Tech: Electric Car Charging–A Primer

Tech: Electric Car Charging–A Primer

Things to Know Before Plugging In

More and more people opt for electric vehicles (EVs) because they are more cost-efficient and eco-friendly than gas or diesel alternatives. My neighbors have a 2011 Nissan Leaf that they have been using for years to commute to and from work, so it is very efficient for them.

If you use your car for long drives, you’ll end up charging them more. Check electricity rates in your area; you may want to sign up for a new usage plan. The more electricity you use, the higher rate you pay (although there are exceptions).

Why do people buy electric cars then? Let’s find out.

Benefits of Electric Cars

Electric Car Charging

There are signs to lead you to a plug

Low Maintenance – Since electric cars have no exhaust systems, no starter motors, no fuel injection systems, and other complicated moving parts, they are easier to maintain. An electric motor has just one moving part, which is the rotor. On top of that, you just need to maintain the tires, brakes, and suspension. Make sure you always have necessary tools such as tire inflators, tire pressure gauge and a car jack. No need to worry about refilling fluids (except for windshield washer fluid) and engine cleaning. The battery lasts for at least eight years, so that should be cost-effective.

Charge Up Anywhere – There are many charging stations for electric vehicles. You can even charge them in your home. Make sure to sign up for a usage plan so that you won’t have to pay extra charges for electricity for your EV.

Environment-Friendly – An electric vehicle does not emit any exhaust fumes, mainly because it doesn’t burn liquid fuel. The waste emissions brought about by fuel engines do not apply to electric vehicles. Therefore, you help save the local environment. You can even use solar energy to charge your car. Then, you won’t waste energy, either.

Safe and Secure – Electric vehicles generally have a lower center of gravity (because of the location of the heavy batteries) that reduces the potential of rollover. Also, there is a very minimal risk of fire and explosions should they be involved in a collision.

Frequently Asked Questions

I researched and interviewed some people and compiled some questions about electric vehicles. I hope that your questions will be addressed here.

  1. What’s the average charging time of an electric car? You can charge your car as fast as 30 minutes to as long as 12 hours. However, the speed of charging depends on the level of
    Electric Car Charging

    Knowing how much “juice” you’ve got is key to getting where you’re going

    charging you use, the amperage of the charger, and how big the battery is. You also need to factor the distance that you drive your car, so you may need to do some math. For example, take an electric car that has a 1.5-kilowatt hour battery. On a typical 110-volt outlet that has a 15-amp circuit breaker, it takes 10 to 12 hours to charge up.

  2. What is an EVSE? EVSE means “Electric Vehicle Service Equipment,” otherwise known as a charging station. The EVSE converts AC power into DC power for your car’s battery. Check your car’s manual on the maximum charge and miles per hour of charging. Ask a certified electrician to install your EVSE at home. You could also get a portable EVSE should you decide to move or if you are always on the go.
  3. What do the “Levels of Charging” mean? The levels of charging refer to how fast you can charge your vehicle. Not all vehicles are compatible with higher levels. All electric vehicles are capable of Level 1 charging, which is the use of a typical 110-volt, 15-amp wall outlet. Level 2 charging uses a 220-240-volt outlet, at higher amps of 30-50. Depending on the car, you can charge at 3.3 to 10 kilowatts per hour. Level 3 (480-volt) charging is “fast charging,” where you can get higher mileage at higher amperage starting from 10 to 50 kilowatts per hour. Tesla has its own 480-volt “supercharging” that is only compatible with its own cars; it can deliver up to 170 miles of range in about 30 minutes.
  4. Can I avail of free charging stations away from home? Yes, there are plenty of charging stations out there. You can check out sites or apps such as ChargePoint, EV Charge Hub, and PlugShare to check out the locations. EV Trip Planner was initially available to Tesla owners, but can now be used by Nissan Leaf owners as well.

Etiquette for EV Charging

Here are some simple rules to remember when using charging stations. Since these are public stations, respect the right of other car owners.

  1. Electric Car Charging

    There are rules on the charging road, too

    Use designated EV parking for EV vehicles – If you have an internal combustion engine, never park in an EV plug-in spot even if it’s empty. You never know when somebody may need to use it.

  2. Don’t “hoard” spots – Charge only if you need to. People might need the spot more than you do. Also, once you’re done charging, drive away and leave it free for someone else to use.
  3. Never unplug other cars – Even if the car is a plug-in hybrid (car with a backup gas engine), never unplug the vehicle. Respect other’s people right to charge up. However, if you see that they are done charging, you can unplug it for safety.
  4. Always practice safety – After charging, wind the cord properly so that people won’t trip over it. Practice caution when driving away and be careful not to bump into any cars or people.

