Category Archives: Electric Vehicle Charging

Vegas, Baby! Los Angeles To Vegas & Back In A Tesla Model 3 — 8 Hours Of Driving & 70 Minutes Of Charging

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Road trips rarely consist of scripted fueling stops, nicely packed sack lunches, and firm itineraries, so when EV enthusiast Dennis Pascual and I decided to make the 540-mile | 869-kilometer run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, we intentionally shot from the hip. The quintessential road trip from LA to Vegas is a staple coming-of-age trip that thousands of youngsters embark on every week.

The road trippers, Dennis & Kyle. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

This Demands A Response

The trip was necessary to respond to the sensationalist headline from the EV road trip undertaken by one New York Times journalist claiming that the 8-hour drive required 5 hours of EV charging. In the real world, the majority of EVs sold can do the trip in much less time, with far less time spent charging. So we met up at the predetermined starting point of our journey in downtown Los Angeles, jumped into our trusty Tesla Model 3 with just 207 miles | 333 kilometers of range (325 miles | 525 kilometers is what’s available on a full charge), and hit the road.

“Our trip was different. It was to be a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. A gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities in this country.” Okay, so our trip to Las Vegas was not about the country like it was in the deranged classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but rather, it was a celebration of just how far electric vehicles have come in the last few years. And there were no bats, thank God.

Entertaining Traffic

To avoid traffic, we left Los Angeles at 5:00am (4:59am on the official clock for the trip) and headed east. The navigation said our first charging stop should be at the 150kW Tesla Supercharger in Yermo, California. We made good time, until we didn’t. An accident ahead of us resulted in parking lot traffic where we moved 2 miles | 3.2 kilometers over 1 hour and 38 minutes. The break gave us a chance to put Tesla’s new arcade game to the test.

Rocking the Tesla Arcade on the freeway while stopped. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The built-in arcade function with a game that’s actually modern and entertaining definitely helped pass the time — though, Twitter, email, and other social platforms admittedly played a significant role as well. A few practice rounds down and we were able to level up, earning a new character and a new level in the game. It’s not worth celebrating in the real world, but when you’re literally parked on the freeway for who knows how long, every success is worth celebrating. Thankfully, traffic started to move before my bladder did and we were on our way towards Yermo once again.

Yermo is one of Tesla’s less utilized charging stations and was one of the answers to the congestion at the original LA to Vegas charging stop in Baker, California. Stopping along the way at one of these three towns is a part of the journey no matter the type of vehicle used.

The Tesla Supercharger in Yermo, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

We were eager for the stop to grab some breakfast, stretch our legs, and answer the call of nature (pro tip: don’t send that one to voicemail). Yermo is a single stop exit. There is one attraction there and it just so happens to have a handful of Tesla chargers. Across the parking lot, a few new ChargePoint 50kW Tritium VeeFil chargers were being installed, which was a nice treat, as Dennis spent some time at Tritium.

A new ChargePoint DC fast charging station in Yermo, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

After the quick pitstop in Yermo, we were eager to get back on the road for the 145 mile | 233 kilometer sprint over to Las Vegas.

Leaving Las Vegas

We arrived in old town Las Vegas at 10:47am and parked for a few minutes for a quick stretch of the legs. We opted to check out the new Fremont Experience, where we would assuredly lose a few bucks each. Dennis put a few bucks onto the craps table and came up empty after a few rolls of the dice. I was equally successful with my first venture on the Roulette wheel, in far less time.

Having checked the box in Downtown Las Vegas, we scrambled back to the car and started the trip back to Los Angeles. Before leaving town, we stopped at the South Las Vegas Tesla Supercharger for a very brief charging session to top up. We were not there for the food and found that we only needed 15 minutes of charging to get to our next stop in Baker, California, to see Tesla’s massive Supercharger and EVgo’s ultrafast charging station in a single stop.

The South Las Vegas Tesla Supercharger. Image credit: Dennis Pascual. Used with permission.

The South Las Vegas Tesla Supercharger. Image credit: Dennis Pascual. Used with permission.

Juiced back up, we hit the road, back onto Highway 15 South towards California and the roadside refueling station that is Baker, California.

Charging Our Batteries & Bellies In Baker

Baker and Barstow are the usual suspects when it comes to midway stops between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They both have well-established lines of fast food chains, gas stations, and tourist traps designed to extract as much money in as little time as possible from those passing through. After taking the exit, we breezed through the alien jerky stand and the large mothership parked out front and went straight for the new EVgo DC fast charging station.

Driving a Tesla Model 3, we knew we would not be able to charge there, as Tesla still has not released a CHAdeMO adapter for the Model 3. (Though, it is expected “soon.”) Just the same, we are supporters of electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes and that goes for EV charging stations as well. We took in the beauty of the new 6-stall EVgo station and ogled at the beautiful bifacial solar panels hung overhead. The shade they cast was welcome, as the “World’s Largest Thermometer” that protruded awkwardly into the sky a few feet away reminded us that it was a toasty 102°F | 39°C.

The EVgo ultrafast charging station in Baker, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

We had neglected to bring our solar ovens, so after a few minutes exploring the new station, we enjoyed a few Beyond Burgers from the nearby Carl’s Jr. The final stop for us in Baker was at Tesla’s Supercharging station, where we would drink down the largest charge of our journey in a 31-minute charging session.

We could have moved on in less time and with less of a charge, but we were busy just taking it all in. The 40-stall, solar-bolstered Tesla Supercharger in Baker is impressive. We wandered from station to station, just taking it all in. Compared to the 6 stalls up the road at the EVgo station, which is tucked behind a tourist trap shop, the Tesla Supercharger just a few blocks down a dusty road sends a completely different message. It sits comfortably on the side of the main drag in town, next to a Shell gas station and a lot next door that is actively being developed into another gas station.

