This interview addresses EV standards and their potential impact on vendors and consumers; overall value to the end user; how cities are preparing for the EV; and the ability of the Smart Grid to handle energy demands.
Brock : What standards work is underway to realize these technologies?
Lefevre : There are a lot of standards. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is working with EPRI on standards and they’ve been very, very active. The most important things, from my perspective, are the charging level standards. We’d be nowhere if those standards didn’t exist or were not accepted.
In mid-October, one of the most important events in Electric Vehicle Standards occurred. The SAE released a new fast-charging ‘Combo’ coupler standard (SAE J1772TM). The standard is based on the previous J1772TM standard that defined AC Level 1 and Level 2 charge levels and specified electrical interfaces. The new revision includes DC charging where DC Level 1 and Level 2 charging are defined. This EV quick charging standard is viewed by some as a ‘game changer.’ However, it is another step in an ongoing standards war between the new SAE 1772TM standard preferred by US and European manufacturers and CHAdeMO preferred by Japanese manufacturers. The standards are not currently compatible; however, talks are ongoing to agree to a global standard.
There are two other things that are going on that I want to mention.
The first is that IEEE has an electric vehicle standards working group, P2030.1. What they’re working on is guidelines for utilities, auto manufacturers, infrastructure developers, and end users of electric vehicles. They work on things like terminology, methods, equipment, planning, and they’re developing a road map for electric vehicle deployment. IEEE does a lot this type of standards and P2030.1 is working on these guidelines for electric vehicles.
The second point: In March, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is considered one of the most important standards organizations in the world, started an electric vehicle standards panel. This is a really big deal. They’ve got industry and academics involved. In April 2012 they released the ANSI Electric Vehicle Standards Panel (EVSP) Standardization Roadmap for Electric Vehicles. This document identifies, makes an inventory, and assesses existing standards, codes and regulations, and related programs. Of major importance is that it identifies gaps and recommends solutions.
Brock : How will those standards impact vendors?
Lefevre : If electric vehicles are going to deploy, they’re going to need standards, for example, for communicating with the Smart Grid. They’re going to need standards for how to build a charging station that will work with 30 different types of EVs. There might be 30 by the end of 2012.
Brock : Can you highlight any examples of cities or states that are amply prepared for the adoption of EVs in the near future? Please elaborate.
Lefevre : The Department of Energy, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which is the stimulus bill, has put out a number of contracts to companies including ECOtality, Coulomb Technologies, and General Motors. There are others but these are the big three. They expect to have more than 22,000 charging points by 2013. That’s going to be a very, very big deal.
There are many cities preparing for the adoption of EVs including Austin, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Redmond, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.
Austin is a good city to highlight: The IEEE-USA held its annual meeting in Austin this year and they had a full-day electric vehicle workshop. An Austin Energy executive talked about what the company is doing. It has a program called ‘Plug-in Everywhere.’ It is going to put in 100 to 200 Level 2 or Level 1/2 charging stations around Austin so that nobody is ever more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) from any charging station.
There are concerns about how to deal with handicapped parking places, how to deal with multiple cars trying to charge at the same time, and locations – you want the stations to be near malls or theaters or places where people go so they can charge their car while they are at the theater or shopping. In addition, Austin has a program called ‘Plug-in Partners,’ which aims to encourage Level 2 charging in homes. There are several elements to that, but the biggest is they have a rebate of US$1500 for a home that puts in a Level 2 charging station.
And I would be remiss if I did not raise this one point: When it comes to infrastructure, I like to point out that my home state, North Dakota, already has the infrastructure for electric vehicles everywhere. If you go to any motel or hotel in the state of North Dakota, all of the parking spaces have electric outlets that the guests use to supply energy to the head bolt heaters in their cars so when a driver gets in the car after a night of minus 40 degree weather, the engine will turn over. When I was in college at the University of North Dakota, I lived in a fraternity and at night the cars would be parked in the back of the house and there would be an octopus of cords going out to the cars in the parking lot. There would be one outlet and all the extension cords were going off that outlet. I have no idea how safe that was, but it was funny to see that string of cords.
Brock : In President Obama’s State of the Union speech in January 2011, he set a goal that the United States would deploy one million electric cars by 2015. Do you think the Smart Grid will be able to manage the energy demands this will place on it?
Lefevre : The Department of Energy (DoE) has done an estimate to determine if we can build a million vehicles, and the answer was yes according to DoE published estimates in 2011. However, as has become apparent, there is no chance that there will be one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The DoE report estimated that Chevrolet Volt would deliver 120,000 vehicles in 2012. Through August 2012, Volt has sold 13,497 cars. This is not an inconsequential number but reaching the DoE plan is clearly not going to happen.
This indicates that the near term impact on the Smart Grid will be fairly minimal. However, utilities are concerned about the long term effects. Most analyses indicate that the impact of electric vehicles on the generation and transmission part of the grid will be relatively minor. It is characterized as similar to the widespread adoption of air conditioning. Utilities are examining a potential problem with clusters, i.e. multiple electric vehicles in the same neighborhood on the same transformer. Researchers have shown that two electric vehicles using Level 2 chargers in the late afternoon could significantly stress the transformer. Using Smart Grid concepts such as Demand Response are viewed as potential solutions to these problems.
Brock : What can/should industry do to help?
Lefevre : Something else that is important is that cities and counties have got to make sure that building codes are OK for adding Level 2 chargers. And it might be really important to create building codes stipulating that if you do construct any new homes or perform renovations, that the ability to put in Level 2 chargers is included.
Brock : That’s a sizeable task, dealing with municipalities, is it not?
