EV charging can get very complicated


Second of two parts

ANY VEHICLE, whether equipped with an internal combustion engine or a battery, needs two things to be of any value to its owner: a place to park and a convenient way to regularly power the vehicle. An EV without convenient ways to charge has no, or one might say even negative, value to the owner. 

There are many factors that make EV charging infrastructure much more complicated than refueling a car with petrol or diesel. One simply cannot draw parallels between the two.

Even with the fastest charging rates currently available, EV charging takes much longer (more than 4-5 times longer) than refueling your car with petrol or diesel to add the same range to your car. While data is still not out there in large numbers, for the sake of this article we assume that constant fast charging will not adversely impact the health of the battery.

EV charging is inherently more complicated than filling a tank with liquid fuel. An EV charge initiation involves a lot of software handshakes, cloud communication, payment gateway initiation (for public charging), pre-conditioning the battery, latching the cable properly, and information exchange between the car and the charger. Each point in this process is a point of failure, and today’s chargers have been failing a lot.

In sheer numbers, EV charging stations have a lot of ground to make up. The US averages 104 gas pumps for every 1,000 road miles compared to 22 for EV charging ports. This, combined with the fact that a quarter of EV charging ports don’t work and charging an EV takes much longer means the actual availability is much lower. Unless and until this is fixed, we predict EV adoption rates will lag. 

The solution is not anywhere near as simple as simply replacing gas stations with EV charging stations. This is neither a tenable nor advisable approach because a good location for an EV charging station (mall, coffee shop, workplace, office, curbs) is not a good location for a fuel station and vice versa. Also, an EV needs to be able to charge where it is parked, and the US will still have a lot of internal combustion engine cars requiring fuel for the next 30 years given the slow turnover of the passenger vehicle fleet (16.6 years is the average life of a car in the US). Hence, removing gas stations en masse may not be the wisest thing to do.

The issue that must be addressed, and reasonably quickly, is not range anxiety (how far can I go with a fully charged battery) but charging anxiety (can I charge my EV conveniently anytime I choose). 

While most electric vehicle manufacturers have addressed range anxiety (the median range has increased from less than 100 miles a decade or so ago to well over 250 miles today), it has not come without significant negative consequences. Manufacturers are maximizing range by putting massive, heavy battery packs in EVs. The battery pack on the Hummer EV, for instance, weighs more than a Honda Civic.

This excess weight has many negative externalities and reduces vehicular efficiency drastically. The battery is the key reason why EVs are heavier than their internal combustion engine counterparts by more than 1,200 pounds. This added weight will have serious negative consequences on road wear, on deadly crashes, and on the levels of particulate matter emissions, which are a proven threat to public health.

    If EV charging is improved to be more reliable and more easily available (and reasonably priced), we have some hope that battery sizes and weights can come down. This has huge consequences not only here in the US but on the battery mining, processing, and supply chain. Further, smaller batteries mean we can build more EVs with the same resources and decarbonize faster.


Source link