//Worlds Largest Electric Car Charging Network Begins

Worlds Largest Electric Car Charging Network Begins

This week saw the largest transportation electrification project in history begin. On 10/1/2009, eTec announced that they have officially signed the $99.8 million grant with DOE to start installing Electric Vehicle Infrastructure in 5 States, Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. So I thought this might be a good time to examine the aims of the grant, the company involved and other companies involved in this space.

This is truly a milestone in the US’ and the Worlds in the adoption of Electric Vehicles. Due to the grant’s objectives, the transparency guidelines for taking the money, and observing consumer behaviors, this is seen more as a huge research project than a commercial enterprise. The potential lessons are hugely important in ensuring the smoothest, most cost effective transition to an electric vehicle fleet. Some of the questions this wide ranging, real world ‘study’ can answer are:

  • Where are the best places to install charging stations…especially fast chargers?
  • How does having a charger near a retail location or restaurant affect consumer behavior?
  • How will range anxiety affect EV owners?
  • Monetizing electric vehicle charging – what works and what doesn’t?
  • How the ev’s charging network might work together with the smart grid concept?
  • What will be the actual dynamic between municipalities, utilities, business, and consumers on their adoption in the various cities?

ECOtality Inc.

signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy for a grant of $99.8 million to deploy what the company said is the largest charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in history.

The Electric Transportation Engineering Corp., or eTec is a subsidiary of Scottsdale-based ECOtality Inc. will deploy more than 11,000 chargers and 4,700 Nissan Leaf zero-emission electric vehicles.

The company has launched an official Web site for the project, www.theEVproject.com, to sign up to receive free charge infrastructure at a home or business. It also provides maps to show where charge stations are located.

“We can now work to make widespread electric vehicle use a reality by studying lessons learned from this project and providing a blueprint for other cities to adopt electric vehicles,” said ECOtality President Jonathan Read.

The project is in partnership with Nissan North America, which will deploy 4,700 of its all-electric Leaf vehicles which are scheduled for release in fall 2010.

As part of the project, Oregon expects to receive just under 1,000 of the Nissan vehicles and around 2,000 charging stations, centered around Portland, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis.

ETec won’t begin deploying the charging infrastructure until summer 2010.

Once deployed, the project will collect and analyze data to evaluate the effectiveness of electric vehicles in various topographic and climate conditions. The project also includes conducting trials on various means of collecting revenue for commercial and public charging infrastructure.

According to their website “eTec’s proprietary Minit-Charger technology can provide a safe and meaningful charge for an EV in approximately 15 minutes.”

ECOtality, whose subsidiary eTec snagged a nearly $100 million federal stimulus grant last month to support what the company describes as “the largest deployment of EV chargers and vehicles ever” (12,750 charging systems in five states for 5,000 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles), has formed two joint ventures with China’s Shenzhen Goch Investment, or SGI, in order to manufacture, assemble and sell EV charging equipment in China.

SGI will contribute $10 million for the manufacturing and assembly venture, which SGI founder Dongsheng Gong envisions will supply charging systems for “industrial, airport and on-road electric vehicle applications around the world,” and another $5 million for the sales effort.

The market for electric car charging systems in China is being driven by several forces. Chinese automakers, including BYD, Chery and Geely, have a strategic reason to go electric: Legacy car companies in North America, Europe and Japan haven’t yet mastered the technology, and so moving early and fast could allow China-based companies to grab a lead in the nascent market.

In addition, as China’s vice minister for industry and information technology, Miao Wei, a former Dongfeng Motor chairman, told the New York Times earlier this year, “the Chinese auto industry cannot grow sustainably” unless the “bottlenecks” of air pollution, rising consumption of imported oil and traffic congestion are addressed. Hoping to alleviate at least some of these problems, the Chinese government has thrown its weight behind electric vehicles, providing subsidies for research and electric vehicle purchases. All of that spells big opportunity for a company like ECOtality.

SolarCity and Tesla To Build 4 Charging Stations in California

A joint venture between Foster City-based SolarCity and San Carlos-based Tesla Motors, the solar charging stations will be placed at four specific Rabobank locations (Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and Goleta) along the 101 route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the world.

Rabobank, another participant in the revolutionary endeavor, is an international financial services provider located in 16 countries with headquarters in the Netherlands. Together, the three entities now offer solar charging venues to Tesla drivers.

Next year, according to SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass, the company will refit the charging stations to correspond to standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers, making them available to drivers of other electric vehicles as well.

The solar charging stations are part of a marketing strategy, of course, but they also represent the companies’ focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels and the attendant emissions that contribute to global warming.

To Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO, they represent the “escape hatch” by which today’s consumers can escape the carbon economy. This is, in spite of its consumer-culture orientation, a worthy target. Rive is also adding some other incentives to the campaign, namely the purchase of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system with its own, free, EV (electronic vehicle) system.