Conclusion

Electric vehicles are an effective innovation. Electric cars are easy on the budget, eco-friendly and generally safer than gas-powered cars. Most people opt to buy electric vehicles because of these benefits. However, if you frequently use your car for long driving, it may hurt your electricity bill. Check with your electricity provider on a different price package. You can also ask your dealer to refer you to an electrician who can install an EVSE or charging station.

Practice safety and precaution when charging up, at home or in public charging stations. Even though electric cars are safer than liquid fuel vehicles, you should still be careful and respect other car owners.

What are your thoughts? Do you have other questions that were not answered? Please feel free to share your questions, comments, and tips with us. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends!

Recent Advances in Eco-friendly Transit

The past decade has been a pretty incredible time for advances in sustainable transportation. All over the globe, scientists and engineers have worked harder than ever to create greener ways to get around. In looking back, three developments stand out in particular.

Plug-in hybrids

Highlighted by well-known models like the Chevy Volt, plug-in hybrid cars are waning our society off its dependence on gas guzzlers. A Plug-in hybrid draws from the same concept as a traditional hybrid: an electric motor working in tandem with a traditional combustion engine. Where a plug-in hybrid differs, however, is its ability to operate solely on electricity if need be. A good deal of plug-in hybrids can even get commuters to and from work entirely on electric power, provided it’s a reasonable commute. With the surging popularity of these vehicles, it might not be a bad idea to compare your local electric company rates. Plug-in hybrid owners deserve the best prices available for their contribution to the environment.

Bike Share

Bike shares have been around in Europe for quite a while, but America’s adoption of the communal-based service has taken off only recently. Highly populated areas like Chicago, Miami, Portland and Charlotte have made a concerted effort to promote and expand bike share programs across the city. You can’t beat the convenience of a bike share – pick-up and drop-off are simple, and it’s nice not having to foot the bill for an expensive two-wheeler of your own. Plus, at the end of the day, they’re encouraging people to bike a few blocks rather than drive. Every bit of carbon emission we can avoid counts for something.

Bus Rapid Transit

Bus rapid transit, or BRT for short, is another concept that’s been around for a bit – but it hasn’t been until this past decade that policymakers really started to get the hang of it in places like China and India. BRT services look just like a typical city bus, but rather than moving with the flow of traffic, they have their own dedicated infrastructure much like trains or subways. Since theses busses operate on separate roadways, they’re rarely off schedule and they can get from A to B without any interruption. That makes for quick commutes and happy customers. Best of all, many environmentalists attribute huge environmental perks to BRT systems. With less roadway congestion and fewer people driving, it’s easy to see how BRTs can help reduce our carbon footprint.

Plug-in hybrids, bike shares and BRTs are three of the most important developments we’ve made as a forward-thinking society, but they’re not the only ones. As time goes on, it’ll be interesting to see how we transition into a cleaner, greener society. Ultimately, the expansion of sustainable transit can only be a good thing for the health of our planet.

Battle for 10,000 Electric Car Charge Points in California

Battle for 10,000 Electric Car Charge Points in California

By John Addison (8/4/12)

 

California is the leading state for the early adoption of electric cars. California was the first state to have 10,000 hybrid cars, 10,000 light electric vehicles, and now 10,000 electric cars. These California EVs are primarily charged in home garages, but their range is extended with 2,000 installed charge points. By 2014, 50,000 electric cars will be on California roads supported by 10,000 electric car charging stations.

In addition to these public charge points, California employers are adding electric car chargers for employees and their own fleet vehicles. Some have started with a single charge point under a solar covered parking lot. Google has installed 400 charge points for its electric car driving employees and Gfleet.

The battle for charge station market leadership is gaining the intensity of the network competition between AT&T and Verizon, or between Google and Facebook. These charge points offer the potential of a steady stream of income. Many think that the real value is in the network membership.

Venture-capital backed Coulomb with its ChargePoint Network has the early lead with 800 California charge points and the most robust network. ECOtality with its Blink network has over 400 charge points thanks to being the DOE’s EV Project manager. AeroVironment has taken the lead in a network of DC Fast Charge stations that will enable electric car drivers from San Diego to Seattle.

Partnerships have been established with automakers such as Nissan and GM, and retailers such as Best Buy and Lowe’s. Giants such as GE, Siemens, Schneider, and Eaton are moving in with competitive equipment and complete solutions for large fleet owners. Electric utility NRG will invest $100 million in EV charging in California and over $1 billion in renewable energy projects.

Electric car charging is Easy

For over a year, my wife and I have found it easy to keep our Nissan LEAF charged. We have never spent over $35 in a month for garage charging, compared to over $100 monthly in gasoline for our former Prius. When we return the Nissan LEAF to our garage, we plug in our Level 2 charger and it starts charging at 10 PM (our pre-programed preference). When needed, we can start charging immediately.

