Saturday, May 21, 2016

50 Fast Chargers Or 200 Miles?

My introspective analysis of my not too distant  (lease end, Dec 2016) future plans, I have been struggling with the question of need verses practicality (AKA affordability!) and came to the realization that I would much rather have a shorter range EV and use the savings on public charging as I need it and due to my job, my need is generally much larger than most.  Even with NRG's high prices, I could charge for years on the savings with  the possible price difference. Granted, I won't have the 200 mile convenience that would come in handy a few times a month in my job, but without public charging, no range is acceptable for me.

Now a lot of people will argue that time is money and spending time charging on the road is adding to the TCO of the EV experience which is as always, data spin.  Charging publicly can be a waste of your personal time but the key here is its "YOUR" personal time; time that if you looked at it closely, you already waste a ton of it anyway.  Driving is a unique experience in our World because of its singular ability to quantify how well our time was spent, hence the data sleight of hand commonly used in the anti EV argument.

"I made it to XX in 2½ hours" is one of the common themes at the annual far flung family gathering especially when it comes time to show your worth.  It is memories of this testosterone-based ritual that rears its ugly head when people are contemplating an electric vehicle in their future.   I can remember in the early days of Priusdom when my BiL lived in Salem, OR a 2½ hour drive of 164 miles.  The common topic was how long it took, where was the traffic, etc.  The conversation always went the same way.

They say "How was the drive down?"

I say "It took us just over 4½ hours"

 and they say  "Oh...ok. I have done it in 2 hours, which way did you go?"

and I say "Yeah but we stopped for breakfast (less than an hour from leaving home) and had a diaper change in Vancouver and bathroom break in Portland..."

and they say "Oh ya, I always stop at XX because we can eat, pee and change all in one place, and the service is fast!!"  With logic like that, I realize a stalemate is my best hope.

In all this, I never mention the fact that to maintain my 54 MPG lifetime average in my Prius my cruise control is set to 63 mph even in the 70 mph zone of SW Washington...

But the fact remains; if you are "wasting" time while publicly charging it is because this is what you have chosen to do. I have spent a lot of time charging on the road but very little of it has been wasted time and that is despite dealing with a very limited public charging system that is literally shrinking in parts of my local area!

But it was this conversation that made me realize that we Humans were not designed to do long drives in a car.  I only need to point out the existence of various products for "waste elimination without the inconvenience of unbuckling your seatbelt"  I also wondered if the huge variety of car cleaning products were inspired by a diaper change on a bumpy freeway...

But the one thing that is missing from the equation above is the fast charge network. In my previous entry, I closed with a question;

What would you rather have?  An EV that does a real 100 miles on the freeway and 50 well placed fast chargers added to your region or a 200 mile EV with your current fast charge network?

Well the first thing is defining "well placed"  I hear way too much about the "25-40 miles apart" model which is fine for a limited view, initial startup.  But that is not the definition of well placed. Maybe "good start" but not well placed.

Now this would be a great Charging net.... OH WAIT!!! this is a map of rest stops for those 400 mile range gassers!! Some less than 35 miles apart!... Hmmm?? interesting,  veeerrrrry interesting! Now what would they be stopping for? there is no gas at most of these places...

I am looking at something that looks more like chargers 10 miles apart radiating out in all directions. Granted, unless you live in the Midwest where townships created the lay of the land, the roads are simply not that geometric.   But in reality, such a network easily changes your 100 mile EV to something approaching...oh my!! 200 miles?? Can that be?

Now some might argue that 25 locations 20 miles apart with 2 plugs each is a better deal and that would be a great argument.  Obviously when these 50 chargers would be incorporated into the area's existing network, doubling up would make a lot of sense in some areas, not so much in others so we kinds already got that covered.

So the real objective is getting a basket for the eggs before the Chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse.  But then again, it kinda reminds me of climate change and the soon to be attained 400 ppm of CO2 before we started to talk seriously about an action plan to reduce emissions.

Just like climate change, we are headed to an explosion of EVs on the road and have yet to do much of anything to support them. The thought process is moving towards "With 200 miles, I don't need public charging" and that is about as wrong as you can get!  WSDOT (after years!) has recognized that many EVers are being left out in the cold and has started a program to encourage private businesses to host charging sites but I am afraid the plan is too limited and will likely be slow to develop. I hope I am wrong.

But the above map shows land and locations that require no owner agreements, etc. Its state land already developed to be easy access from the freeway for cars.  Putting in charging stations as a start has two hurdles; possible infrastructure improvements (some of these rest stops are bare bones) and changing some archaic law concerning vendor rights issues...

So whats the plan?  wait till we start dumping 200,000 new EVs on the road annually or taking action now?


  1. And you meet the nicest people at the working DCQCs :-)
    Tacoma Mall about a month ago for example

    1. That was me during the last week of April! I actually have a client that runs the last 5 days of every month for 10 months a year. April was a huge driving challenge averaging almost 140 miles a day and all in the LEAF!

  2. I kind of liked the Tacoma Mall myself. Used the restrooms, Nordstrom internet , and the lounge area. Pat Campbell

    1. Yep; half the time I charge there I have to rush around a bit to get everything done within the 30 min time limit!

  3. Dave, what do you think of 25 kW DC "Fast Chargers"? We've had one pop up here in California when we had all been waiting on a 50 kW DCFC. Took us by surprise.

    1. Check out my fast charge survey. I had one incident at an NRG fast charger that never went above 45 amps. that equates to roughly 18 KW charging. After 30 mins of charging I left with SOC of 58%!

      As far as what I think of them? It depends. if the lower power stations allows more stations or even doubling up on stations in one location then I am all for it. But if its still the single loan plug then I can think of better ways to spend the money. Keep in mind; as packs get larger, 25 KW will be less and less useful.

  4. I think that DCFC with large buffer batteries (like salvaged LEAF packs) are needed, as Kanematsu demonstrated on Electric Avenue but did not pursue further. That allows DCFC at an average load more like L2. Even if a site already has sufficient electrical service for DCFC, 50 kW of added demand will cost the host up to $490 per month in demand charges in Puget Sound Energy territory, plus approx $2/session worth of electrical consumption. Jack Rickard of EVTV is now trying this approach. Low(er) power CHAdeMO stations at least are also a starting point for V2G, unlike L2 stations.

    1. that would be awesome but I think we will ultimately do away with demand charges for any public Charging station. I like the onsite storage idea but have to wonder about the battery costs, BMS considerations and theft. Not sure how secure they would be when thieves find out there could be $10,000 worth of product they could haul off...