A Roadblock to Electric Vehicle Adoption
Every day, something new or exciting takes place in the world of electric vehicles. Commonly referred to as EVs, electric vehicles save owners thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance while also lessening oil dependence. However, the buzz seems to ignore the impending choke hold that EV adoption faces.
For years, the common drawback to owning an EV has been not having places to charge them. Since EVs require more time to charge, public stations would have to be extremely fast or located in just about every public lot for drivers to charge consistently and reliably.
While faster charge times are slowly coming about thanks to Tesla’s supercharger network initiative, having charging stations on every block is simply not feasible. The existing gas station model simply doesn’t work for EVs. Enter in-home charging systems.
Today, we don’t need “gas stations” for our wide array of electronics. We charge our phones at home or work, and the same goes for our laptops and tablets. So, the same should apply to our electric cars, right?
We wouldn’t dream of owning smartphones if we couldn’t charge them in the comfort of our own homes. Anyone who has been stuck with a long layover can attest to the frustration of scavenging for a free outlet in the airport to charge a phone. The same would likely apply to the need to charge electric vehicles. Having to hunt down a public charger or share a communal one is a major hassle, one that’s only bound to get worse as more and more EVs are on the road.
The Power Struggle
For those Americans living in single-family homes, the way to answer the EV charging question is fairly straightforward: buy an electric vehicle charger and install it at home for daily use. However, those 88 million Americans living in multifamily buildings have tougher problems to wrestle.
Whether or not we are aware, most buildings only have access to finite amounts of power, which means every electrical appliance in the building (washers, dryers, TVs, blenders, etc.) has to consume under that pre-defined amount. Some appliances use up very little energy, while others can require substantial amounts. Not surprisingly, car chargers fall into the latter category. Since residents in multifamily buildings must share the allotted power, EV ownership can take a major hit.
A typical building in San Francisco has around 100 amps of available power and about 300 residents. The recommended in-home EV charger draws at least 30 amps, making only three charging stations per building possible forcing all 300 residents to share. Today, about 4 percent of Californians drive electric vehicles, and as EV ownership rates continue to rise across the U.S., many more buildings will struggle to meet charging needs, thus threatening widespread EV adoption.
An Intelligent Solution
Public charging networks inform that once buildings reach capacity, they will have to upgrade their access to power. What these public networks fail to point out is that power upgrades can cost upwards of $80,000 and can cause more strain on the existing electrical grid. In essence, power upgrades are unnecessary, unwise, and wasteful. The answer is not found in how much power we have but how we direct the existing power.
An intelligent system that knows when and where power is needed can significantly increase the capacity of a building. Instead of having chargers block off large swaths of power even when they are not in use, an intelligent system could dictates where that available power should go and how much should be sent. Using such technology allows for up to 10 times the amount of chargers than what major charging networks currently use.
For EVs, an intelligent system that knows where, when, and how much power each charging station needs would eliminate the logistical nightmare. An intelligent system that can move power around freely and maximize the current infrastructure could charge as many as 15 EVs off the same 100 amps. How? Consider variables such as batteries, EV design, and drivers.
Batteries do not charge uniformly, and as they approach 100 percent, they begin to accept less and less power. With a traditional solution, the power trying to fully charge an EV battery is lost in the final stage, but an intelligent system simply diverts that otherwise-lost power to another station.
In addition, different EVs need different amounts of power from charging stations. Some need 50 percent, others just need 10 percent. An intelligent system would identify the different supply power needs and further eliminate waste.
Finally, everyone drives differently. An intelligent system knows that Car A needs to be full in two hours while Car B isn’t going anywhere for a while. The list of potential ways to maximize energy goes on, but a system that takes all variables into account to ensure no power is wasted is a far superior solution to the public charging stations that exist now.
Without a more intelligent EV charging system, electric vehicles face a very long, difficult road to mainstream adoption. As we move into the future, electric vehicle production and ownership will certainly increase drastically. As the number of EVs grows, the need for more charging stations grows. The coming years will determine if EVs are here to stay, and an intelligent charging system could make or break their future.