Recharging at the Tesla Supercharger in Baker, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The Tesla Supercharger isn’t attempting to project hopes and dreams. It’s just a part of the normal boring layout in Baker. And that’s a great thing. It is there to tell the world that charging EVs on long road trips is not only possible, but completely normal. 120 kilowatts of power at 40 stations hurts the brain to think about in technical terms, but to onlookers, it’s just a part of the normal landscape of Baker now.

As impressive as the physical footprint and charging capacity is at the Baker Supercharger, it is also the most poorly designed Tesla Supercharger I have experienced. The entire station is designed around every vehicle charging pointing in the same direction, but that is absolutely unclear when pulling up to the station. The result is chaos. Cars end up parking in every imaginable direction. Some pull in from the road and just park precariously between two stalls to let the charging cables reach. Others drive in circles before choosing their similarly ill-fated parking configuration. The station was not anywhere near its capacity, but that didn’t make it any less painful to watch.

We stopped for 31 minutes to charge, which, if anything, is rushing the trip. We ate the remains of our plant-based fast food meals, snapped a few photos for posterity, and packed up. There’s not a lot to see in Baker, but after hours in the car, we needed some time not being in the car. Just the same, we pushed onward, for science.

The Tesla Supercharger in Baker, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The Return To Los Angeles

Thus began the longest stretch of our trip. That 15-minute charge we picked up in Las Vegas was nice, but it also meant that we were backloading our driving towards the end of the trip. I was getting tired after waking up at 3:15 am to start this crazy adventure. “How long could we maintain,” I wondered. But we must continue. It had truthfully not been that long, but the sweet siren song of Autopilot threatened to lure me into a sleep that would not end well.

Dennis and I chatted it up for the last few hours of our trip, as we had been doing for the majority of the day. The time flew by. Before we knew it, we were back in the comfort of LA traffic. OK, so there is no comfort in traffic, but we were back. We snapped a few photos as we rolled into downtown Los Angeles to officially log the mileage, time, and state of charge, and that was that. Here are the official timestamps with driving time and charging times parsed out for clarity:

What Did We Learn?

Driving an electric vehicle on long road trips is easy as long as you have the right one. The Tesla Model 3 is the top selling electric vehicle in many markets around the world today because it delivers on the key requirements that real EV drivers have. Fast charging is a critical component of functional long-distance driving in an EV, and Tesla delivers on that in spades. The Supercharging network is the largest DC fast charging network in the world and that shows on road trips like this one.

They don’t need to be planned. They don’t need a ton of thought put into them. Just get in and go. Tesla drivers know this, as evidenced by the dozens of Teslas we spotted on the long dusty stretches between exits on the road to Las Vegas and back. They were absolutely all over the highway, with a few of them flying past us as we settled for our fixed cruise control speeds.

Tesla Supercharger. Baker, California. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Autopilot made this trip easy. I would almost say too easy, but I’d worry that Tesla would take it away from me for the rest of my life and leave me Autopilot-less. I’m not saying it is perfect, as Autopark still tries to work more times in traffic than it does in actual parking lots, and Navigate on Autopilot’s automatic lane change is painful to experience most of the time, but overall, it improves with each and every over-the-air update that comes down.

Autopilot handling traffic. Image not from this road trip. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

For the long stretches of highway that constitute the majority of the Los Angeles to Las Vegas journey (and back), Autopilot was king. It allows the driver to exert far less energy towards the rote task of steering and acceleration while delivering improved safety. That is a game changer, my friends. If you haven’t tried it, get out there and do it. If you have tried it, I’m sorry. Now you have experienced the future and you’ll forever be tainted as a result. You’ll also probably end up buying a Tesla in the next few months.

If you are worried about the capabilities of electric vehicles, just do a bit of reading or get out there and take one for a test drive. The top selling electric vehicle out there is likely far more capable than you thought, but be warned: driving a car that is packed with so much future technology will ruin all other cars for you.

If you are in the market for a Tesla and we have helped you make your decision to buy one, feel free to use my Tesla referral code to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging: http://ts.la/kyle623 

Wallbox Pushes Into The Rapidly Expanding US EV Market

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Spanish EVSE manufacturer Wallbox announced at an exclusive launch party at the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in New York City last week that it is entering the US EV charging market.

Image courtesy: Wallbox

Wallbox has already established itself as a global force in EVSE manufacturing and digital solutions, with more than 20,000 chargers installed in 30 countries across Europe. Its array of EVSE solutions combined with the smart solutions it stack on top of them like facial recognition, smart sensors, secure access control, remote programming, and a dynamic cloud-based app have made it the preferred choice for many charging site hosts.

Wallbox is leveraging the cloud to keep owners connected with its cloud-based myWallbox charging management platform. The solution gives owners visibility of real time updates from their EVSE, updates on the latest improvements from Wallbox and the ability to remotely control and program their Wallbox.

Image courtesy: Wallbox

“Customer understanding and innovation are fundamental to our approach. We have to remember that when people buy a plug-in vehicle, they are taking control and owning their mobility energy for the first time. This is a big and very liberating change,” says Wallbox US Country Director, Douglas Alfaro.

Wallbox has its sights set on the US market as one of the largest, fastest growing EV markets in the world, noting that the US EV market grew 81% last year. This is largely thanks to the success of the Tesla Model 3 in its home market, which has spurred interest in electric vehicles in millions of people around the world. The economics of electric vehicles are also starting to shift, with the total cost of ownership of the Standard Range Model 3 already having edged out BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and many more. Access to functional, high speed, convenient EV charging around town makes EVs that much more visible and easy to adopt for millions more drivers and Wallbox is eager to dive into the new market.

If you are in the market for a Tesla, find someone locally who you know (like, someone you know in real life) and use their referral code. If you don’t know anyone with a Tesla, go find someone at your local Supercharger and try not to be a creep and ask them for their referral code (they won’t mind). If that doesn’t work, ask a co-worker or a distant relative, post on Facebook or Twitter, or just hit up Google. If all of that fails and it’s an odd-numbered day and not too sunny out, you can use my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging, I guess. Here is my referral code: http://ts.la/kyle623 

Tesla Leverages Software To Eke Out More Supercharging Capacity

Originally published on CleanTechnica

In a push to increase the capacity of its Supercharging network at the top 8% of its stations in North America, Tesla is implementing a charging limit of 80%. During holidays, an additional 9% (for a total of 17%) of Supercharging stations will have the new charging restrictions put in place.

