America is a nation of automobiles. It has been since the early 20th century, when Henry Ford began mass-producing the Model T at his world-famous factory in Highland Park, Michigan. Back then, automobiles were more than a medium from point A to point B. They were an expression of American ideals like individuality, independence, and prosperity.
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They still are, which could explain Americans’ continuing appetite for motorized vehicles: Despite alternatives like bicycles, trains, and buses, there are more than 108.5 million registered cars on American highways that travel more than 2.9 billion miles. per year, according to the US Department of Transportation.
The cars are fast, comfortable, and convenient. Unfortunately, they are also harmful to the environment, suggests the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which says that a typical passenger car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. In the United States alone, that adds up to about 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year from cars, according to the US Department of Energy.
Due to its impact on global climate change, many environmentalists would like to see Americans ditch their cars entirely. But in an engine-obsessed nation, that’s a pipe dream. While pursuing an ambitious agenda around infrastructure and climate, President Joe Biden is betting on a solution that will help Americans reduce emissions without giving up their driver’s licenses: electric vehicles (EVs).
In fact, electric vehicles are a top priority for the president, who in August 2021 signed an executive order designed to boost the adoption of electric vehicles in the United States. By 2030, Biden stated, half of all new vehicles sold in the United States should be zero-emission vehicles, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.
To achieve his goal, the president included in his Build Back Better Act an electric vehicle tax credit designed to incentivize the adoption of electric vehicles among middle-class families.!
But increasing the adoption of electric vehicles will require more than tax credits. Due to so-called “range anxiety,” drivers’ concern that electric vehicles will strand them when their batteries run out, will also require a marked increase in the number of EV charging stations. Specifically, cloud-enabled smart charging stations. Because with the power of the cloud, electric vehicles can become as practical as they are powerful.
Electric Vehicles Explosion
Electric vehicle adoption is expected to grow from 1.5 million vehicles today to 18.7 million vehicles by 2030, according to Illinois power company Ameren
, citing data from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). The jump in electric vehicles will require an estimated 9.6 million public charging stations, he says.
Consulting firm McKinsey
is even more ambitious. By 2030, he predicts, the United States will need 20 million electric vehicle chargers.
The current number of charging stations doesn’t even come close to that. As of early 2021, there were fewer than 100,000 plug-in electric vehicle charging outlets in the United States, according to market research company Statista
. Of those, about 32,000 were in California.
In fact, most charging stations are currently located on the shores and in clusters around the more populated cities in between. They are virtually non-existent in rural and impoverished areas, Statista says.
In that context, the president called for the Better Reconstruction Act to include $ 7.5 billion for the construction of electric vehicle charging stations across the country. Specifically, he wants to build chargers along highway corridors to promote local and long-distance travel, and to provide “convenient charging where people live, work and shop,” according to the White House
Intelligent Energy Consumption
Whether it’s 9.6 million or 20 million, smart charging stations are the key to the growth of electric vehicles. While the first electric vehicle chargers were just that, chargers, smart charging stations are so much more. As part of the Internet of Things (IoT), they have cloud-connected computer sensors and processors that collect and analyze large amounts of data to optimize energy consumption and distribution.
Some of that data comes from the electric vehicles themselves, which automatically transmit information to charging stations when plugged in. For example, electric vehicle owners connecting to a smart charging station do not need a credit card to stock up on electricity. They just need to enter a PIN, which allows charging costs to be tracked and automatically billed to the owner on a monthly basis, says Joost van Abeelen, former head of electric vehicle charging services at ABB
, a manufacturer of chargers for electric vehicles.
According to van Abeelen, the back-end software also provides personalized driving information, such as how far your vehicle normally travels on a single charge or if a part is about to break. Armed with that information, drivers can be proactive about maintenance to ensure they are never stranded without a charge.
Smart charging stations are also beneficial for station operators, for whom the cloud saves time and money.
“Cloud connectivity helps chargers keep up with ever-changing environmental rules and predictive maintenance,” explained van Abeelen, who said that smart charging stations receive automatic software updates over the Internet as required. makes a personal computer, which keeps operating costs low.
Good for the Grid
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of smart charging is the electrical grid. This is because electric vehicle charging stations can store electricity to keep prices stable and promote the use of renewable energy.
This is done through dynamic charge management (DLM), which gives the smart charging pad the ability to automatically and evenly distribute the available power between the main charging pad and the electric vehicles that are charging. . Evenly distributed power protects the local grid from charging spikes – spikes in electrical usage that can drive up prices and overwhelm the grid, causing blackouts or brownouts, says Juha Karppinen, director of electric vehicle charging company Virta
Today, power grids are most often stressed on hot or cold days, when millions of people are simultaneously cooling or heating their homes. On a sweltering summer day, for example, your power company might recommend that you set the thermostat a few degrees higher than normal. That’s because if everyone started the air conditioning at the same time, the electrical grid would be in trouble.
In a world of mass adoption of electric vehicles, electrical grids could fail on a regular basis. To mitigate that, smart chargers are configured not only to deliver electricity to electric vehicles but also to take it.
Through charge balancing, electric vehicles can store surplus energy as a backup power source, according to Karppinen. When there is a shortage of electricity, he says, utilities could draw additional power from the batteries of parked electric vehicles that are connected to the grid through chargers. This standby power could be used without warning when demanding increases, which could make it easier for utilities to embrace renewable energy sources.
For now, utilities continue to rely on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas because they are more reliable than renewable alternatives like wind and solar, whose power can vary based on how bright the sun is or how fast it is. that the wind blows. Having reliable power reserves from electric vehicles on cloudy and windless days could strengthen the business case for clean energy.
“Electric vehicles can play a role in the shift to cleaner energy,” Karppinen said. “The electric vehicle connected to the grid can reduce emissions in transport and energy use.”
The future, an electric vehicle in every garage, is years or even decades away. But cloud-connected charging stations could help speed up the transition.