Howdy and welcome to the first edition of EV-RYTHNG. In this monthly round-up, we’ll look at some of the burning issues around EVs including fire risks, battery issues, design, and charging infrastructure.
Why Are 20.8% of Electric Vehicle Owners Unable to Charge?
The first Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car hit the streets of Paris in 1807. Mass adoption of ICE cars didn’t start until the introduction of Ford’s Model T in 1908, however.
Why the century-long lag?
The major obstacles to ICE cars’ mass adoption included:
- A lack of proper road infrastructure
- The high cost of vehicles
- A lack of fueling stations.
Like ICEs, EVs face similar obstacles. They’re expensive, prospective buyers worry they might run out of battery before they reach their destination, and public charging infrastructure is still “buggy”.
According to a report by consumer research firm, J.D. Power, 20.8% of EV owners failed to charge their vehicles in the first quarter of 2023, the primary cause of failure being charger malfunction.
This is a 6 percent rise from Q1, 2022. Customer satisfaction with Level 2 charging, which accounts for 71% of all public charging, declined 11 points during the same period. Reasons for charging failure vary from broken plugs to issues with payment systems.
EV adoption and infrastructure rollout are a proverbial chicken and egg problem. On one hand, EV adoption hinges on the availability and reliability of charging infrastructure.
On the other hand, the EV charging infrastructure’s expansion and improvement depend on the EV adoption level. Without a critical mass of EV users, it might not be viable to build and maintain extensive charging networks.
With nearly half of US consumers saying battery or charging issues are their top concerns about buying EVs, is the US doing enough to bolster its charging network?
Should Utilities Build EV Charging Networks?
State capitals across the US are debating who should take the lead role in building EV charging networks. Should it be utilities or private businesses?
The Charge Ahead Partnership, a coalition of big fuel retailers, grocery chains, convenience stores, gas stations, and other businesses, argues that private businesses that have been selling fuel to motorists and are already located in optimal spots to serve drivers are best suited to making the switch to electric chargers.
They also say allowing electric utilities to build charging infrastructure on the back of their ratepayers gives them an unfair advantage.
Oklahoma, Georgia, and Texas have enacted legislation that imposes limits on utilities using ratepayer money for charging networks.
Other states like Minnesota, Ohio, and Colorado are taking steps in the other direction, proposing budgets that would allow utilities to bill ratepayers for EV charging infrastructure.
Some proponents argue an “all-of-the-above” approach that is a mix of utility and privately owned charging is the most pragmatic.
Should EV charging be ring-fenced to protect private businesses from being undercut by utility monopolies built on ratepayer funds?
Ford and GM Announce Adoption of Tesla’s NACS Plug: What This Means for EVs
Speaking of monopolies, Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) plug could become the standard in the US. Ford and General Motors separately announced that their cars will soon install ports compatible with Tesla’s plugs on their electric vehicles.
Tesla’s Supercharger network is the most extensive public charging network in the world, with over 17,000 locations in North America alone. Combined Charging System (CCS) plugs have a smaller distribution.
Ford and GM see tapping into the biggest charger network as a way to get drivers into their EVs and save up to $400 million that would’ve been spent on building charging stations.
Would the move toward a (Tesla) standard plug help smooth the way to greater EV adoption?
What does this mean for the $7.5 billion the federal government is pushing toward EV charging, which is, at least for now, focused on Combined Charging System (CCS) plugs?
While it might seem more expedient, this could be a fork in the road we may regret taking given some of the disadvantages of NACS plugs.
For one thing, NACS plugs reduce L2 charging speed at commercial buildings and apartments as they lack AC 3-phase support.
How Do We Speed Up EV Charging?
Compared to refuelling a gas tank, recharging an EV takes an eternity. Level 1 chargers that plug into a home outlet take you from 0 to 80 percent in 40-50 hours. Level 2 chargers take between 4-10 hours while Level 3 chargers, which are the fastest available to consumers, can take 20 minutes.
Along with scant charging infrastructure and “range anxiety”, slow charging is one of the biggest concerns EV owners have. More than 50 percent of 500 EV owners who participated in a Forbes Wheel survey said they always have this concern.
But why do EVs take so long to recharge?
Batteries have two electrodes: an anode and a cathode. Lithium ions flow from the anode to the cathode, which produces free electrons and an electric charge that powers an EV. The flow is reversed and lithium ions are pushed back toward the anode when the vehicle is charging.
The problem lies inside the battery. If you try to push the lithium ions too fast, they get stuck and can’t get in the anode in what is known as lithium plating. Fewer lithium ions reaching the anode reduces the battery’s charge. If the ion build-up becomes too great, the battery can short-circuit and potentially start a battery fire.
So how do we speed up battery charging without damaging the battery or worse?
Researchers at the Argonne Collaborative Center For Energy Storage Science are exploring using multiple pathways for lithium ions to travel within a battery.
Another avenue scientists are exploring is updating the software used to manage batteries as they charge, to speed up charging times.
Some researchers are investigating how new cooling technology could improve EV charging cables. Most chargers today can deliver 500 amperes without overheating. Faster charging EVs would need charging cables that can handle far more amperes.
Issam Mudawar, a mechanical engineering professor at Purdue University is developing a system that uses a modified form of liquid coolant that has its roots in tech used by NASA, to get more than 2,400 amperes. Five-minute EV charging could be achieved with a current of 1,400 amperes.
Faster charging would have a massive impact on EV adoption. Will faster charging be achieved through new battery chemistries, software or a complete innovation altogether?
A Quick Round-Up Of EV News Stories
The roll-out of electric vehicles could have a major impact on how we develop and use real estate with owners of apartment and condominium buildings feeling increasing pressure to offer charging services in their garages.
Apartment dwellers, especially at the higher end of the market, will soon demand the ability to charge their cars directly in the parking spots they would otherwise occupy. Homeowners who buy electric vehicles will have much the same agenda, benefiting from the decreasing costs of charging stations and the savings over buying electricity at a commercial charging station.
A new study by AAA Automotive Engineering found that electric vehicles lose a significant amount of range when carrying heavy cargo.
The study specifically looked at the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck, which lost 24.5% of its range when loaded with 1,400 pounds of sandbags.
The researchers noted that many F-150 Lightning buyers are likely to carry lighter loads, resulting in a smaller range reduction. However, the study highlights the importance of understanding the limitations of electric vehicles and how excess weight can reduce their range.
Chinese (EV) manufacturers are preparing to enter the US market.
Chinese brands dominate the Chinese market and have begun exporting their cars to Europe.
In what could have far-reaching implications for domestic EV manufacturing, Chinese automakers have set their sights on bringing inexpensive electric cars to the US.
However, political tensions between China and the US could make entry into the American market more difficult for China than it was for Japan or Korea.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published a Roadmap of Standards and Codes for Electric Vehicles at Scale.
The roadmap identifies 37 standardization gaps with corresponding recommendations across the topical areas of vehicle systems, charging infrastructure, grid integration, and cybersecurity.
The roadmap’s primary focus is on light-duty, on-road plug-in EVs that are recharged via a connection to the electrical grid, as well as the supporting charging infrastructure needed to power them.
While EVs have the potential to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, they also pose risks related to battery failure and fire damage.
However, early data suggests the risk of EV fires could be lower than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Data from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) suggests that EVs are 20 times less likely to catch fire than gas and diesel cars.