EV Charging 101
The following article by Alan Northcutt was published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 6/30/2022:
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that globally electric vehicles (EVs) currently represent 3% of total vehicles on the roads, and this fraction is expected to grow to 30% by 2030. Since EVs combat the climate crisis, eliminate deadly tailpipe pollution, and are quiet, fast, and competitively priced, demand has now overwhelmed supply. However, Consumer Reports, JD Powers and many surveys have found that concern with vehicle range and charging infrastructure are the greatest obstacles to EV adoption. Because of this concern, review of EV charging will follow.
What are the types of chargers? Essentially all EVs come equipped with a Level 1 home charger unit, which plugs into a 110V outlet, and provides 4 miles per hour of charge. Level 2 chargers are home or commercial, require a 220V outlet, and add range of about 20 miles per hour. A home unit may be rated for indoor or outdoor use, and costs $200 to $700. Installation requires an electrician to place the 220V line, with cost highly variable, depending on length of cable required. (As an example, my Level 2 charger cost $350, with electrician fee of $600). Level 3 chargers are commercial type, provide direct rather than alternating current, at 50kW to 350kW, and can produce an 80% charge in 15 to 60 minutes, depending on charger and vehicle specifications.
Can I find a commercial charger in Waco? Although the general public is focused on commercial charging stations, in reality 73% of charging is done at home, 23% at work, and only 26% at commercial chargers. Further, Consumer Reports has found that for EVs with 250-mile range, 92% of charging is completed conveniently at home, with commercial charging reserved for out-of-town travel. For Teslas, in Waco, the only 24-hour, public chargers are the 22 Level 3 plugs on I35 adjacent to Collins Street Bakery. For non-Teslas, Electrify America has a 12 charger Level 3 complex off I35 at Walmart in Bellmead.
But where can renters charge? For EV owners with a garage or outdoor electric outlet, home charging is convenient and seamless. Unfortunately, in Waco almost no apartment or rental homes provide EV charging, with the facility at Collins Street Bakery and Walmart the only public, 24-hour solutions. This is a serious impediment to universal EV adoption that we have encouraged the City of Waco to address.
Aren’t long trips in EVs impossible? For those concerned about running out of charge and being stranded (range anxiety), I can attest that in 5.5 years of driving EVs, Chevy Bolt followed by Tesla Model 3, I have never experienced this predicament. But for the ultimate test, I did a long-distance Model 3 road trip in May. Responding to my verbal command of “navigate to Boulder, Colorado” the on-screen map traced a journey of 901 miles, 13 hours driving over 2 days, with 5 charge stops plotted. The route was flawless, with accurate mileage for each leg, no waiting for chargers, and interesting amenities at each stop. With restaurants, convenience stores, a dinosaur park, and marijuana dispensary, the 25-minute charge stops were actually enjoyable. Road trip grade: A+.
Don’t EVs cost more to charge than ICE vehicles? Comparing cost of gas fueling and electricity charging is complicated, but Car and Driver did such a detailed study in 2020. Using the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric version of the same cars, national average $2.44/gallon for regular gas, $0.128/kWh for charging, and the 92% predominance of home charging, they calculated the following gas and electricity costs over 45,000 miles:Mini Cooper ICE $4478
Mini Cooper EV $1939
Hyundai Kona ICE $3623
Hyundai Kona EV $1723
Thus, EV charging cost approximately half that of gasoline fueling. And with the current (June 26) average national gasoline price of $4.90, the cost of charging is approximately one fourth that of gasoline fueling.
Where are chargers needed in Waco? With EVs increasing in Waco daily, and 34 public charging plugs vs. about 1500 in Austin, the opportunity to advance EV charging infrastructure in Waco is enormous. Level 2 chargers are especially useful for drivers with no home charging and one or more hours of parking. Installation is affordable, beginning around $1000 for a wall mount and $2500 plus for a pedestal (bollard) mount. Recommendations include:
Local governments: in parks, street light posts, parking lots
Schools: benefit for employees, students, guests
Businesses: enhanced employee recruitment, customer convenience
Churches: members benefit, “creation care.”
Hotels: mandatory now for travelers’ charging needs.
Apartments: EV chargers in 20% of parking spaces now.
What is the future of charging? The Lucid Air has the world’s fastest charge rate of 20 miles added per minute. With the expected development of solid-state batteries, even faster charging is predicted. Bidirectional charging is under development, allowing vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-home (V2H), and vehicle-to-load/appliance (V2L), utilizing the electricity from these large car batteries, especially helpful during increasing power brownouts.
Alan D. Northcutt (email@example.com) is a retired Waco physician and Director of a grassroots climate action and education group, the Waco Friends of the Climate