Friday, May 20, 2016

Next Gen Fast Charge Networks - An Overview       

May 20th 2016

Next generation electric vehicles will require next generation fast charge networks. These networks will meet the needs and demands of next gen EVs and give them the freedom they need. What are next gen fast charge networks, what characteristics will they have, and why are they important? This article will answer these questions for non Tesla networks and EVs. 

There are three main characteristics of next gen fast charge networks:  

  • First is higher power. This is the most obvious characteristic of next gen networks since next gen cars will be able to charge at 100 to 150 kW because of their larger batteries. 
  • Second is multiple chargers. In order to serve dozens of vehicles per day, avoid queuing, and maintain the highest level of reliability possible, multiple fast chargers at each location is imperative. In other words, two minimum. 
  • Third is intercity locations. Longer distance travel opens up for next gen affordable 200 mile EVs and necessitates fast chargers to be located along main highways across the country. 

Some Examples

Examples of this type of network are Tesla's Supercharger network and Fastned's network in the Netherlands. For higher power, Tesla is already at 120 kW, and Fastned has committed itself to install the fastest chargers at all charging stations as soon as these become available. Both Tesla and Fastned have multiple chargers at intercity locations that enable intercity travel. Ecotricity in the UK and Arctic Roads in Norway typically have two chargers per location and will likely install higher power chargers as they become available. 

Prime Locations & Spacing

In the U.S., prime locations for intercity fast charge stations are at Service Plazas on toll roads, and suitable parking lot areas at places of business within half a mile from the main highway. Parking lot stations will be close to food, drink, and restrooms that are available 24/7. Some will be in large metropolitan areas, but most will be spread across the country in towns and business areas just off the main highway. 

Spacing of next gen locations along highways can range up to 100 miles, with much closer spacing likely on heavily traveled corridors, commuting routes, and in densely populated areas. 

Additional Characteristics & Station Up-time

Besides having a minimum of two fast chargers, some locations will have the grid connections and space necessary for additional chargers to be installed when needed. Battery buffers will increasingly be employed to offset peak demand charges, and canopies with solar panels may pop up at some locations. 

Next gen fast charge network operators will have strategies and measures in place to ensure maximum charger up-time. A target of 99.5% up-time will be the minimum acceptable per station. Fastned has achieved 99.9%. 

Total Freedom

Every vehicle on the road serves to give freedom to its owner in one form or another. The masses will not embrace electric mobility until the EV can symbolize that same freedom that any other car can give. Next gen affordable electric vehicles won't give very many mainstream consumers the freedom they expect until comprehensive next gen fast charge networks exist to convince them to step into one and drive electric!!

This post was also published on Inside EVs:
(May 21st 2016)

Excellent Additional Reading on the Subject:

(October 2015)

To Be Successful, Electric Cars Need Intercity Fast Charging: Opinion
(Jan 2016)

Overview of Plug-in Electric Car Charging Infrastructure in the U.S. - Part 2
(April 2016)

Tesla Supercharger Users Rate Experience Far Better Than Other Fast Charging Users
(May 2016)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reliable Fast Charge Networks                                              Nov. 2015

My name is Brandon Smoker. I live in Pennsylvania USA and am an electric car enthusiast (I own a 2011 Nissan Leaf too) with a particular interest in seeing robust fast charge networks become a reality. 

I see a weakness in some of today's fast charge networks that I'm hoping operators will address in future planning and rolling out of fast charge stations. 
A network of fast chargers needs to be completely reliable if it is to be trusted by EV drivers now and in the future. 
This is particularly important for those charge stations that enable longer distance EV travel between cities. 
In the same way that a gas car driver visits a gas station with his gauge on E and is quite certain that he will be able to fill up, so an EV driver needs to be certain that a fast charge location will provide the charge he most certainly needs. 
Future EV drivers who travel on a main route that has a well spaced network of fast chargers may not have range anxiety, but if there exists a good possibility of encountering a fast charger being out of service, then we have charger anxiety. 
Some early adopters of electric vehicles may be willing to put up with this, but most mainstream drivers will not. 
So what are some things that could be done to help a network be reliable?
Here are some thoughts I have:
For the long distance main route fast charger locations between cities, I would recommend two chargers, one obviously being the 50 kW fast charger and the other a Level 2 j1772 charger at the very least, which should be seen as a short term solution. 
More than one charger at these between city locations is necessary for EV driver confidence. An EV driver is not going to be too keen to take a trip that requires him to rely on just one fast charger per location that has the potential to be out of order in some way. 
Having a Level 2 as a backup charger is a cheap way to accomplish this to a degree. 
As soon as possible another fast charger should be installed. This could be a 24 kW charger to save on costs. A location would then have 2 fast chargers and one Level 2. The 24 kW charger could even be installed in the first place. 
This would help to eliminate the possibility of an individual or family being stranded on a trip if a fast charger has an issue or is temporarily out of service. 

Adding to what I've written above:

I'm looking into the future here and seeing a vitally important issue that needs to be addressed. 
There needs to be something done to ensure driver confidence on the main routes between cities. 
My main thrust here is that this driver confidence/convenience issue is huge and needs to be addressed by multiple units in future installations. 
In the future, not necessarily right away at the beginning. Early adopters are more daring than the regular driver. 
Expansion and Reliability of DCFC Infrastructure Needed For Mainstream Adoption of EVs

Feb 2016

Next gen EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan LEAF 2 that will be here next year in 2017 will bring us a couple steps closer to the reality of EVs becoming a mainstream consumer product. Most of us know that these two future EVs are longer range and fairly affordable. 
However there are three things that I believe are needed for mass adoption of electric vehicles, and I would like to focus on the third one.

They are:
1.  200+ mile range
2.  Affordable (lower 30k range)
3.  Reliable fast charge infrastructure for long distance travel. 

A November 2015 report by Navigant Research states thus:
"Expansion of EVSE infrastructure to intra-city locations will make PEVs more attractive to drivers initially concerned about being unable to charge their vehicle during longer trips.”


I believe we can safely say that adoption of electric vehicles won't become mainstream in this country until the fast charger infrastructure is at a place of being completely reliable. It must be just as reliable as visiting a gas station with the gauge on E and knowing with confidence that you be able to fill up your vehicle there. In order for this to be a reality for next gen EVs, intercity fast charge locations with at least 2 fast chargers operating at 100 to 150 kW are necessary. Even tho the percentage of trips that require DCFC is quite low and the average EV driver will only fast charge 4-10 times a year, it is vitally important for a reliable intercity network of fast chargers to be in place. Only then will the average mainstream consumer be confident to own an EV, knowing that he can travel most anywhere with ease.