Tesla reached out to CleanTechnica this morning with the update and told us that the new charging cap is being put in place in parallel to the continued expansion of the Supercharging network, not as a stop gap that is being used in place of spending more capital to continue to expand the network. Much like the On-Route Battery Warmup solution, the new charging cap is a simple software push that adds value to all owners and increases the amount of kilowatt-hours the company can push out to vehicles with its Supercharging network.

Owners on road trips using the in-car navigation to determine charging stops and durations will not be affected by the new restriction, however, allowing owners traveling to more remote destinations the ability to charge up as much as recommended by the navigation system. Even in these situations, because the system optimizes the route for overall travel time, charging beyond 80% is an infrequent occurrence.

Implementing a software-limited charging cap of 80% at 8% of Supercharging stations may sound like a limit to freedoms, but the reality is that most people do not charge up to 100% … ever. That is because charging from 0–80% is when charging speeds peak, while charging from 80–100% takes far longer since charging speeds quickly taper off. Charging up beyond 90% also has long-term consequences for battery life, so keeping the state of charge lower is also the best way to ensure a long life for the vehicle’s battery.

The company estimates that the throughput at popular stations should improve by 34%. That translates to higher availability and faster Supercharging times for owners.

As part of the rollout of version 3 of its Supercharging network, Tesla said that it would be doing more than just installing more stations in a push to serve more than twice the number of vehicles with its Supercharging network by the end of 2019, something some close followers of Tesla Supercharging stations have noticed.

Tesla’s continued expansion of its Supercharging network will continue on into the future as its production, delivery, and sales capacity continue to grow year after year.

Tesla’s new version 3 Supercharging hardware is also coming in 2019 as the company begins deploying its new Supercharging backbone that splits a single 1 megawatt power feed into four dedicated 250kW charging stations. This new hardware raises the bar and continues to expand Tesla’s DC fast charging network as competitors continue to take pot shots from the sidelines about how their one fast charging station in a lab charged their prototype vehicle at 350kW. Cute, but Tesla is doing it today. Less talk, more action, thank you very much.

If you want to take advantage of my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the link: http://ts.la/kyle623 
 

eMotorwerks Chargers Bring Intelligence To Home EV Charging

Originally published on CleanTechnica

EV charging supplier eMotorWerks has announced that it has increased sales year over year by 100% for the third year in a row. We spoke with eMotorWerks Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Preston Roper about what is fueling its growth and what the company has planned for the next few years.

EV Charging as a Flexible, Dynamic Load

The big news out of eMotorWerks is related to the products the company has built — and I’m not talking about electric vehicle chargers. eMotorWerks has built a software platform that taps into the massive potential of electric vehicle charging to serve as a “flexible, dynamic load” for utility operators to use to balance the production and consumption of grid power. The hardware is important but, ultimately, the platform that eMotorWerks has built is more important and impactful. That is the company’s core expertise.

The concept is similar to the idea of a “virtual power plant” that combines users with small to medium loads, users with storage capability, and users with large energy demands — like a massive number of electric vehicles charging at the same time — which predictably consume copious amounts of power at night. eMotorWerks’ intelligent platform taps into the connectivity of its Juicebox chargers to determine charging needs and customer preferences, as and then to throttle charging up and down to maximize the benefits to the grid.

“We self-funded this company because we’ve been able to sell a very good product with a nice gross margin that solves people’s immediate need, which is to have level 2 smart connected charging time of use alerts, notification, all the kind of cool stuff we built into the platform.”

The integrated smart charger that eMotorWerks has built and the cloud-based software platform that supports it is the first to truly leverage EV chargers as smart devices — something that eMotorWerks has been building since day 1.

Preston shared that the nature of home EV charging and the intelligent network eMotorWerks has built allows the team to throttle charging down to very specific geographies or regions depending on the need of the utility. As more and more smart meters are brought onto the grid, this granular control becomes that much more valuable to utilities as they continue to adapt to more renewables, more storage, and more EVs on the grid.

JuicePoints

Customers are rewarded for their flexibility through the JuicePoints system, which aims to reduce the emissions generated by electric vehicle charging by throttling charging down when grid demand spikes (which causes peaker plants to come online). Conversely, charging is throttled up when grid power is low and cleanest.

Users can select how long the vehicle will charge and how full they need it to be, which provides the system with a window of opportunity over which it can then automagically throttle charging up and down to minimize the impact to the grid, maximize the charge over the time horizon, and reward EV drivers with JuicePoints.

Drivers are rewarded with direct cash payouts through PayPal or they can opt to direct their credits towards an environmental nonprofit like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is similarly putting a massive effort towards eliminating coal-fired electricity generation via its Beyond Coal campaign, so you can have twice the impact on cutting grid emissions by using smart charging and directing the money to the Sierra Club.

The JuicePoints system is currently only available in select zip codes.

Vehicle To Grid

The addition of intelligence to the EV charging equation naturally brings up the question — what about vehicle to grid? The reality is pretty bleak even though it seems to makes sense. The risks with vehicle to grid (V2G) schemes can be high with a customer, potentially feeding power back to the grid during an outage, exposing workers to energized lines (which creates a dangerous situation), and degrading their EV batteries. Beyond that, there isn’t strong demand from customers for V2G-capable vehicles.

I talked about this with Preston and he shared that there are 3 primary reasons he doesn’t think we are seeing much progress with V2G:

  1. Car companies are not interested in this, so they are not developing for this.
  2. Required hardware is much more expensive to do this.
  3. Getting interconnection agreements from utilities for V2G is difficult and an extra hurdle.

