchain technology can be used to authenticate and manage the billing process for EV charging stations. For example, Car eWallet will enable a driver’s car to pay for charging, with no need for pulling out a credit card.

Share&Charge, another e-mobility service, has completed its pilot in Germany and is partnering with eMotorWerks to bring its services to California. Participation in the pilot will be based on a first come, first serve basis. Share&Charge uses the Ethereum blockchain because of its support for smart contracts. It creates a token on this chain and users provide/receive payment in these tokens that then can be redeemed for traditional currencies.

Although the use of these services for widespread dynamic charging services is still a ways down the road, these EV-focused transactional services could expand publicly available charging infrastructure by enabling point-to-point sharing of private EV charging stations. They could also enable future applications such as toll payments and carsharing services.

Navigant Research’s upcoming report, Wireless EV Charging, focuses on how wireless charging technology has become increasingly more efficient over the past couple years. A growing number of pilot programs and applications are popping up around the world. As these actors move forward with expanding charging infrastructure, developing technologies may help process and authenticate future transactions.

 

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.

 

EPA Looks to Make EV Charging More Energy Efficient

— July 24, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to reduce the energy consumption of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) by developing its first ENERGY STAR specification for this category of products. As we know, electric vehicle (EV) chargers are idle for the majority of the day, and the specification will address the amount of power consumed while not in use.

The ENERGY STAR program will initially focus on alternating current (AC) (Level 1 and 2) charging, but the EPA is also looking at direct current (DC) charging.

According to the EPA document:

“Emerging EVSE could include features such as the ability to receive DC power from PV panels or local storage; provide DC power to other devices in a building via USB, Ethernet, or other power transmission medium; supply AC power to a building or specific appliances; coordinate power distribution with other entities in the building; include electricity storage internal to the EVSE; and enabling transmission of power from a vehicle to a home.”

Enabling DC chargers to share the incoming power via USB, AC power, Ethernet, or other media is an interesting way of getting more value out of available power. DC chargers are only used in short bursts for fast charging, so finding ways to smartly manage them as a building resource makes sense. Building in a power converter enables the charger to integrate into other stationary devices, such as using DC power from a solar panel locally instead of sending it back to the grid where its value is often less. I haven’t seen any DC chargers that can do this today, so it will be interesting to see how manufacturers develop products with these capabilities.

Paying to Park

Car Charging is looking at increasing the utility of EV chargers through a different approach. The company is assessing a fee of $0.08  per minute to EV owners who leave their vehicles plugged in but not charging for longer than 15 minutes after the charging session ends, according to PluginCars.com. The 15-minute grace period seems sensible, as many customers receive automated alerts when charging is completed. The fee is a considerable incentive for people to be conscientious about moving their cars after a completed charge, which makes them available for other (revenue-generating) charging sessions, which is critical for EVSE to become profitable.

At the EV Roadmap Conference starting July 29 in Portland, Oregon, I’ll be moderating a panel where several industry luminaries will be discussing the latest innovations in smart EV charging. Stop by and check it out, or leave a comment here with questions for the panel.

 

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