Range has rarely been an issue because we also own a hybrid, which we use if someone is driving over 60 miles for the day. Last week, however, range was an issue. My wife was in Lake Tahoe with our hybrid and I needed to travel 80 miles on the freeway to a technology summit. After the meeting, I could have selected from dozens of Coulomb charge points and had dinner while Level to charging. Instead, I used a Blink DC fast charger and increased range 30% and 22 min.

In my Nissan LEAF, I can use voice-activated navigation to find a nearby charging location and hear directions to get there. I have also had good luck with Google maps and with charging vendors smart apps for iPhones and Droids. To encourage early adoption, most charge points have been free, but some have required me to pay $3 per hour to use a covered parking lot. Some are solo charge stations. At the Oakland airport, I used one of 15 paid charge points in a preferred parking area.

I have learned to arrive over one hour early for meetings in Silicon Valley, where up to 40 attendees arrive in their Nissan LEAFs, Chevrolet Volts and other electric cars. We desperately share charging and move vehicles while Tesla drivers with their 250-mile range cars kindly take regular parking spaces.

By owning 2 cars, our all all-electric car works for us. Other drivers prefer the Chevrolet Volt or the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with gasoline engines that extend electric range by hundreds of miles.

California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy

When I interviewed Mr. Arun Banskota, President of NRG’s eVgo, he told me that he plans to invest over $100 million over 4 years in California EV charging. In Texas, NRG has a growing network of charge points at workplaces, retail locations, apartment buildings, and more.  Some are its Convenience Stations with Level 2 chargers, some are Freedom Stations costing over $100,000 each with both DC Fast Chargers and Level 2 chargers.

When NRG installs a home charger, customers are offered 7 different plans from which to choose. 75% select a plan that includes access to public charging.

NRG continues to expand from its base of coal, nuclear, and gas power generation in Texas, California, and the Northeast. NRG now proposed to buy GenOn to be one of the nation’s largest power producers with 47GW capacity. NRG also continues with major expansion in natural gas power generation, renewable energy, and EV charging. It is investing in over $1 billion of renewables in California including 290 MW of solar PV, 390MW of BrightSource solar thermal, and 450 MW of wind. NRG is installing innovative district heating and cooling in San Diego and San Francisco. By 2020, California is targeting 33% of electricity from renewables and zero percent from coal.

The California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy agreed that NRG would build a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network in California. Dynegy and Enron were famously accused of manipulating California’s energy markets leading to a crisis 12 years ago. The agreement, pending approvals and finalization, resolves outstanding litigation arising out of a long-term electricity contract entered into over a decade ago by a subsidiary of Dynegy and now part of NRG. Dynegy was accused of $940 million of price gouging in California in 2000 and 2001.

This fee-based charging network will consist of at least 200 publicly available fast –charging stations—installed in the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County—which can add 50 miles of range in about 20 minutes of charging. Retailers, restaurants, hospitals, multi-tenant buildings, and schools will be promising target locations.

The DC-Fast Charging will especially be helpful for drivers of pure battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i, many which were purchased with DC-Fast Charge Ports. Currently many of these electric car drivers are limited to ranges of 60 to 120 miles without access to fast charging.

Additionally, NRG’s EV infrastructure commitment will include the wiring for at least 10,000 individual charging stations located at homes, offices, multifamily communities, schools and hospitals located across the State. The charging locations will be easy for drivers to find with Google Maps, smartphone apps, and electric car navigation systems. NRG California EV Charging:

  • 200 direct current (DC) fast chargers to the state, such as the 11 eVgo Freedom Stations installed in Houston.
  • 10,000 parking spaces retrofitted with wiring necessary to charge EVs at multifamily buildings, large work sites, universities,  hospitals, etc.
  • Training and potentially 1,500 jobs for the installation and maintenance of these charging stations in California.
  • $5 million is estimated to advance smart grid, grid storage and vehicle-to-grid (V2G).
  • $102.5 million in infrastructure investment over four years
  • $20 million in cash to go to the California Public Utility Commission.

NRG will NRG is already building stations from Maryland to Texas to California. eVgo wants to have stations running in California by the end of 2012, pending approval of FERC and ECOtality legal action. When I asked Mr. Banskota about his biggest issue in expanding to a nationwide network of charge stations, he replied that NRG must deal with 44,000 government permitting jurisdictions, each with their own rules and processes.

NRG’s CEO, David Crane, personally owns 3 electric cars including a Tesla, Fisker Karma and Nissan LEAF. He envisions the day when at least 50 million Americans drive electric cars and he is pushing NRG for early market leadership.