Having said that, the eMotorWerks Juicebox has the capability to work with V2G systems if market signals change, but Preston doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. He noted that “just scaling the charging at a macro level provides the same net effect without the extra hassles of vehicle to grid.”

eMotorWerks is Growing

The eMotorWerks JuiceBox EV charging station is the highest rated EV charger on Amazon, which is a testament to the innovation it packs. The smart charger has brought intelligence to an appliance most drivers had just assumed was dumb. It has proven to add value to the charging experience.

emotorwerks

As noted at the top, the preference of customers is showing in its sales as well, with eMotorWerks doubling revenues year over year in 2016 for the third consecutive year in a row. It has locked in agreements with suppliers across the spectrum, including EVSE provider AeroVironment, OEM supplier Webasto, and the cashless payment provider Nayax. These partnerships leverage the strength of the JuiceNet cloud software the team has built and expands the positive environmental impact the system can have through its integration with utilities.

“Our smart grid charging solutions continue to gain significant growth because we solve problems that directly affect EV drivers, charging station equipment manufacturers as well as utility operators,” said eMotorWerks CEO, Val Miftakhov. “Beyond the well publicized growth the EV industry will enjoy during the next five years, a massive challenge lies ahead: the ability for electricity providers to charge EVs while maintaining a reliable grid for everyone, while at the same time taking advantage of the abundant and less expensive solar and wind energy available on our grid.”

Stuttgart: A City Caught Between Two Worlds Part 2

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The City of Stuttgart in Germany is a case study in the clash between the old world & industries that humans have developed over the centuries and the new realities resulting from the very same industries that have elevated humanity: air pollution, hazardous waste, and soot-covered buildings. Traffic clogging its streets that resonate with the static emanating from thousands of autos idling in traffic.

But not all is lost. This is not a story of defeat but rather, of a city boldly reimagining its future. Stuttgart is a city that is plowing a path forward to an electrified future powered by renewable wind and solar energy. Its leaders envision citizens zooming around on electric bikes that can be loaded onto silent electric trains headed to destinations near and far.

In part one of the story, we mapped out the history of Stuttgart which is intertwined with the evolution of the internal combustion engine and the automobile over the last 100 years. That has resulted in a city that benefits from the innovative lifeblood of the industry and is, at the same time, mired in the worst particulate pollution in Germany.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

The citizens of Stuttgart take an immense amount of pride in the innovative, dynamic history of the region and are not content to let that rich history go by abandoning their automobiles for public transit, nor are they willing to concede to the otherwise imminent fate of going down in history as the most polluted city in Germany. With such entrenched forces brought to bear against each other, and with the 2.3 million member strong union IG Metall also aligned against any change so radical that it might disrupt the stability of the petrol-centric German automotive industry, the city of Stuttgart and the state of Baden-Württemberg as a whole are at a historic crossroads.

In spite of the tension, local citizens and a handful of the leaders of Stuttgart are banding together to map out a path towards a clean air future for the city. The plan is a smorgasbord of solutions that all center around the controversial Stuttgart 21 that aims to modernize Stuttgart’s Central Train Station,  more efficient buses, an intentional effort to maximize the walkability of the city and even a push towards ebikes.

Stuttgart 21: A Massive Transit Upgrade

The tip of the spear in the effort to modernize Stuttgart’s transportation centers around the 4.5 billion euro ($5 billion USD) project to upgrade Stuttgart’s central train station known as Stuttgart 21.

Stuttgart Central Station

Stuttgart 21 aims to transform the central station from a terminus station — where trains must pull up to a dead end stop and then back out again to continue — to an underground pass-through station that even with half the number of lines, will allow for more trains to flow through with fewer delays.

The controversial project was originally announced in 1994 with work starting in 2010 against an estimated budget of 4.5 billion euros ($5 billion USD). It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2019, but that timing has slipped to 2021 which has come with an increase in the estimated cost to 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion USD) (via Wikipedia).

Local activist groups have rallied in opposition to Stuttgart 21 on the grounds that it is too expensive, will provide diminished access to the neighboring “Green U” park that surrounds central Stuttgart, and that it does not respect the historic nature of the Stuttgart central station. With the funding being provided by the German national rail system Deutschbahn, the federal government, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the City of Stuttgart, the decision is out of the control of just the city and thus, more complicated to oppose. Even with the fierce opposition, the majority of the Stuttgart residents have continued to support the undertaking over the years.

Vehicle sharing

To ensure citizens who embrace life without a personal vehicle retain the means for longer road trips, Stuttgart has also encouraged vehicle sharing services like Daimler’s Car2Go and Deutsche Bahn’s Flinkster to come into the city. Car2Go has the added benefit of getting the population familiar with electric vehicles without the commitment of a purchase or lease. The system acts as a safety net for those unsure of whether or not a new form of transportation will work and enables flexible travel options.

The vehicles, like this Smart forTwo electric, are scattered about the city at predetermined charging locations that can be found with the easy to use smartphone app.

Public Bike Sharing

Stuttgart has partnered with Deutsche Bahn and its ‘Call a Bike’ rental scheme which was designed to give train riders an easy way to get from train station to and from their final destination. Users simply have to set up a single account that can be used in cities all around Germany to rent bikes.

These types of systems are perfect for cities and nations with well developed mass transit, as they provide a solution for the “last mile” which is a generalized figure for the distance from the end of a mass transit route to the traveler’s ultimate destination. At the handful of stations we visited in Stuttgart, we found the bike rental stations to be consistently well used, even empty at times, indicating that the system is seeing heavy use.

Hybrid buses

For trips around the more popular routes in town, Stuttgart has a healthy bus system that has received an injection of electrification in recent years in the form of Mercedes-Benz hybrid electric buses.

Electric Scooter Sharing

Stuttgart has also become home to an electric scooter sharing service that offers all the mobility of a vehicle at a lower cost. The deployment of scooters is also much easier as they can be parked on curbs as compared to hard-to-find street parking. Over the last few months, 75 of the iconic blue electric scooters from Emco have appeared all around the city.

