While there is much discussion on mass EV adoption for fleets, making it work requires significant infrastructure considerations
One of the biggest factors in how successful EV adoption will be is the robustness of the charging infrastructure to support these vehicles.
According to Mark Braby, Head of eMobility, Payments & Data at Itron (a U.S. technology that provides products and services on energy and resource management), there are two major challenges currently facing mass EV adoption. These are education surrounding the vehicles and the charging process, as well as constraints on the electrical grid.
Regarding the fueling paradigm, Braby explains that in the case of most consumers, the “fueling” of the EV is going to happen either at home or work, so once they understand that, going forward, it is not likely to be such a huge concern.
Range anxiety is another factor that on the consumer side becomes less of an issue, provided there are high-speed charging networks available on the route, though at present planning trips around charging stations will be key to alleviate that problem, especially when planning longer trips, including vacation drives.
Total cost of ownership
On the fleet side, things are slightly different. Braby says that EV adoption for fleets is going to be a really big consideration since many are built around the concept of the total cost of ownership.
“If the economics [for EV adoption] make sense,” says Braby” then that whole transition will happen.”
While the earliest entries into the EV field were primarily passenger cars, recently OEMs have been pushing more toward the fleet segment, witnessed by the introduction of vehicles such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, e-Transit, Chevrolet Silverado EV, as well as a whole slew of light delivery vehicles, such as those from BrightDrop and other start-ups, as well as school buses and other public transit vehicles.
“At this juncture,” says Braby, “commercial fleets are really starting to see what that [EV transition] looks like,” though he cautions that in many cases, while they can see the benefits from a cost and environmental perspective, many do not understand what’s required to support an electrified commercial fleet in terms of infrastructure.
“They will need to own and operate multiple charging assets on-site, they will need to avoid vehicles getting stranded and they will need to manage their fuel costs, which currently come from their local utility company.”
And when it comes to usage, factors such as time of use or demand rates, as well as transformer upgrades are just some of the considerations.
“This whole equation needs intelligent planning and intelligent software solutions as well as just basic blocking and tackling on the education side,” explains Braby.
Additionally, in terms of charging capacity, most utilities currently see locational constraints on the power grid, notes Braby.
Although many utility companies have performed macro calculations on what charging load could come from an EV relative to load availability from the local grid.
What this doesn’t account for, says Braby, is things such as higher capacity charging, like megawatt concentrated charging depots being utilized by fleet operators.
To make something like this work requires a thorough understanding of infrastructure requirements and upgrades.
And, unless such considerations are conducted intelligently with “smart planning,” the end result could be significant project delays, which then impacts EV implementation and causes fleet customers to ask some very serious questions about whether the plan will actually work.
When that happens, explains Braby, “we’re at risk of not meeting our goals and of the utilities actually not getting the benefit of the load.”
That’s why, he says it’s important to consider all infrastructure aspects, including all the low-voltage infrastructure components such as transformers and substations required to make it all work.
Real time analytics
In order to understand what the charging requirements are, there needs to be real time data analytics coming from the grid and charging points, so utility providers can understand what the demand requirements are, when they peak and when they decline, as well as breaking out secondary charging load needs as well as EV charging load requirements.
From that, there needs to be “intelligent” planning of charging schedules so loads can be managed effectively, and the grid isn’t overtaxed.
Braby notes that at Itron, this is something that’s being developed—the concept of orchestration and analytical connection between the grid and the customer.
While he acknowledges this has been done from a demand/response perspective, the idea of having real-time orchestration and communication between the grid and distributed energy sources is a new concept and one that’s essential for mass EV adoption.