SolarCity, founded in 2006, is one of the few solar installers to offer financing options to both commercial and residential solar energy customers. The Sept. 18 purchase of SolSource Energy (a solar installer offering electric car charging stations) allowed SolarCity to move confidently into this new venue.

Funding for the project came from the California Air Resources Board, which in 2007 provided a grant to Tesla of $641,000, according to Tesla spokeswoman Rachel Konrad. Part of that grant went into the cooperative development, with Auburn-based EV supplier Clipper Creek, of a fast-charging unit that Tesla has named the “High Power Connector”. This unit delivers up to 70 amps (240 volts) of electricity, which can charge the Tesla Roadster in as few as 3.5 hours.

The balance, about $80,000, went into establishing the charging spots and buying equipment for the installations. SolarCity also installed a 30-kilowatt solar energy array at the Rabobank’s bank’s Santa Maria branch, and a power purchase agreement will allow the bank to pay for the electricity generated while SolarCity maintains ownership of the array and the charging stations. Rabobank will cover the costs of recharging, which aren’t expected to be significant given the small number of Tesla electric vehicles currently on California roads, but that will likely change in the near future as auto makers ramp up EV production.

The High Power Connector comes with a price tag of $3,000, but can be installed in any garage or carport with a 15-amp circuit. Tesla cars can also be charged with any 110-volt outlet, but this process can take up to 1.5 days.

Panasonic to Sell Electric Car Chargers for Home and Business

Japan’s Panasonic Electric Works Co. said Thursday it will release a battery charger for all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in June 2010. Elseev commercial charger will sell for equivalent of US$2,100.

The recharging device, dubbed Elseev, will sell for around 200,000 yen for use at public facilities and corporate parking lots.

In fiscal 2011 ending in March 2012, the company aims to sell 10,000 units of the device, which is 21 centimeters long, 28 centimeters wide and 160 centimeters high.

The company plans to release a home battery charger if electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids become more popular.

Electric Car Charger from ZAP Cuts Recharge Time from Hours to Minute

Electric car pioneer ZAP is saying about a new charging technology for their XEBRA electric car or truck.

ZAP says the charger on the XEBRA can be configured for charging with either a 110 or 220-volt outlet like the ones used with a household washer and dryer. The new charger is able to provide up to 100 amps or 10,000 watts of electricity into the vehicle and ZAP Chairman Gary Starr says it will significantly extend daily driving range.

“This new charger can reduce your charge time from hours to minutes,” said Starr. “Now you can drive your electric car all day with just a few short stops. In the time it takes to eat lunch you can hook your XEBRA up to the charger and have a full charge in less than an hour. Think of it as putting your XEBRA out to graze.”

Normally the XEBRA recharges in under six hours, but Starr says the new charger would be ideal for fleets, government agencies, corporations, universities and multi-car families looking to incorporate all-electric vehicles. It connects to a 240-volt, 60 amp circuit or 208-volt, 3-phase, 50 amp circuit. The fast charger is similar to ones used at Southwest Airlines, America West Airlines, the Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Arizona Public Service for recharging their fleets.

The new charger can be ordered through ZAP for about $9,000 and can even qualify for a Federal 30 percent tax credit. See IRS Tax Form 8911 for the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Property Credit. Starr added that people needing an even faster recharge could order a charger capable of putting out 15 kW or 50 percent more power.

ZAP calls the XEBRA design a ‘city-car,’ available as a 4-door sedan or 2-passenger truck, good for city-speed driving up to 40 MPH and priced about $10,000. ZAP recently introduced another way of improving range and battery life with an optional rooftop solar panel.

Smart USA Chooses Coulomb Technologies to Supply EV Chargers

The Smart fortwo ED is an upcoming pure electric car. It will be built by Daimler and use lithium-ion battery packs supplied by Tesla Motors. Testing of prototypes has been underway in Europe since 2007.

Earlier this year Daimler announced it would be bringing the vehicle into global production including the United States. Vehicle deliveries are intended to begin in 2010.

Coulomb Technology is the California-based start-up that has been deploying smart networked public electric car chargers. The company has been officially been selected by Daimler to exclusively supply the chargers for home use that will come with the electric smarts.

Coulomb offers unique wireless communication technology embedded in the chargers. This allows users to check charger availability and status via an online interface. The technology also allows for a subscription service so users can charge their EV at any Coulomb charger. These have already started being deployed in the public sphere across the nation.

The Smart program is Coulomb’s first step into the home charger market.

“Smart USA is demonstrating their commitment to reducing emissions and dependency on foreign oil with the introduction of their electric drive smart fortwo,” said Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. “We are proud to say that our partnership with smart USA will provide their electric car buyers with home and public charging capabilities including energy cost optimization, web and smartphone-based charging management services, and high availability through remote monitoring.”