As anyone who has ridden a scooter or motorcycle knows, they are great for getting around the inner city and allow riders to stay much more connected to the city without having to stay in the cocoon of a car.

Importantly, the e-scooter program was not incentivized by the city but evolved out of the natural demand from the market which lined up perfectly with the only recently available electric scooters. This trend is happening in cities like Berlin and Paris as well with the COUP scooter sharing program.

eBikes

Stuttgart is also looking to ebikes as a key piece of the solution to the transportation puzzle. As residents get increasingly frustrated with the traffic in Stuttgart, they have started turning to alternatives like ebikes to fill in the gaps of their commutes. To stimulate this trend, the city of Stuttgart holds education sessions for ebikes to give residents the inside scoop on the new technology and to showcase the ways electrified bikes can help with their commutes.

In travelling around the city for a few days, ebikes were everywhere. Residents zoomed around on the many bike paths, stores featured them, and city officials were familiar with them as a key component of the solution to the city’s mobility challenge. For those that have not ridden an ebike, they are leaps and bounds easier to ride than a traditional bike as they do not require any sort of strength or endurance from the rider. They simply have to get on, select how much assist the motor will provide and off they go. Configurations and price points vary significantly so it’s worth reading up on them before diving in.

The Control Center – Stuttgart’s Transportation Hub

The City of Stuttgart manages the entire transportation system for the city from a new, high tech control center that is shared with the city Police Department and Fire Department. This ensures that the city resources are positioned to respond from anything from a minor traffic collision up to a major disruption of city services.

The hub brings together all of the sensors, cameras and data collected from the transportation system staffed by a team of skilled first responders that are trained to react quickly and appropriately to any need, big or small.

What does the future hold?

The leaders of Stuttgart have no plans to let up in their efforts to reduce sources of pollution in and around the city on the path leading to clean air in Stuttgart for the residents, workers, and for future generations. While their passion and drive to create the Stuttgart they envision is driving near term results, the outcome is all but certain.

Opposition from the entrenched industry threatens to stifle progress. Fearful unions threaten to delay the transition to electric vehicles in the city and around the world. Companies with holdings and future business tied to legacy business models are resisting the transition. Not everyone in the city is on board with the multi-billion dollar plan to gut the city’s historic train station in favor of a modern train station that will be better suited for the hub Stuttgart has become.

What is certain is that the seeds of the future Stuttgart have been planted and they are taking root. The future is coming. and I for one am hopeful that Stuttgart will indeed pivot past these struggles to become the city its residents want to live in. To become the city known not for diesel engines and particulate, for traffic congestion and feinstaubalarms but for its parks, for the innovative spirit of its residents. It will take immense amounts of effort and many years but it is possible. The future is now.

ChargePoint Launches European Expansion With New InstaVolt Partnership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

ChargePoint has announced a new partnership with InstaVolt to install more than 200 ChargePoint rapid charging systems. This represents the first major milestone in its European expansion.

UK electric vehicle charging network InstaVolt has signed a contract to purchase more than 200 of ChargePoint Express Plus systems. These systems will be installed by InstaVolt along popular routes in the UK with an aim to enable drivers to quickly recharge their EVs on longer road trips.

As we shared back in January, the ChargePoint Express Plus charging system is a modular solution that allows operators to install the charging station and then increase the charging speed of the systems as more vehicles capable of fast charging enter the market. This is critical because it gives operators confidence that the initial investment will not be lost as technologies change over time, but instead allows them to change with the times and increase charging speeds up to 400 kW … which is 3 times faster than any vehicle on the market today.

Tim Payne, CEO at InstaVolt, said of the partnership:

“We are delighted to partner with ChargePoint to deliver a best in class EV charging infrastructure. We own, install and maintain rapid electric vehicle charging units all over the country, giving landowners the opportunity to earn a rental income by housing them, and giving EV drivers access to the fastest charging available.

“ChargePoint will fulfill two important criteria for us: the charging units are future-proofed so the units can be configured to meet the precise requirements of any site and can be scaled incrementally as demand for higher rate charging increases. This is particularly important as EV manufacturers begin to bring out new models with increased battery capacity. We are also committed to making sure the units are working 24/7 and so the reliability of the ChargePoint solution is one of the cornerstones of our offer.”

The move into the European market for ChargePoint and this new partnership with InstaVolt represent major milestones in the rollout of the fast charging network of the future. To date, the fastest non-Tesla charging stations available top out at 50 kW, whereas these new ChargePoint units allow for dramatic expansion in the future.

This turns the notion of installing 6.6 kW chargers that will be out of date in a few years on its head. For the first time, it gives the public the confidence they need to buy an EV with the knowledge that public chargers exist that can support them over the life of the vehicle. Whether consumers will need to own vehicles in 10 years is another story altogether. …

EV Drivers Want (or Require) Superfast Charging

Worth highlighting here is that many of today’s EV drivers demand or at least greatly desire superfast charging in their next EVs. Depending on the type of electric vehicle they drive today (a non-Tesla fully electric car, a Tesla, or a plug-in hybrid) and where they live (Europe or North America), 32–92% of the respondents we surveyed said they required superfast charging in their next EV.

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

Looking at desires instead of requirements, the figures ranged from 45% (European non-Tesla fully electric car drivers) to 86% (North American Tesla drivers).

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

EV Charging Startup EVmatch Connects Private Charging Station Owners With EV Drivers

Originally published on CleanTechnica

EV charging startup EVmatch aims to connect private charging station owners with EV drivers looking for a charge. The Los Angeles pilot launches this week, with free charging in the EVmatch system for the pilot users until 4/11/17.

EVmatch

What is EVmatch?

The EVmatch solution fills a gap in electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing a platform and a compensation model that connects privately owned EV charging station owners with EV drivers. With home charging station installations generally tracking with EV adoption rates, EVmatch seeks to tap into privately owned charging infrastructure to expand charging options for EV drivers, eliminating range anxiety along the way.

