VW, Partners Expand EV Charging Network–How Many Chargers Do We Need?

One day, a question came to me: let’s say that things go exceedingly well and we end up with 5 million EVs and PHEV’s on US highways.  It’s not a silly idea, as there are already 2.8 million hybrids out there now.  According to BMW, there are 280,000 EV as well.  So the idea that we could get another 1.02 million in a couple of years isn’t a stretch.

This piece from VW USA caught my attention, and reminded me of my question:

At the 2015 Washington Auto Show, two of the top automakers, Volkswagen of America and BMW of North America, together with ChargePoint, the largest electric vehicle charging network, announced an initiative to create express charging corridors along heavily-traveled routes on the East and West Coasts. Designed to increase the number of fast charging locations, the initiative will help meet the large and growing demand for convenient, publicly available electric vehicle fast chargers, including direct current (DC) Fast charging locations, and support the adoption of electric vehicles in the United States. In the initial phase, the aim is to install nearly 100 DC Fast chargers across both coasts, with plans to expand the program to increase access to fast charging across the country. These newly installed DC Fast chargers will be added to the growing ChargePoint network of more than 20,000 charging spots in North America.

 

“A robust network of conveniently located DC Fast charging stations will go a long way toward increasing electric vehicle adoption and making electric vehicle ownership even more enjoyable,” said Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure at BMW of North America. “The express charging corridors are another important step in the development of the U.S. e-mobility infrastructure that makes longer distance travel a real option for consumers, particularly along the most heavily trafficked portions of both coasts—making the BMW i3 and other electric vehicles even more appealing.”

 

I’m thinking again, which according to my wife is usually a bad thing.  But it’s a question that’s been on my mind lately.

Let’s say that we are lucky enough to add more than 1 million new EVs and PHEVs in the coming years.  Where will they all charge?

I’m somewhat less concerned with homeowners, who usually have a garage and can utilize charging plans.  I’m thinking about renters.  Singles and families who want to significantly reduce or eliminate gasoline expenses from their budgets–forever.

Where will they charge?

The number of public chargers is increasing.  Good.  But will everyone who can’t charge at home be able to charge while they’re at work?  As yet unknown.

Will landlords install chargers where they can, and increase the rent accordingly?  Or will they modify properties in order to allow tenants to install their own?  As yet unknown.

Fast charging stations, like ChargePoint’s, can help.  A lot.  Here’s more from VW:

Each fast charging location along the express charging corridors is expected to include up to two 50 kW DC Fast chargers, or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector, used in both BMW and Volkswagen electric vehicles as well as many other electric vehicles that incorporate a DC Fast Charging capability. When charging at a 50 kW station, both the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf can charge up to 80 percent in 20 minutes. Both vehicles can charge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes at a 24 kW station. Locations will also include Level 2 chargers, currently the most commonly available public charging stations, which are compatible with all electric vehicles. Level 2 stations can dispense up to 25 miles of range per hour of charging, providing a full charge for the BMW i3 and the VW e-Golf within 3.5 to 4 hours.

 

Now…singles, retail workers and blue collar folk don’t have leisurely lunch breaks to get the car charged. Where will these folks charge?

Granted PHEV owners won’t be quite as bound as EV owners.  But if you let your PHEV battery go, there’s not much of an engine there to pull 1.5 tons plus before the next charge.

The good thing is that we’ve got a little time.  And that happens to be the bad thing as well.  But who knows?  Will we see Shell, Exxon and BP go into the fast-charging business?  That would considerably increase the number of available charging locations.

Why would an oil company invest in charging points?  Whether gasoline, diesel, or hybrid, MPGs are increasing on the quick step.  Fueling stations can count on a future of seeing customers less often.

If you think I’m wrong, remember when we brought news of Volvo’s new Drive-E engine?

Volvo’s new Drive-E isn’t tuned as tightly as an F1 power plant; but to put a concept out there that generates 450 bhp from a 2-liters is an eye-opener.

 

Here’s how it works. The key, like the F1 engine, is in the turbo.  What Volvo does is to take a 4-cylinder engine, and strap 2 parallel turbos to it. These turbos are fed compressed air from an electrically-powered turbo-compressor.  Fuel is fed to cylinders by a dual fuel pump arrangement that injects petrol at 250 bar pressure.  FYI, 250 bar pressure equals 3621 psi.

 

Engineers are extracting even more power out of even smaller engines.  EcoBoost.  EcoDiesel.  EcoEtcetera.  Of course, you’ll probably have a few automakers who think that a throwback 6 or 7-liter engine sports sedan will be a way to take over a market overrun with cheap gas.  But I’m thinking that will be like the Hummer from back in the day.  Cooler heads will prevail.  Along with the inevitable rise in gas prices.

Which brings me back to my original question:  as we increase the number of EVs and PHEVs on the road, where will they all charge?

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Sebastian James

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