E-Mobility Leaders: The Future Relies on Getting Policies and the User Experience Right

Electric vehicles sales increased across key global markets last
year. In the United States, EV sales
increased by 81 percent
 compared to 2018.

Yet policymakers, automakers and technology companies are still
working on the right mix of policies to keep momentum moving
forward for e-mobility.

This week, more than 500 automotive, energy, and technology
executives gathered in San Francisco at Bloomberg New Energy
Finance’s summit on the future of mobility. Greentech Media was
there and compiled some highlights.

Electrify America takes on demand charges

In an interview with Electrify America COO Brendan Jones, BNEF
energy analyst Nathaniel Bullard asked if fellow EV charging
station network operators ChargePoint and EVgo could be potential
partners for future cycles of Electrify America’s expansion.

“Absolutely,” said Jones. “We reached out to both
companies and engaged with both companies in cycle one. We’re
restarting the RFP process for cycle two.”

ChargePoint has previously
expressed concern
that the settlement with regulators that gave
birth to Electrify America gives the VW subsidiary
a leg up
on its competitors.

Regarding ChargePoint in particular, he said, “We’re in
ongoing conversations with them today, and we will continue to
engage with them.”  

Bullard also asked Jones how Electrify America plans to maintain
EV charging station utilization rates and hold down demand charges
going forward.

“To have good utilization at all EV stations, you need robust
EV car sales. That’s the number one variable,” said Jones.

“When you get that,” he went on, “you have to drive down
your expenses so that [with] a 20 percent or 30 percent or even a
40 percent utilization rate in a 24-hour cycle, you begin to get
revenue positive at those stations.”

Jones said the availability of electric vehicles with 200-300 or
more miles of range is beginning to ease consumers’ concerns
about range anxiety.

“Now we have to have sustainable charging infrastructure,”
he said. “The number one cost in charging infrastructure, outside
the capital investment, is demand charges. You have to find ways to
mitigate demand.”

The solution, he said, calls for a two-part strategy: utility
rate reform and demand mitigation — either via software or
batteries and peak-shaving.

Jones noted that Electrify America had just announced a
partnership with Tesla to deploy storage in high-demand utility
districts across the country.

Under a deal announced Monday, Tesla will install battery
storage systems at more than 100 Electrify America charging
stations across the United States.

“If a charging service provider, such as myself, passed on
demand charges to the consumer, nobody would buy an EV because your
charging event would be so expensive,” said Jones.

He
told Reuters
that if demand charges were passed on to the
customer it would cost $70-$110 to charge an electric vehicle in a
high-demand charge market.

“Cash-for-Clunkers” for buses?

Remember the “Cash-for-Clunkers” program?

In June 2009, President Obama signed legislation creating the
Car Allowance Rebate System — aka the “Cash-for-Clunkers
program. The short-lived program had two goals: stimulate new car
sales in an economy still mired in recession and get older,
high-polluting vehicles off the road. Consumers were offered
rebates worth up to $4,500 to swap gas-guzzlers for more
fuel-efficient vehicles.

Proterra CEO Ryan Popple wants to replicate the program for
public transit buses. Yes, such a program would benefit the
electric bus-maker Proterra. But Popple’s focus was on the
emissions lock-in associated with conventional diesel buses on the
road today.

“I’m not worried at all, at this point, about the marginal
purchase decision,” he said during a panel on the role of cities
in driving electric mobility. “We’re staying plenty busy
selling electric buses. What worries me is that every time a new
diesel bus deploys, a community is going to be eating that thing
for 12 years. You’re looking at 900,000 pounds of pollution on a
12-year deployment on a diesel bus.”

The problem for the climate, Popple said, is that diesel buses
deployed with financial support from the federal government are
required to be on the road for at least 12 years.

“Any city that we didn’t get to that puts diesel buses on
the road in 2019, those will still be polluting outside the window
of time where we have to have solved this emissions problem,” he
said.

He added, “I’d love to see if the feds said, ‘We’re
going to waive the 12-year asset life. Bring us your oldest,
dirtiest, tired buses, and we’ll give you a trade-in credit so
that you can get an energy-efficient electric zero-emission
bus.’”

An additional benefit coming with deploying electric buses is
that public transit agencies and utilities will often have to
partner to upgrade aging grid assets.

“It forces a city — and the utility — to do upgrades
that they probably should have done 20 years ago,” Popple said.
“Especially when we’ve been doing deployments on the U.S. East
Coast.”

“Yes, you may have to put in an upgraded transformer that may
take six months of coordination with the utility,” he said.
“But at that point, once you get in there, now you’re starting
to think about: How am I going to integrate with distributed
energy? How am I going to do vehicle-to-grid?”

What will EV charging look like in 10 years?

During a panel on the “refueling” site of the future,
BNEF’s Bullard asked panelists what the EV charging experience
will look like for customers a decade from now, when electric
vehicles account for much larger — say, 30 percent — share of
new car sales.

“By the time you reach that 30 percent mark, the refueling
experience will not be 30 minutes. The technology exists today, and
will continue to evolve, to make for a relatively short experience
that can come close to what we experience today with a
gasoline-powered vehicle,” said Martin Gafinowitz, senior vice
president with the industrial conglomerate Fortive.

“Today,” he said, “nobody who willingly goes to a gas
station really enjoys that experience. It’s more of a necessity
purchase.”

“The best user experience is the one I don’t even need to
have,” said Frank Muehlon, head of global electric vehicle
charging for the Swiss engineering giant ABB.

“If I can just charge at home, conveniently, if I can just
charge at my workplace, I do not really need to think about it —
that’s perfect,” he said.

“If a do go to a recharging site,” he added, “I do not
want to bother with [questions like]: What do I do with the time
I’m there? I’d rather want to leave as quick as possible
because that’s not a desired place to be.”

He also said EV charging companies are getting some user
experience basics wrong.

“What I see right now is operators put the chargers out there,
one beside the other. Every gas station has a roof, right? If I’m
an EV driver, I stand out in the rain,” he said.

“We really need to look at what the consumer experience is,”
agreed Rebecca Shelby, Ford’s manager of electrification policy
and standards.

“I would challenge the sentiment that we think fast-charging
is the way to go, and that it will continue to get faster and
faster in the future, because I don’t want to have to stop for
any time to charge or gas my vehicle,” she said. “I want to be
doing something else. I want to be grocery shopping. I want to be
at work. I don’t want to think about: I need to charge my
vehicle.”

“It’s a combination,” said Roy Williamson, VP of advanced
mobility for BP. “I have a millennial daughter who won’t wait
more than two minutes for anything, and certainly not for charging
her vehicle.”

“We do need good grid-balanced technology at home. We need
good destination charging,” he said.

He added that companies in the electric mobility ecosystem also
need to optimize the use of fleets.

“The utilization of vehicles is going to have to go up
dramatically over time for fleets,” he said. “We’re going to
have to find hubs. Those hubs might be at today’s fuel
stations.”

He said BP is researching what those hubs should look like and
where they should be located.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
E-Mobility Leaders: The Future Relies on Getting Policies and the User Experience Right