Beyond just charging, EVmatch includes a reservation system which gives drivers assurance that the charger will be held for them during a fixed window. This is something no other public charging system does well and is a key differentiator, as it is very common to arrive at a charger only to find that someone else is there charging.

EVmatch

Finally, EVmatch facilitates connections between real people that are interested in and likely advocates of EVs. It’s difficult to put a price on community, but as someone who has been driving EVs, charging EVs at public infrastructure, and advocating for EVs for years, this is exciting for me.

Startup History

EVmatch is the brainchild of co-founders Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker, who developed the solution together as part of the eco-entrepreneurship tract of the graduate program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since graduating in June of 2016, the duo has kicked the startup into high gear with a proof-of-concept launch in Santa Barbara, California, supported by the development of the software solution.

EVmatch

The solution initially made use of Google Docs and Google Calendar and quickly evolved into the development of a web app–based solution that brings all the learnings from the proof of concept together into a single solution that delivers compatibility on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Payments from users to hosts are determined by an intelligent algorithm that takes into account electricity rates that are entered by the host to determine which tier or time of use mode they operate in. The Smart Pricing algorithm takes into account charging speed, the cost of electricity, and a “profit per hour” that is set by the host. These are multiplied by the total charging time, which uses an honor system–based reservation duration for the pilot. The team has plans to implement a hardware/software integration that will provide customer recognition and real-time electricity metering to track total kWh used instead of an estimation. Finally, a service fee is applied as the primary revenue stream for the folks at EVmatch. In over-simplified terms, it looks like this:

[(Price per kWh)*(Charging Speed) + Host Markup per hour] * Length of Reservation + EVmatch Service Fee = Charging Session Price

This model was well received by hosts and users in the proof of concept. These initial test users were generally more excited to support EV adoption than they were about making a profit. Whether this excitement scales or not is one of the big questions the team is looking to answer with the pilot. Payments to hosts are currently made through weekly payments to keep the money flowing to hosts, but the frequency and method of payments may change after the pilot.

EVmatch

The Big Launch

EVmatch built a proof of concept in the Santa Barbara area but then kicked things into high gear last week when it launched the pilot of the solution, which expands the footprint to the greater Los Angeles area. In the limited-release pilot, the team will scale the solution to a broader user base to validate the new end-to-end solution before developing platform-specific apps and expanding the network to the rest of California and beyond.

Customers who have already pre-registered for the pilot launch on the EVmatch site have now received a formal invites to the pilot, which officially kicked off on March 28. The pilot features free in-network charging through April 11, 2017, and will be celebrated by a launch party in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks.

More information about the pilot, including instructions for signing up as a charging site host or charging system user can be found over on the EVmatch Pilot site or on the main site at www.evmatch.com. I know I’ll be watching over the next few weeks and months to see how the EVmatch solution performs with a larger set of users, and I hope that it will be able to deliver on its goal of giving people enough confidence in the public charging network to buy an EV.

Images courtesy of EVmatch

ChargePoint Delivers Fast Charger Of The Future At CES

At CES today, ChargePoint raised the bar for DC fast charging with not just one new charger but a paradigm shift in DC fast charging that redefines the entire product category.

The ChargePoint Express Plus family revolutionizes DC fast charging by looking to the future and embracing the inevitable increases in charging speed demand with a modular design that allows hosts to upgrade as demand for faster charging speeds increases.

ChargePoint has 400 DC fast chargers (DCFCs) installed out in the field today, which are a mix of units from other manufacturers and ChargePoint units. The ChargePoint team has taken all of the learnings from those and rolled them into this new product family, which the EV company is confident can support the next several generations of EVs.

The Design

The modular design is built around the idea of individual power modules which invert AC from the grid and puts out 31 kW of DC to the charging cable. At the most basic DC Fast Charger installations for this family, each charging station can hold 1 or 2 power modules to support speeds of 31 kW and 62 kW, respectively.

Installing and linking two stations next to each other allows them to share these power modules — or power blades — much like pairs of Tesla Superchargers do today. If both chargers had two power modules, that would allow one of the chargers to charge a car at 124 kW. If another car connected to the other charger, the speed for each would drop down to the single station rate of 62 kW.

Charging … Cubed

Exciting, right? But that’s just the beginning. Adding more chargers allows them to play together in a larger group. 8 chargers can hold a maximum of 16 blades (2 in each), which can and will dynamically allocate the maximum available power to as many EVs as are charging at any given time.

If those chargers are in an apartment complex that is limited on power that it can supply to the chargers, they will dynamically allocate the available power to whichever car is connected and using power. One caveat is that the chargers can only allocate power in single-blade units — so, in 31 kW increments.

ChargePoint liked this modular design but had even bigger plans and took a chunk of 16 blades and dropped them into a cube which was then connected to a bank of chargers. Now those 8 chargers (or however many are connected) can share that pool of 16 power blades in addition to the blades that are built into the chargers.

Each blade is still the same 31 kW … but now the system has a LOT more blades in the pool to play with. Need more speed? Add another cube. Each charging station can go up to 400 kW using blades from other chargers or from a cube. Each cube can contain up to 500 kW of DC and can feed from 1–8 charging stations per cube.

Basically, this flexible, future-proof design allows system owners to start small with 1 or 2 chargers with a blade in each and provides flexibility for owners to add more blades or cubes with blades as customer demand grows for faster charging speeds.

The Power of the Network

For those familiar with virtual computing stacks, these power blades operate much like blade servers. The power modules can be hot swapped. They can communicate back to ChargePoint at the individual blade level for predictive maintenance and will automagically fail over to other power modules in the pool in the event of an unplanned failure.

One of ChargePoint’s strengths is the network which comes with a full set of tools and support for owners to configure and tune to deliver the customer experience they are looking for.

