Category Archives: Level two charging

The EV Project- It’s Time to Grow Up

We had lived in a world of petroleum-based energy for so long that we could not see the horizon through its particulate-laden fog- until President Obama diverted part of his ARRA-funding and solicited bids for overseeing the first national scale investment into electric vehicle charging infrastructure promising deployment and data collection- the EV Project.  Enter ECOtality, the winning grantee. What followed has been nothing short of the jumpstarting of a new transportation technology and the construction of a foundation for this technology–the beginning of this immense national transformation of our transportation/energy system.  And we must be grateful for ECOtality’s efforts to seed public infrastructure into various politically receptive ecosystems. This has been a tremendous start on the path to the future.

Now that the 2012 Presidential election has been held, and energy independence will NOT mean fracking, pipelines, and drilling, what is the best path forward for EV infrastructure?  Well, its time to grow up.

We need to stop providing unilaterally allocated federal subsidies benefitting a narrow slice of the industry (i.e. ECOtality, Coulombe, AV).  Infrastructure should expand beyond the heavily weighted models favoring public charging, with expensive telecomm networked fees and consumer subscription based business models, with level 3 chargers hosting TV screens that can cost a hundred thousand dollars to install, risking unsustainable demand charges to the host sites if electricity consumption exceeds a certain level.  EV drivers do not need to be taught to associate public charging with rummaging around their glove box for the proper key fob only to find they failed to pre-register and create an account!  We have made it all seem so complicated, costly, and inconvenient.  Infrastructure should mean you charge primarily at home or work.  It should mean you can pay at any public station with a credit card.  If you need more energy during a particularly hectic week, you find it in the public forum and you pay for what you need and move on.  It may mean the host site uses a simple keypad or RFID  reader to activate the charger at your hotel or apartment complex.  It doesn’t have to be touchscreens, key fobs, hassle and headaches.

Companies such as ECOtality and Coulombe have been banking on laying the framework for what they see as a self-sustaining public infrastructure revenue stream- even before the ramifications of their data on consumer behavior  becomes clear.  One ostensible value of the EV Project was to get Idaho National Lab to parse out the actual numbers to begin to answer fundamental questions about charging infrastructure- how to incentivize off-peak charging? When do most consumers charge?  Where do they charge?  What is the proper ratio of public chargers to vehicles? How much will people pay? Building a networked infrastructure model before the data analysis was completed was a calculated business decision made by ECOtality and Coulombe- that model now needs to be tested in the marketplace and improved upon.

None of these questions are simple. Indeed the process itself can skew the results.  For example, Don Karner, then-President of ECOtality, reported to the DOE  that the initial residential installation subsidy of $1250 was causing most installation bids to come in at…$1250.  Accordingly, there was no clear data on the actual installation costs and they would be gradually phasing out the subsidy.  My experience shows that is twice the actual cost for the average home install.  We did need to invest in the technology- and make mistakes.  And now we need to start learning from them in order to reach escape velocity.

Giving away residential charging stations to customers of two auto manufacturers (Chevy and Nissan) may have made sense to get the data collection points in the field immediately, and now we have them.  That has been done and we should not extend the EV Project further. We did need to get chargers out in the field and afford utilities the opportunity to learn about linkage to their distribution system.  We did need to educate public utility commissions and the energy community about time of use rates for EVs and their grid-based benefits.  We did need to help auto dealers sell the vehicles by having the infrastructure come pre-packaged and added in for no extra cost.  However, we now see the Chevy Volt selling over 2500 units per month- and increasing- with a current annual sales of over 19,000 units domestically.  We now have added  Ford, Honda, Toyota, ThinkCity, Fisker, Tesla, Audi, Coda, Mitsubishi and all the other major automakers offering vehicle models with a plug. We even have electric motorcycles- Brammo, Zero, Motorczysz.  None of them currently qualify for of any the EV Project subsidies.   If we are to get to the next level of deployment, we now need to level the playing field, to embrace the notion of competitive neutrality (a term which ECOtality ironically embraced in its comments before the Oregon Public Utility Commission when seeking to prevent electric utilities from having a role in supplying their own charging infrastructure).  This will decrease costs, simplify installation, provide consumers with options, and benefit the total industry.

Quite simply, no one can compete with free.

Free is now inhibiting the evolution of the charging station industry, stifling competition, and preventing consumer choice.   It’s time to end the EV Project subsidies and extensions and let the market provide the full range of infrastructure solutions available.  Infrastructure needs to be unchained, especially in those markets where ECOtality has had a dominant presence because those regions are poised to become self-sustaining and offer the model for the rest of the country.  Consumers need to see that infrastructure can be simple, cost-effective, and scaled at a variety of levels to meet a variety of needs.  Its time to let us grow up.  And reach for the sun.

