Chevy Bolt

A Chevy Bolt at a Level 2 charging station. Photo Courtesy Chevrolet.

Part 2 of 3

Previously: Part 1 we talked about the history of Electric Vehicles and how that history influences our future

Electric vehicles are rapidly becoming better, cheaper, and cleaner than their fossil fueled equivalents (See: The Last Auto Mechanic), and so is the charging infrastructure that supports these next-generation vehicles.

Experts are predicting that over half of new American vehicles will be all-electric in under 15 years (Business Insider), and Tesla’s rainmaker, Elon Musk, believes that the transition will be even faster than that.

In this installment we delve into electric vehicle charging infrastructure and how the hand-in-glove combination of new technology and new EVs is accelerating the clean energy transition.

You Gotta Charge

Probably the most obvious feature of an electric car is the need to replenish the battery by charging it!

A lot of consumer anxiety around electric vehicles has to do with charging – how long will a vehicle go on a charge, how long will it take to charge, where can I get a charge, etc. The great news is that electric vehicle charging stations are easier to operate than a gas pump, much cleaner in every way possible, and charging stations are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain throughout New England and beyond (see: PlugShare).

Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement money will soon be flowing to New England states to further build out the necessary charging infrastructure to enable the end of the internal combustion engine (by the way, VW has abandoned its diesel R&D and is now focusing exclusively on electric vehicles).

Here are some quick facts you need to know about how easy and convenient it is to charge your EV:

  • Most passenger vehicles sit unused for 95% of every day, either parked at home or work, which is plenty of time to refuel!
  • EV’s can be charged overnight while you sleep – making commuting via electric vehicle an existing reality for millions of people.
  • An increasing number of employers are offering workplace charging as a free or nominal cost benefit – extending one’s range even further.
  • Public and commercial charging stations are everywhere! Apps like PlugShare make them easy to find.
  • ReVision Energy offers installation of Electric Vehicle Chargers – Level 2 and 3 (more on those below) for home, business, municipal, and nonprofit applications. Empowering people to recharge their electric vehicles is an immediate win over burning gasoline, and even better when combined with solar!

On the Level

Electric vehicle charging equipment is categorized in one of three categories, based on speed of recharge:

evgo2

A Level 2 charging station installed by ReVision Energy.

Level 1 – “Slow Charging”

The simplest way to recharge an EV’s battery – every home already has it! Using a standard 120V alternating current (AC) plug, a Level 1 charger delivers about 5-8 miles of range for every hour your EV is plugged in. Most EVs ship with a Level 1 charging plug with the car, and while super convenient, this is also the slowest method of charging.

Using this method, a depleted Chevy Bolt, for example, will take more than 3 days to fully recharge! However, if your commuting needs are limited, this method may work out just fine.

Level 2 – “Medium Charging”

A great combination of charge rate and price of install, Level 2 charging uses commonly available 240V AC power (similar to a dryer) and will replenish 10-24 miles of range per hour of connection. For the vast majority of homeowners, and many businesses as well, Level 2 charging is the right option. Charging stations by ClipperCreek are a cost-effective option that come in many different models and individual variations, and are compatible with virtually all EVs on the market.

Level 3 – “Fast Charging”

There are a few different flavors of DC Fast Charging, which refer to charging equipment which bypasses the vehicle’s onboard charger and charges the vehicle’s battery directly (Level 3 is not a precisely accurate technical term but we use it here to make the varieties of charger clearer).

For example, we’ve installed a set of Direct Current Quick Chargers (DCQCs) for several Hannaford Supermarkets locations in Maine. These DCQCs bind together two 240V circuits to create a single 480V charging circuit, allowing an EV’s battery to be recharge at a rate of around 150 miles of range per hour

Quick chargers are the technology choice you’ll see at highway rest stops, parking garages, and other locations where it is unrealistic to expect customers to stick around for 4-5 hours to recharge their vehicle. While much more expensive, the time benefits are remarkable, and DCQCs are the technology that will enable truly long-range drivetimes with electric vehicles.

Seem far-fetched to drive coast to coast on batteries? It shouldn’t! It’s already possible for Tesla owners – Tesla’s proprietary network of “Superchargers” already make it possible to drive from Lubec, Maine to San Diego, CA on electricity only.

chargepoint guide to ev charging

An at-a-glance guide to various EV charging technologies, courtesy ChargePoint

Gallons of Sun

Like the idea of filling up for the equivalent of 71 cents per gallon? Well, with solar and electric vehicles, that’s a reality!

Electricity is only as clean as its source, and combining EVs with solar breaks the connection between driving and carbon pollution created by utilities to produce electricity. The powerful combination of EVs and solar energy renders a charging package that can lock in your energy costs for years to come, as well as creating the strongest return on investment for your solar array.

How do we get to 71 cents per gallon? Well – EVs receive a mile per gallon equivalent (MPGe) from the EPA based on how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) it takes for the vehicle to drive 100 miles. Similarly, there is the eGallon, which represents the cost of powering a vehicle with electricity compared to a similar motor vehicle. Using the average fuel economy and energy efficiency of motor vehicles (28mpg) compared to EVs, and the adjusted price of electricity generated by solar power (roughly 10 cents per kilowatt-hour over 25 years), the cost of “fueling” an EV in Northern New England is roughly equivalent to paying $0.71/gallon for gasoline!
 
If you drive an EV powered by your solar array, the cost of the solar panels shifts from displacing the expense of utility-supplied electricity to displacing the expense of ever-fluctuating gasoline prices. Once you’ve paid off your solar array with a better return on investment, the energy produced for your car becomes free, for years.

What’s the future of solar and EVs? What kind of charging – and types of cars- are around the corner? Tune in next month for our final installment where we cover the exciting changes in the world’s infrastructure made possible by the marriage of renewable energy generation and electric vehicles.