Thu Oct 20th, 2016 at 04:32:09 PM EST
Tesla Model 3s
For those of you who have not been tuning into what has been going on in the automotive industry with respect to electric vehicles (EVs) lately, when Tesla introduced the first viable electric vehicle to the market back in 2008 to now there have been over 1.5 million electric vehicles sold world wide, and sales will probably reach over 2 million by the end of this year. Most electric vehicles sold by the major automakers to this point have had the distances that they can travel on a single charge run from 105 to around 160 kilometers. Tesla Motors, on the other hand, has had its vehicle's ranges typically set at 322 kilometers or above.
Tesla's vehicles so far have been marketed to the upscale luxury/performance market, which inadvertently is like saying its vehicles so far have been relatively expensive. Tesla introduced itself to the automobile market with it's Roadster, which sold for 99,325, and gave consumers a two seat sports car with 356 kilometers range. Tesla then introduced an electric full-sized luxury sports sedan called the Model S with a 491 kilometer range and a price tag of around 78,431 and an SUV known as the Model X with a sale price of 72,900 and a range of around 402 kilometers per charge. Despite the higher price tag of Tesla vehicles they sell in large quantities and its sales are increasing month over month. When we look at the EV market from its current renaissance that began in 2008 to now we see Tesla with vehicles having ranges of 322 kilometers and above and the major automakers producing and selling electric vehicles with ranges of 161 kilometer range or less.
In 2007 Tesla's visionary CEO, Elon Musk put in its business plan that it would make an affordable electric vehicle later named the Model 3 that would have a range of more than 322 kilometers. This summer Tesla began taking orders for this vehicle and took around 400,000 $1,000US deposits for it. As excited about this vehicle as I am, this isn't the point of this article.
Chevy Bolt 200-mile range electric vehicle
The point of this article is that with Tesla's announcement of a 322-kilometer range, affordable EV the reality of the EV world as was known had changed. In particular the 322-kilometer range EV has changed the infrastructure question for EVs. Ever since Elon Musk tweeted out to the world the idea of the Model 3 on July 16, 2014, major automakers have been making plans for their own versions of a 322-kilometer range electric vehicle. First to market in the US will be GM with its Chevy Bolt EV. The Bolt will be available for purchase late in 2016 with a price tag in the United States of $37,495US (34,167) and an EPA rated range of 383 kilometers. GM's Bolt twin, the Opel Ampera-e, will be available in Europe in 2017, but with a range of 400 kilometers. Renault will beat GM to market in Europe with the 322-kilometer Zoe. Tesla will be making deliveries of its Model 3, priced at $35,000US in the US (31,893) with a 346 kilometer range in late 2017. According to Kazuo Yajima, Nissan's global director of EV and HEV engineering, Nissan will completely redesigned the Leaf with at least 338 kilometers range for 2018. Hyundai will be coming out with a 322-kilometer EV also in 2018. Ford's president and CEO Mark Fields announcing that the automaker wants to be the leader in affordable 322-kilometer EVs starting with an entry, most likely called the Model E, in 2019. These proclamations were followed by announcements by VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others quickly rising to encompass nearly all other major automobile manufacturers, sounding a death knell of sorts for the low range EV. This future onslaught of 322-kilometer plus range EVs entering the market creates a base model of 322-kilometer range EV from nearly all major automobile makers. In the next few years all these base model 322-kilometer EVs dramatically changes downward the infrastructure needs for EVs.
Tesla level 2 charger at home
j1772 convenience ChargePoint charger on the street.
The problem is that the current model for EV charging infrastructure championed by the major automakers is based on low range vehicles of less than 161 kilometer range charging typically at home, work and other places. Both home and work charging allow for long stretches of charging at the 220 volt SAE j1772 standard. The SAE j1772 standard is a standard all electric vehicles being manufactured today are compatible with. Even Teslas can charge off of these chargers with an adaptor that comes with the vehicle. Outside of home and work the current charging model strategy is to develop convenience charging opportunities at places like businesses, shopping centers and public parking. Typically this type of charging, depending on the amperage, can take a vehicle like mine with 120 kilometer range between 4 to 8 hours to charge. In the old model battery capacity is small and most charging is done at home or work where there is plenty of time to charge. If you are planning to go to an event that is over half of your available range you may want to find a place to charge near the event so you can charge while you are attending and get enough juice to get home. Are you getting the picture? Low range EVs require a greater infrastructure to deal with their low ranges. It also increases the hassle of owning an EV since you have to look for charging stations to help you complete trips and hope that they are near to where ever you are going and not occupied by other vehicles.
There is a way out of the small battery model hassle and that is with bigger batteries and faster chargers. Most EVs are equipped with quick charger options. Charging is done at 480 volts and can charge a vehicle like my Nissan, Leaf up to 80% typically in a half hour. Unfortunately there are four standards for quick charging. The Nissan championed Japanese model is called CHAdeMO. There is the challenger to CHAdeMO called the SAE Combo developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) championed by GM and is considered the US and European standard. The third option is the Tesla Supercharger. And the fourth standard is an AC standers with a plug called CEEplus. Tesla, since it's vehicles have much larger battery capacity, needs a system that is much more powerful then the standard ones being championed by the major automakers to achieve shorter charge times. The idea behind quick charging is that long distances can be traversed with shorter, half hour or so stops, or trips to areas without chargers could be still accessed as long as a quick charger is available nearby or along the way.