 

 

ThinkCity- A Consumer No Brainer

Yesterday was a truly great day along the chronologic line of EV infiltration into popular transportation culture- along with some bittersweet aftertaste. Ten ThinkCity vehicles arrived from the now bankrupt Elkhart, Indiana company bound for Portland-Area owners, making our total allotment of cars at 100. This connection was fused through the efforts of PGE and its Business Development Director, Charlie Allcock, who convinced ThinkCity we could provide them all the buyers they needed- a prophesy borne out.  I enjoyed the chance to mingle with Jim & Liz Houser at their Hawthorne Auto Clinic, who has taken on the warranty and serving responsibility for the owners and wanted to host a special meeting with them.  My best estimate was that twenty of more arrived to visit and discuss the vehicle, plus others who were there to just check it out and see what they thought of it.

The ThinkCity is a two door hatchback with a range of 100 miles using an advanced lithium ion battery of 24kWh (the same size as the Nissan Leaf’s).  It has body panels and interior trim components made of 100% recyclable plastic parts whose color is molded into the material eliminating harmful paint emissions.  It costs 2-3 cents per mile to operate and comes with a three year warranty.  It has a maximum power of 45 hp and a highway capable speed of 70 mph.  It comes with ABS and airbags and has undergone and met all applicable US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and has a three year warranty.

Oregonians can purchase it (after applying the federal tax credit) for $8500.  Yes.  You read that right. $8500.  Of course there is a sad part of this story fueling this pricing- bankruptcy.

The ThinkCity has been available for several months here, and has thus far shipped forty units, and with these additional shipments coming to the area, they will boost our PEV residential fleet by nearly one percent!  I also like their distinctiveness as advertising for electric drive technology needs to be made more conspicuous for the public to become aware of its burgeoning use.

My company, ClipperCreek, has provided the portable charging unit for many of these vehicles and, out of enthusiasm for their dispersement, I have offered a 15% discount on our residential Level 2 charger- the LCS-25 to those buyers who want one.  A recent California consumer study released this week, shows, among other interesting data, that over 90% of PEV owners opt to have home charging stations put in.  For an all battery electric vehicle (BEV), such as the ThinkCity, it is more likely necessary to have a level 2 charger.  A common question I have heard is whether it is necessary for the proper maintenance of the battery.  Speaking to some of the ThinkCity sales folks, I was told that they prefer that owners use a level two charger for baseline charging and reserve the level one for emergencies; this is actually referenced in the Owner’s Manual. I certainly suggest folks with this battery concern flesh it out more directly with the manufacturer.  I do believe, from my own experience, that most drivers will find that level 1 charging is too slow to handle normal usage (18 hours of charging time) and a level two charger allows the vehicle to charge at its fastest rate of 3.3 kw/per hour- nearly double the rate of a level one charger.

So, if you have purchased a ThinkCity and are interested in getting our ClipperCreek unit, call or email me, Barry@clippercreek.net, and I can get you a promotional code that can be entered during the purchasing process from our online store at www.clippercreek.com.  This brings the cost down from $795 to $675.75 and you get the best residential charger on the market!

Enjoy the celebrations of National Plug In Day-2012!  Get out and test drive an EV! And consider how an electric vehicle can meet your transportation needs and budget!

(Special Thanks to Joe Mayer for the Photo used of the Car Transporter)

EVs-Medicine that Tastes Good

 

Sometimes even when you arrive late to the party, it’s still hopping, there’s plenty of booze left and no one makes you feel guilty.

I had a chance to test drive the Tesla Roadster, courtesy of Clipper Creek, Inc’s CEO Jason France at their headquarters in Auburn, California.  My  opportunity was an unexpected pleasure and came at a moment when the Tesla S Sedan has been released and is making waves among auto critics, like WSJ’s Dan Neil, as the most amazing car they’ve driven. Period. Tesla is about experiencing road as a joyful blend of clean technology and butt pinching acceleration.  I have to say this car was the most amazing machine I have ever driven…but of course you knew I was going to say that.  More importantly, I believe it has the capacity to alter society’s perception of the electric drive.  I’ve never been in a car before that has a G-force meter.

If Tesla’s experiment accomplishes anything before history marches past this moment, it is its nudging of Americans toward the realization that electricity is fun to drive.  And it comes none too soon as much of the country is wrapped in a stifling hot blanket of heat and humidity, marking the sixth month of record breaking temperatures.  (The Pacific Northwest being the only part of the country seemingly immune for the moment).

I was down to meet the folks at Clipper Creek, a US based charging manufacturer, as I started my role as their Business Operations Manager for the Pacific Northwest, and to learn more about their Level One and Two charging series as well as their plans to make purposeful variations to meet utility smart grid interoperability requirements and higher level charging needs of fleet trucks such as Smith, Via Motors, and eStar electric vehicles. Call me or email me if you would like to learn more about how we can find the right charging station for your application.  I also provide a discount code for folks who call me directly. I find myself incredibly energized and, like Tesla, ready to push the limits of electric vehicle technology! More later…