Lefevre : Representatives of both Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) have mentioned that they have been working with municipal people to do those building codes. When you think about it, it’s not an easy job, because San Francisco’s building codes are different than those of Los Angeles, they’re different than San Diego’s, Sacramento’s, and they’re significantly different from those of Austin, Texas or Detroit, Michigan. So it’s not an inconsequential task to make that happen.
Brock : What will be the ultimate value to the end consumer of EVs?
Lefevre : Well for environmentalists EVs will help reduce the carbon footprint and they will offer tremendous potential for using renewables. People, certainly the early adopters, can put photovoltaic solar panels up on their roofs and charge their cars using solar, and if there are enough people to do that, it’s a huge thing for reducing the carbon footprint. I have previously noted that those concerned about oil imports are in favor of EVs. Everybody in the country ought to think about reducing dependence on oil from unreliable suppliers.
Regarding the value of EVs to regular consumers, well, they will enjoy long-term cost savings. That is especially true if gas goes up. It’s going down a bit now, but I’ve heard that at some point it’s going to go up to $5 per gallon.* That would make EVs into really a good thing. People who have driven Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs get on the blogosphere and can’t say enough good things about those cars so consumers will own a really cool automobile. And another thing that is important is that these cars are very low maintenance. So those are the kinds of benefits you get.
Brock : Are there any other items or key points that you would like to cover?
Lefevre : There is one. The conventional wisdom is that electrical vehicles are cheaper than gasoline vehicles to operate. I’ll throw that out as a question and then answer it: Why?
The conventional wisdom is that electricity is a lot cheaper than gas. And it turns out that that’s very questionable. A gallon of gas has about 33 kilowatt hours of energy, and so that costs somewhere between $3 and $4 a gallon depending on where you live. Suppose you want to use electricity to get the equivalent amount of energy. How much would that cost? Well, the average cost of electricity over the U.S. is about 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Multiply 11 cents by 33 kilowatt hours and you get $3.63. That’s right in the ballpark of how much a unit of energy costs for gasoline.
Lefevre : So, then, why is it so much cheaper to operate an electric vehicle? The answer is because electric drive trains are tremendously more efficient than internal combustion engine (ICE) drive trains. The difference is that electric drive trains are about 75 per cent efficient, or more and internal combustion engine drive trains are about 25 per cent efficient. So if you think about it, for example, a Chevy Volt can get something in the ballpark of 95 miles (153 kilometers) per equivalent gallon of gas, whereas a car gets about 25 miles to 30 miles (40 kilometers to 48 kilometers) per gallon.
I drive a Prius and I get in the ballpark of 35 miles to 40 miles (56 kilometers to 64 kilometers) per equivalent gallon, but I don’t get 95 miles per equivalent gallon. And that brings me back to why it is so important to deal with power electronics. If you can make the electric drive train even more efficient, you can make that difference even bigger. And one thing to remember about the ICE is that people have been driving that technology since Model As and Model Ts, and they’ve been working on improving the efficiency ever since. They’ve done a tremendous amount to improve the efficiency, but you’re up against fundamental problems. Physics isn’t going to let you do much more with ICE drive trains, but there is still more benefit in electric drive trains and more potential to improve them.
Finally, one thing I think that is important to address is the value that IEEE brings to the electric vehicle community. One major element is that IEEE is the repository of a significant amount of EV intellectual property. To prepare for this interview, I searched Xplore, which is how the IEEE Digital Library is accessed. I entered ‘electric vehicles’ as a search term and received 13,674 results. These articles are contained in IEEE journals, magazines, and conference proceedings. And all of this information doesn’t even count the panels that are convened in various settings, such as those held during conferences supported by IEEE’s Reliability Society, Industrial Applications Society, Power Electronics Society, Vehicular Technology Society, and others. I also note that in addition to our standards activities, the Standards Association is supporting the Smart Grid Vision-Electric Vehicles activity that will project what the field will be in the future.
IEEE members are recognized as experts in most technology fields associated with electric vehicles. They are researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs. The organization and its members are also involved in outreach to society to indicate how EVs will impact peoples’ lives. For example, the 2012 International Electric Vehicle Conference was held in Greenville, SC March 4-8, 2012 with sessions on technology, standards, policy and business. Further, IEEE’s Transportation Electrification Committee and Spectrum Magazine sponsored a highly successful Emerging Technology Forum on electric vehicles in October 2011 in Mountain View, CA at the Computer History Museum promoting and publicizing electric vehicles and IEEE involvement in the field.
Brock : Well, Dr. Lefevre, I think we’ve covered it. I can’t thank you enough for your time and giving us the benefits of your vast knowledge and insights into EV ownership, industry standards, the country’s state of readiness, the capability of the Smart Grid to integrate the technology, and more.
Lefevre : My pleasure Jon. It’s been very enjoyable speaking with you.
*One U.S. gallon is equivalent to 3.785 liters
Jon Brock is president of Desert Sky Group LLC, an advisory firm based in Denver, Colorado providing independent and unbiased advice and consulting services to the utility and energy industry. Jon also serves as EET&D Magazine’s EnVision 2030 contributing editor and is the chair of the Smart Grid RoadShow. EnVision 2030 interviews and presentations are focused on the long-term evolution of the Smart Grid and grid-related technologies.You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Russell Lefevre is a widely recognized IEEE Smart Grid technical expert and chair of the IEEE Steering Committee on Transportation Electrification. Dr. Lefevre is a Fellow of the IEEE and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, past president of IEEE-USA, and the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society of IEEE. He is an Adjunct Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Lefevre can be contacted at email@example.com