Tesla SuperCharger location
Tesla's long range vehicles simply don't need an extensive infrastructure of convenience chargers since even at 322-kilometer range Teslas have plenty of range to do commutes, event trips or shopping and return home. Where charging was needed for Tesla's long ranging EVs was on long trips between cities and in cities for those people who don't have access to a designated parking spot. The small battery model rules out taking road trips of any real length. The Tesla concept is to travel a few hours stop at a Tesla Supercharger area, plug-in, walk to a nearby place to get food, use the restrooms or just relax for about a half hour and then unplug and drive for a few hours again before repeating the process. Tesla is building out its own charging infrastructure to advance this concept. They focused their proprietary infrastructure on connecting cities and makes it available to most of it's Model S and X owners for free.
The quick charger long distance model for the major automakers doesn't really exist. Nissan has moved to mimic Tesla's model by insisting that its Nissan dealers install CHAdeMO chargers and make them available to Leaf owners for free. However, Nissan dealers are a hit and miss proposition for travelers, typically located only in or near cities. The other quick chargers that have become available have been installed by personal, institutional or business investment and not by coordinated planning. Where I live some churches have installed CHAdeMO quick charging stations, while, some retailers have installed some SAE Combo chargers. A grocery store here, a local government office there, a business here and there, all installed willy nilly. Willy nilly is not a plan designed to make the quick charging infrastructure useful. From my perspective there needs to be a change in how charging infrastructure is being done. Especially since the EV world will change due to the coming 322-kilometer range paradigm arriving in the next few years.
This new move to 322-kilometer range EVs gives us an opportunity to rethink what we are doing. First, it means that most of the money being used to develop level 2 convenience charging infrastructure will be, in the very near future, unnecessary. With 322-kilometer range EVs slow 220 volt charging simply doesn't do enough to help at shopping centers, restaurants and convenience stores to be useful. They will still be useful at hotels since plenty of time can be devoted to charging with an overnight stay. However, the wattage of the chargers needs to be brought up to the maximum of the SAE j1772 standard (19.2 kW). The vehicles need to also be equipped to accept this wattage through their j1772 standard charge ports.
I believe that the Tesla model for EV charging infrastructure is a glimpse at what the EV charging infrastructure from now on should be. Let the infrastructure for 220 volt charging build out organically, based on particular need, however, the focus of nearly all of the money available for developing charging infrastructure from governments, businesses and other sources should be used on developing a network of quick charging stations connecting cities and situated at strategic locations inside cities.
Relatively few quick charging station locations are needed to service all of Europe. I calculated that around 22 quick charging locations would meet all of the charging needs for Belgium, and that is with charging stations spaced only 80 kilometers apart. The entire Europe would be fully serviced with somewhere around 7,300 charging station areas. This was surprising to me, especially when you think there are around 118,000 (2013) retail gasoline stations across Europe in comparison. Why so few?
The reason why EVs need much less infrastructure then internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles do is that the infrastructure that powers electric vehicles is already at our homes and work, and electric vehicles get their fuel to move mainly at home or work. Let me give you an image that might help you understand how EVs are different. Just imagine that you had a gasoline or diesel pump at home or work where the gasoline was piped to it directly from the refinery. Also, imagine that you got in the habit of filling up your car before going to bed or starting work every day. You would have a full tank of gas every time you left your home in the morning or work in the evening. The only time that you would need a gasoline station would be on long trips that were beyond the range of the gasoline or diesel in your tank. Now imagine everyone having the same pumps as you do. The need for petrol stations would drop dramatically. Well, with electric vehicles that pump at your home or at your work exists with the electricity that comes to your house or work anyway to power your lights, computers and appliances.
The paradigm shift to 322-kilometer range electric vehicles is upon us with production by nearly all the major automakers set to begin now. This new paradigm has changed our charging infrastructure needs going forward. Gone is the need to have a bunch of 240 volt j1772 charging stations all over, 322-kilometer range EVs don't really need them. Also, having quick chargers placed willy nilly about based on random funding and support should give way to a plan having quick charging stations positioned mainly on highways spaced at 80 kilometer intervals connecting major cities and much fewer but more strategically placed quick chargers located inside and around cities. Government, businesses and other organizations investing in building out the EV charging infrastructure should concentrate their efforts on the 7300 or so quick charging locations needed across Europe to make EVs fully competitive with fossil fueled vehicles. The pieces for creating a world of truly cleaner and quieter transportation is nearly in place thanks in large part to the vision of Elon Musk and the willingness of the rest of the industry to follow suit. All we need now is for us to take the desperate pieces that make up that future of the infrastructure and put them together in a cohesive plan of action we can all participate in.