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Scaling EV Charging Infrastructure to Meet Transport Sector Demand

The era of the electric vehicle is coming. The number of electric recharging stations in the United States increased by over 80% during 2018-2021 to over 16,000 total public

charging outlets, according to the Department of Energy, and the EV market is on track to double in 2018. While Volkswagen promised that EVs will be “game-changer,” it is the charging infrastructure that is the enabler for widespread acceptance of this new generation of vehicles.

The potential transition to frequent charging and almost-continuous charging of fleets is regarded with keen interest by the global transport sector. This is because EVs are expected not just to be an option for those who seek an eco-friendly life, but also a convenient mode of transportation that would be driving the masses from the beginning of their commutes until the end, with EV charging stations waiting at strategic locations. Currently, there’s probably one or two stations at most every 100 miles. And while the number of charging stations is rapidly growing — especially in developed countries with high energy costs and use of fossil fuel — the infrastructure isn’t quite ready to support the global increase in EVs.

How strong is the demand for electric vehicle charging infrastructure?

If you’ve ever owned or used an electric car, you’ve likely heard the terms Level 1, 2, and 3 charging. But what do they mean?

These are the three types of electric vehicle (EV) charging. 

Level 1 charging uses electrical outlets with power of 120V in the U.S. and 220/230V in Europe. This is how most drivers charge their EVs at home, and can take up to 18 hours to fully charge a vehicle.

Level 2 charging uses 240V electrical circuits, which is mostly used for public charging across cities. The charge time is typically between four and eight hours.

Level 3 DC fast charging using ultra high-power 480V circuits is the new type of EV fleet charging infrastructure that private fleet owners and governments are working on installing. For this kind of fleet charging infrastructure, it takes about 20 minutes for the battery to reach 80% capacity.

Four principles for developing and operating electric vehicle charging infrastructure

1. Devise your charging schedule

As battery technology improves, commercial eTrucks can cover up to 500 kilometers on one charge with maximum battery configurations. But the big question is how to charge electric trucks cruising long-haul routes

  • Overnight charging: The most common scenario. Trucks can be charged overnight in a depot and then deployed on their route the next morning.

  • Opportunity charging: Available at select locations throughout the route, opportunity charging allows the trucks to charge while making deliveries along a route during the day.

  • Fast charging en-route: Charging stations can be installed along planned trucking routes to allow drivers to pause and recharge as they would stop for food or fuel.

  • Battery swapping: This option allows commercial electric vehicles (EVs) to swap out a depleted battery for a fully charged one at various points along their route.

2. Procuring the optimal hardware

If you're looking to install charging infrastructure locally, there's plenty of options on the market. How do you make your choice? For starters, consider the following variables:

- Daily travel distance, converted to daily kWh needed for each truck model

- Preferable charging speeds and times for different routes

- Utility tariffs for private charging vs public charging

Then think about where you are ready to make tradeoffs. Do you want to balance speed vs price? Should you operate a longer route where cheaper public infrastructure is available versus a shorter route that you could possibly cover on one charge (if all goes well and there is no congestion)?

3. Introduce intelligent battery management

When it comes to electric vehicles and future-forward fleets, the two major market constraints are battery capacity and battery degradation over time.

Driving behavior, climate, and use of different charging types all affect battery health—and quality of charging is one factor that manufacturers have tried to offset with state of charge (SOC) buffers.

However, these buffers are not a perfect solution, and though manufacturers have worked hard to improve them, they still cannot offer 100% guarantees on the longevity of the batteries in their vehicles.

But! Battery life is something fleet managers can investigate and prolong using predictive analytics for battery performance forecasting and digital battery twins. With these systems, which can be developed in-house or through a third party, fleet managers can determine which factors result in premature aging and schedule timely maintenance.

4. Integrate with other EV management components

There is a lot to consider when you're managing an EV fleet, from the road conditions to the vehicle's overall performance. Finally, you have to charge them up so that they can make it to where they need to go.

To minimize idle time, you can integrate your EV charging application with other EV fleet management systems like a routing or monitoring system. These systems contain important EV telematics data — information on things like road elevation or traffic congestion — that will help you estimate your true range needs and build a charging schedule around them.

After all, an EV with a dead battery can't be towed to the nearest charge point (as this damages the motors). Real-time alerts about battery performance can help managers plan better routes and provide instructions to drivers if the charge gets critically low.

Wrapping it up 

With EV charging infrastructure booming and electric vehicle adoption also on a rapid rise, the U.S. seems set to make serious strides towards stemming the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Fast charging stations could be both efficient and highly accessible in urban areas and allow EVs to become genuinely convenient vehicles for city dwellers. Already, myriad startups are entering the market for EVs with the option for EVs soon to be the default standard for fleets of trucks, taxis, and delivery vans. In addition, automakers are well poised to significantly increase profits through factors other than vehicle sales--buying into this new business segment could greatly boost their bottom lines in the coming decade.

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