Summary

If I sound excited about this innovative new product line, I am. This truly feels like the charging system of the future. Yes, there are still a ton of variables that impact the viability of a charging location — installation costs, utility capability to supply such a massive amount of power in a given location, demand charges, customer demand, site host willingness to commit real estate for cubes, etc., etc., but just the fact that the product exists on the charging side to support faster charging speeds is huge.

I will break this family down in more detail in a future post but wanted to start with the basics of the new family to share this exciting news in a bite-size chunk. If you’re hungry for more information about it NOW, check out the official ChargePoint Express Plus page.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.


The Tesla Supercharging Crisis On The Horizon

Originally published on CleanTechnica

With several affordable vehicles on the horizon that will be capable of 200 miles or more of all-electric range, the last major problem for EVs and EV manufacturers to truly solve is super fast public charging, or what we have dubbed Level 4 charging.

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Image courtesy Redditor Dakujem

Tesla is currently the only automaker to offer reasonable long-distance charging with its Superchargers running at ~135 kW, but that infrastructure is about to be pounded into the ground by hundreds of thousands of Tesla Model 3 owners unless something changes.

In the Model 3 unveiling last week, Elon Musk shared that Supercharging would be included with the Model 3 but stopped short of claiming that it would include free Supercharging, as has been the case with the Model S and X. This is a divergence from previous statements that Supercharging would be free for the Model 3.

Tragedy of the Commons

Looking at Supercharging, one of the key challenges is that it’s free. When humans can get something for free, even when it’s just a few bucks worth of power, we act irrationally and selfishly, which is a behavior captured in a theory call the “tragedy of the commons.” Per Wikipedia, the tragedy of the commons is:

“an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource.”

Stories of wealthy Tesla drivers using Superchargers every day as their main charging solutions are on the forums and are evidence of this behavior. Spending 30 minutes every day to sit around to save $3 in electricity at home is not a logical behavior for someone driving a $100,000 car, and results in charging stations being unavailable for long-distance drivers.

Tesla has already reached out to frequent … excessive … abusive … and even some infrequent Supercharging users, asking them to take it easy … and this is just with the Model S putting load on the Supercharging network. Imagine when we have 2 more years of full production volume of the S and the X weighing down on  it… Tesla Superchargers could be in for a world of hurt in no time, as defined by long lines and general unreliability of the Supercharging network.

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Supercharging in Redondo Beach | Image Credit: Kyle Field

Why Supercharging

Fixing Supercharging doesn’t mean that all of a sudden everyone has to pay for Supercharging. Stepping back from the problem to look at why Supercharging exists in the first place helps us to understand what levers can be pulled to improve the system.

Tesla developed and deployed Supercharging to fill a functionality gap for EVs and to enable long-distance travel. That’s the base use case and in these early days of Level 4 infrastructure deployment, the key reason for Level 4 chargers. This is not saying that Superchargers are not great for a quick topup or for filling up after a long day of driving around town … but that’s not what Tesla built them for.

As Supercharging networks continue to grow, there will be a natural evolution of the system to support additional use cases, but in the meantime, there is an opportunity to leverage system controls to optimize system availability. Long-distance travel and fast charging become much more relevant considerations as EVs with more than 200 miles range become the norm — as long-distance travel with sub-100 mile range EVs is painful in most scenarios anyway.

The Radius Model

Finding the sweet spot in keeping the system functional while also assuring availability is a delicate balance but is not unsolvable. Implementing a system wherein charging closer to home is not free provides an incentive for EV owners to charge at home and lightens the load on the distributed public charging network that otherwise becomes clogged by the tragedy of the commons effect we typically see with free charging.

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Great availability, low utilization | Image Credit: Kyle Field

For local charging within 50 miles of home, it is critical to bill for EV charging, as this is where 90%+ of all driving takes place. When local charging is not regulated, EV drivers gravitate towards utilizing public charging stations instead of home charging, which consumes charging spaces that could otherwise be useful for long-distance travelers. A healthy price point for local charging would be to use peak electricity rates.

For mid-range charging at ranges of 50–100 miles from home, an EV driver can still round-trip a destination on a single charge, so public charging at these distances is not absolutely required. Charging pass-through rates for power at mid-range charging stations strikes a balance that allows EV drivers to charge remotely without a penalty but clearly removes the incentive to “convenience charge.”

For long-range charging over 100 miles from the home, Level 4 charging can remain free as this is the intended use-case.

Implementing a radius model to govern charging ensures that chargers are available for the base use case while also giving EV drivers the freedom to utilize public super fast charging stations if needed, with minimal penalty. For EV drivers without home chargers, workplace chargers provide the best balance between cost, availability, and charging time.

As the Level 4 charging network catches up with EV sales growth, models can be adjusted to strike the right balance between cost, availability, and charging time. Currently, the balance is tenuous at best, but with Tesla being the only EV manufacturer to truly invest in a Level 4 charging network and ensure integration with its fleet of EVs, the balance is sure to deteriorate as Model 3 comes online.

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Tesla Model 3 on the test track | Image Credit: Kyle Field

At the Model 3 unveiling last week, Tesla shared plans to double the Supercharging network by the end of 2017, and a parallel effort to improve the destination charging program with a planned four-fold increase in the same timing.

Building and managing Level 4 public charging is a key step to ensuring robust EV charging that meets the needs of EV drivers, but with Model 3 on the horizon, it is at a critical junction as EV adoption moves from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority and the volume of EVs on the road ramps up significantly. Left unmanaged, the volume of vehicles would quickly overwhelm the current and planned super fast charging network and render it effectively unusable.

EV Charging — The Time For A Single Fast-Charging Standard Is Now!

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The EV charging network is the gas station network for EV owners — the only place to fill up and top off when out on the town, driving around the fringes of an EV’s range. What’s more, charging up an EV takes longer than fueling up an ICE vehicle, so the quantity and availability of charging stations makes a huge impact on the functionality of EVs. To further complicate matters, the growing fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that don’t have the same “need” to charger can frequently be found charging at public EV charging locations, blocking out battery electric vehicle (BEV) drivers that, as a result, might not be able to get the charge they need to continue to their destination.

