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Electric-Vehicle-Revolution: But, what about the charging?

27 November 2018

The electric vehicle revolution is unstoppable. However, major changes to electricity infrastructure will be required, and there are practical limits to fast charging. Never the less, with every major car manufacturer in the world announcing ambitious plans to release an extensive range of EV models, this change will be thrust upon us. The launch of new player US based Rivian in Nov 2018 signals just how tangible this revolution is. Huge business opportunities are emerging as the world gears-up for the electric revolution.

Rivian RIT Electric Truck features 4 independent motors, 180 kW battery and 640+ kms range. Level 3 autonomy-capable hardware. 0 to 100 kms/hour in 3 seconds. It's a complete game changer.

I’ve always enjoyed the throb and exhaust note of a V8 engine motor car; that’s one aspect of the electric car revolution I was not looking forward to. When the Prius launched, while environmentally friendly and perfectly practical and comfortable, it was underwhelming. Tesla was a distinct improvement, but newest entrant, the Rivian RIT, is awesome.

The EV revolution is getting underway, and if that means new vehicles like the Rivian, I am sold.

The Rivian RIT electric pick-up truck (launched NOV 2018) is yet another example of the revolution started by Toyota , evolved by Tesla, and now all auto brands are jumping on the electric band-wagon. The Rivian RIT is a total game changer, putting electric vehicles in the same class as hydrocarbon fueled 4WD pickup trucks and potentially beating them at their own game.

Every major motor vehicle manufacturer has announced not just one or two, but whole ranges of electric vehicles.

German auto giant Volkswagen Group has released an ambitious electric vehicle program, the latest example of a global market that’s set to, not just change the face of motoring as we know it, but drive a level of infrastructure investment on an unprecedented scale.

At Volkswagen’s annual media conference in Berlin (March 2018), CEO Matthias Müller announced the Group had secured battery supply partners in Europe and China, and planned to expand assembly of EV cars to 16 plants globally through the end of 2022.

Volkswagen is the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer, owning 12 auto brands including Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda and Bugatti.

Starting in 2019, VW will be introducing a new electric car “virtually every month” a total of roughly 80 new electric car and SUV models by 2025 – VW aims to have electric variants for every one of their 300 models.

VW also aims to sell 3 million electric cars a year across the group by 2025.

Mercedes' parent company, Daimler, last year revealed plans to offer electric versions of all of its Mercedes-Benz and smart car models by 2022.

USA has announced plans as well, General Motors is seeking government support for extending tax credits to incentivise EV uptake in America, as it rolls out plans to offer 20 all-electric models by 2023.

The electric vehicle revolution is gathering momentum.

Major shift in infrastructure requirements

Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles have enormous infrastructure to support their existence. Apart from vehicle manufacturing and supply chains right down to the dealer, there is the vehicle servicing and fuel networks.

If market take-up of EV sales reaches serious levels, new networks for servicing and recharging will be needed.

The servicing is easy enough, considerable retraining of mechanics will be required but EV’s are mechanically simpler than ICE vehicles. The real challenge will be supplying EV’s with Energy – recharging.

Major investment in vehicle charging and power grid infrastructure is required.

While EV’s at the moment offer ranges of between 300 and 600 km’s, it’s conceivable that these will increase as battery technology undergoes natural evolution. Range anxiety will become less of an issue.

Practicalities of charging Electric Vehicles

ICE cars take minutes to refuel. Recharging EV’s will require much longer.

Our lives will be somewhat impacted by this, as we will need to work into our busy schedules recharging time. As if we don't have enough to worry about. I assume that vehicle sales will probably outpace the rollout of charging infrastructure. There will be a period of adjustment.

Eventually, when vehicles become fully autonomous the car will probably wonder off by itself and hang out with its buddies at the local charging station. In the meantime, people will be anxious for faster charging.

It’s worth considering the physics of this.

The Tesla Roaster Sport 2.5 has a range of 393 km and uses a 53 kWh battery.

It takes around 20 hours to charge the Roadster Sport from a regular household 16 amp circuit. Other chargers, including a 35 amp and 70 amp quick charge are available and significantly reduce charging time.

The fast-charge HPWC plug-in charging adapter requires a 16.8 kW (70 amp 240 volt) power connection. Which at roughly 80% efficiency, can recharge the battery from flat in just under 4 hours.

70 amps is a large amount of current. To put this in perspective an old fashioned two-bar electric radiator draws 10 amps.

Recharging the Tesla is the equivalent of running 7 two-bar radiators flat out for 4 hours.

Standard general power outlets in Australian homes are rated at a mere 10 amps. To recharge a Tesla at the fast-rate, you need an electrician to run some hefty cables, install a high power wall socket (HPWC) and probably an up-grade to your grid connected electricity system (and/or solar).

Reducing charging time (if even possible) to 5 minutes (48 times faster) would require a power connection capable of delivering a whopping 3,360 amps at 240 volts (single phase). Copper conductors required to deliver such high current would need to be over 2 inches thick.

Even with 3 phase power, this is still 1,176 amps at 415 volts. Assuming your house could deliver it, the cable and plug would be Anaconda in scale (actually, forget about a cable and plug; more likely copper bars and some large connecting bolts.)

5 minute fast charging may not be practical, however even at 30 minutes a 200 amp 3 phase power connection is required.

In reality, home charging (most likely overnight) will take place at a more modest pace, and future fast charging will be available mainly at service stations.

Service stations currently designed to re-energize petrol/diesel/gas vehicles in the space of 5 minutes, will now need to cope with vehicle stays of 30 minutes. Either they will get bigger, or there will be more of them. Charging points will be installed at work, in car parks, at home - everywhere. That's a huge amount of new equipment, electricity infrastructure, payment systems and installation.

What ever the source of electricity (from the grid or from solar) when EV's become substantial in numbers - we are going to need a lot more of it. Major changes required.

This author believes the EV revolution is here and won’t be stopped.

With change comes opportunity. Business opportunity.

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