Too Many EVs, Too Few Chargers
With the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt gearing up for release, electric vehicles now have their sights squarely set on mainstream consumers, many of whom seem to really like the idea of driving electric. Tesla just introduced its Model 3, and reservations have already surpassed 325,000. While the demand is great news — for Tesla, EV enthusiasts and the planet as a whole — EVs are heading for major trouble.
Right now in the United States, EVs outnumber charging stations 15-to-1, which poses a serious problem as another 300,000-plus EVs get on the road.
We simply don’t have the public chargers needed to handle the demand, and we’re walking right into a 1970s-style fuel crisis. Except this time, it’s not the fuel that’s in short supply – it’s the actual stations themselves. Building out the right infrastructure is no small or easy task, nor does it come at a cheap cost.
Standing in the Way of Charging
Charging an EV isn’t the same as powering your phone. While you can plug EVs into regular 110-volt outlets — typically referred to as “Level 1 charging” — you might want to bring a good book because you’ll be waiting for a while. Level 1 charging takes around 100 hours to fully load up a Tesla.
While 220-volt (Level 2) charging is a viable option and the most widely-used charging solution, it still takes 10 hours to completely fill up an EV. Even worse, most public chargers are Level 2, which means you’d better be ready to settle in for the long haul. Even Level 3 DC fast chargers (which represent just 10 percent of all chargers) take around 45-60 minutes, and depending on where you live and how far away your parking space is from the breaker, paying to install charging stations could get expensive.
Most buildings and cities were never designed for the massive power drain that EVs cause. Moreover, installing charging stations could involve multimillion-dollar requests for older buildings. As more electric vehicles appear on the road, having a single charging station for an entire garage is no longer viable — especially now that Tesla is planning to release 500,000 EVs in the next two years.
While there isn’t much time to get started, there is a small window to operate before the influx of EVs. Any Tesla owner will tell you that having an in-home solution is essential, but what are building owners to do when adding stations is so cost-prohibitive?
Building The Future
Tesla has put a significant amount of the infrastructure burden on itself, rigorously building out its own private supercharger network at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Building in open areas close to large power sources is fairly easy, and while not cheap, it certainly is the most cost-effective solution. That’s why many of Tesla’s superchargers are placed on the edges of towns.
The venture has been relatively successful (depending on which state you live in), but Tesla has recently begun to feel the pinch of success. The company is having to send out notices to drivers for “overusing” the supercharge stations, which specifically state that the supercharger network is only for long-haul journeys and ask drivers to consider in-home charging.
EV drivers need to understand how to fill up. They need only look to their pockets to understand how to best fuel their vehicles on limited charging stations. Most people don’t wait until their mobile phones are completely dead before plugging in. They simply charge their phones at the end of the day in preparation for tomorrow. Charging EVs should be no different.
While understanding how EVs work is helpful, many users will nonetheless run into issues with in-home charging. That’s why utilizing intelligent power management systems is essential. While many buildings have a finite amounts of power for charging stations, intelligent systems can maximize their existing infrastructures. Directing power to go where and when it’s needed can easily allow for triple the amount of charging stations.
By understanding a few basic points — like which stations are in use, how much power is available, and drivers charging habits — intelligent systems can get the most out of existing infrastructure. Intelligent systems can also handle two the biggest issues for building owners: metering and billing.
Although the majority of new EVs will not be on the road until 2020, building out the necessary charging stations well in advance is imperative. Gaining approval from building owners (and sometimes homeowner associations), acquiring proper permitting, finding experienced electricians and securing proper insurance take time — a lot of it. With such little time to work with, we need to start building out the future of charging stations now before it’s too late.