ECOtality Sues To Stop NRG

ECOtality filed with California’s First District Court of Appeal to halt implementation of an agreement between the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and NRG Energy. ECOtality alleges:

”that the agreement, which was intended to settle NRG’s role in overcharging California energy ratepayers $940 million during the 2000-2001 energy crisis, instead rewards NRG by requiring only that the company spend $102.5 million on its own EVCS business.  The PUC intervened outside of its authority in the private marketplace by endorsing one of multiple competitors, and indeed the most powerful, thereby handing the company a monopoly over the nascent market in California.”

“This so-called ‘punishment’ is like a restaurant failing a health inspection then being given an exclusive franchise to open and operate every restaurant in the city, subsidized by public funds,” said ECOtality CEO Jonathan Read. “This is an illegal giveaway, negotiated without public input, that will not only impede the development of the electric vehicle market in California and ultimately cost consumers more — but it also denies California rate-payers any refunds from the nearly $1 billion in overcharging that occurred during the energy crisis.”

The California Public Utility Commission has filed with the District Court opposing ECOtality’s requested stay. The CPUC states that Dynegy paid $281 in claims resolution in 2004 and with the charging station project will pay a total of $400 million. The CPUC feels that it negotiated a strong settlement and wants to move ahead with the statewide charging infrastructure.

Since ECOtality is benefiting from managing the EV Project with $230 million of DOE funding, many see irony in its attack on NRG.

California’s Strong Support

Tesla Solar Charging RabobankCalifornia leads the nation in installed solar power. Many early adopters of solar are also early adopters of electric car charging. California based SolarCity, has installed 2,500 car chargers, such as Robo Bank’s central coast network of bank branches using both solar power and providing Level 2 charging for bank customers.

In 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan established the California Air Resources Board, in part to attack the multi-billion dollar healthcare costs of its citizens chocking in smog. Now, the air is cleaner but the fight against lung damage and sick school children continues. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has offered $5 million to co-fund 2,000 public chargers and employer sponsored chargers and 3,000 home chargers.

San Diego is the first city in the U.S. to charge 1,000 EV with a smart grid. With hundreds of charge points, San Diego attracted car2go to place over 200 electric Smart Cars into downtown car sharing.

To the benefit of electric car drivers, intense competition is spurring the build-out of an extensive charging network.

50,000 Electric Cars will soon be enhancing their home and employer charging with 10,000 Charge Points that give drivers the range comfort of gasoline cars and allow electric-car travel of 1,300 miles from Baja to British Columbia.

Solar Powered Electric Car Charging from GE and REC Solar

Solar Powered Electric Car Charging from GE and REC Solar

GE WattStation & Smart EDPress Announcement (11/1/11)

REC Solar, a subsidiary of Mainstream Energy Corporation, has teamed with GE Energy Industrial Solutions, a leading supplier of power generation and energy delivery technologies, to distribute the GE WattStation™ electric vehicle (EV) charger. The partnership signals the movement toward the inevitable collision of two rapidly growing sustainability movements – solar and electric vehicles – for a cleaner, more secure world.

Solar-powered charging stations expand the economic benefits of EV ownership, while enhancing the environmental and energy saving benefits. Looking ahead to a future transportation system freed from dependence on fossil fuels, REC Solar and GE are taking steps to create an end-to-end solar EV charging system that will enable our cars to literally run on sunshine. The intersection of solar and EV industries means greater reduction of greenhouse gases and independence from fossil fuels – while at the same time delivering economic benefits to drivers. The cost of driving a solar-charged EV may be 66 percent less than a gas-powered car, according to a recent study by GTM Research.

GE’s WattStation is an easy-to-use Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charger designed to help accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles by significantly decreasing time needed for charging – delivering a full charge in just four to eight hours compared with standard overnight charging that can take as much as 12 to 14 hours. Its smart grid-enabled technology could also help utility companies manage the impact of EVs on the local and regional grids. As a distributor of the GE WattStation, REC Solar will make it easier for its thousands of commercial, government and residential customers to incorporate EV charging capabilities. The WattStation is the ideal complement to the growing trend towards solar carports, but its simple installation makes it suitable for any type of solar installation.

“We are excited to be a distributor for the GE WattStation, known for its charging speed and beauty, to address growing demand from our large residential and commercial customer base for the integration of EV charging stations into the solar installation process,” said Lee Johnson, CEO of REC Solar. “With expectations of one million EVs entering America’s roadways by 2016, the need to establish a sustainable EV infrastructure is here today. By incorporating solar, our electrical grids won’t be overwhelmed by the influx of EV chargers. And of course, the more solar energy is used with electric vehicles, the cleaner the environment becomes.”

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