In 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 vehicles.
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.
One of the most obvious features 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 ).
With the help of Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement money, we have been able to build out more of the necessary charging infrastructure to enable the end of the internal combustion engine.
Here are some quick facts you need to know about how easy and convenient it is to charge your EV:
Electric vehicle charging equipment is categorized in one of three categories, based on speed of recharge:
The simplest way to recharge an EV's battery - every home already has it! Using a standard 120V alternating current (AC) plug, a Level One charger delivers about 5-8 miles of range for every hour your EV is plugged in. Most EVs ship with a Level One charging plug with the car. While super convenient, this is also the slowest method of charging.
A Level One charger can be sufficient, depending on your driving habits. Most homes find they require quicker charging options, but if your commuting needs are limited, this method may work out just fine.
A great combination of charge rate and price of install, Level Two charging uses commonly available 240V AC power (similar to a dryer) and typically delivers 4-5 miles per hour of charging. A 2017 Chevy Bolt, for example, takes only 8.5 hours (overnight) to recover its 238-mile range with a Level Two charger.
For the vast majority of homeowners, and many businesses as well, Level Two 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 Three charging is a completely different animal from Level One and Two, since it deals with direct current rather than alternate current. 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 Three 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 recharged at a rate of around 150 miles of range per hour
Quick chargers are the technology choice you'll see at highway rest stops (we've installed them at the Kennebunk and Gardiner rest stops on I-95 in Maine), 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 drive times 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.
Like the idea of filling up for the equivalent of $1.85 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 $1.85 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 compared to EVs, and the adjusted price of electricity generated by solar power, the cost of "fueling" an EV in Northern New England is roughly equivalent to paying $1.85/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.
Read on to learn more about the power of the solar gallon in Part 3: Drive on Sunshine, Save Big Bucks .