As BEVs and PHEVs increase in popularity, the current public EV charging infrastructure will also need to be scaled up to support the fleet. The lack of an EV fast charging standard further complicates the landscape, fragmenting the already struggling infrastructure with several standards competing for dominance, and manufacturers are drawing lines in the sand and picking teams to determine which standard will reign supreme.

Where We Came From — Level 2 Charging

With the initial deployment of EVs, what we now call Level 2 chargers were deployed far and wide to incentivize the public to purchase electric vehicles. These chargers provide charging rates of 6.6 kilowatt-hours for each hour of charging. In a Leaf, that equates to around 24 miles of range per hour of charging. These chargers were a fantastic start at developing a public charging network and gave early adopters the confidence to purchase a $30,000 vehicle with a reduced range.

Level 2 public chargers allowed people to extend the practical range of their EVs with just a few hours of charging required to top off their charge before heading on to another destination. Level 2 chargers are now installed in garages of many EV owners and the public network of chargers has only continued to grow as EV adoption has increased.

Building a Better System — Early DC Fast Charging

To complement these chargers, Level 3 chargers — or DC fast chargers — have started popping up. Level 3 chargers brought a significant advantage to the table in terms of charging speed and were able to push ~19 kWhs in a 30-minute session, equating to the addition of roughly 80% of the charge or an extra 76 miles of range. Charging rates slow as the battery nears the 90% full range, so, your mileage may vary.

DC fast chargers have grown into the gas stations of the EV charging network in most areas, as they allow ~80% charge in the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.

Similar to early Level 2 chargers, Level 3 chargers are expensive, with installations requiring significant electrical infrastructure in addition to a hardware cost upwards of $100,000 each in the US. Due to the high capital cost required to install Level 3 chargers, early installations have been slower and mostly implemented by companies dedicated to charging infrastructure likeNRG EVgo and ChargePoint. These chargers started popping up in major cities, then made their way into smaller cities across the nation.

DC Fast Charging Today

Which brings us to today. In the southwestern United States, we have a healthy network of Level 2 chargers supported by a sprinkling of Level 3 DC fast chargers. On top of this mature network, EV sales have ramped up and are weighing heavily on our primarily Level 2 charging network. Many modern EVs are equipped with fast charging capability, with many supporting higher speeds than the current networks even provide. As we approach the next step change in EVs — with ranges of 200 miles requiring batteries of 60 kilowatt-hours and more — we are again approaching a point where even our fastest chargers today will not meet the needs of the masses.

CHAdeMO

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Kia Soul EV CHAdeMO Adapter (on right) | Image Credit: Kyle Field

CHAdeMO plugs are the size of a large firehose, making its charging cables unwieldy, and it is the fast charging adapter of choice for the Kia Soul EV, Citroen, Mitsubishi EVs, Peugots, and of course, Nissan and the established Leaf (as an option). CHAdeMO offers charging speeds of up to 70 kW, with real-life 30-minute charging sessions delivering just over 19 kWh of charge or around 75 miles of extra range (on a Nissan Leaf). CHAdeMO is seeing extremely rapid adoption in Japan, with around 5,500 stations deployed today (crazy considering how small Japan is!). The US — specifically, California — is ramping up deployment of CHAdeMO stations quickly as well, where over 1,300 stations have been deployed.

SAE Combined Charging Solution

Competing with CHAdeMO for the DC fast charging crown is the newer SAE Combined Charging Solution (aka SAE Combo, or CCS), which is a standard J1772 plug with 2 additional DC fast charging ports below it (hence the combo moniker). This newer standard is the fast charging standard of choice for Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Most notably, this port can be found on the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Spark EV, and the Volkswagen eGolf. Combo adapters are similar in size to CHAdeMO, though due to the utilization of the existing J1772 plug, only require a single port on the car, whereas CHAdeMO requires 2 separate on-vehicle ports.

These Combo plugs offer maximum speeds of up to 90 kW (DC Level 2) with theoretical speeds of up to 240 kW. In real life, SAE Combo charge rates are comparable to CHAdeMO, delivering roughly 80% of the range of ~100 mile EVS in a 30-minute fast charging session.

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Tesla Supercharger in Oxnard, CA | Image Credit: Kyle Field

Supercharged

Finally, the Tesla charging format supports all charging levels from Level 1 (normal wall outlets at 110 volts) up to the Tesla-only DC Supercharging network which boasts the fastest broadly available charging speeds, cranking up to 400 miles of range per hour (design rate) with a real-world miles delivered in 30 minutes of Supercharging sitting at 170 miles. This does not scale up linearly (170 x 2 = 340 miles of range delivered per hour), as charging slows when the battery approaches capacity — but it’s still extremely impressive and much faster than any other fast charging standard with a substantial deployed footprint.

The Tesla charging standard is also much more compact than the other standards and can be used for all charging speeds — from 110v wall charging @ 15 amps all the way up to Supercharging.

The Road to the Future

Where to from here? Ultimately, the market will decide which manufacturer and, thus, which standard prevails. Manufacturers are realizing the negative sales impact the current, scattered public charging network is having and building out branded charging networks. Much like the VHS vs Beta or the HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray battles of the past, fragmented landscapes rarely last for long. We will likely converge on a single standard, but the longer the transition is drawn out, the more consumers — and EV adoption rates — will suffer. We need a fast charging standard now to give manufacturers and consumers confidence in EVs long into the future.

Several clear paths exist — though, with sides having already been chosen, no option will be pain-free. An NGO or charging alliance could be formed as a neutral self-governing body to select a dominant standard moving forward. Though, this is challenging as these organizations cost money and offer little financial upside for participants. Government mandates can also create results and that feels like what may be required to unify manufacturers as an effort to protect consumers from non-value-added infrastructure fragmentation.

Whatever the path forward, the time for action is now. Consumers are calling out for a single EV fast charging standard to carry us several decades into the future….