Electric Vehicles May Never Reach Their Full Potential Without a Clear Focus on Infrastructure
While low gas prices have created a challenging environment for electric vehicles, year-over-year increases across nearly two dozen different EV models in all major metropolitan areas of the U.S. illustrate an obvious growth in electric consumption.
But it raises a pressing question for utilities and cities that want to stay ahead of the growth curve: Is our infrastructure ready to accommodate citizens’ growing interest in EV transportation?
Cart or horse
The first challenge focuses on improving stability: How do we accelerate the EV demand curve? Certainly improvements in battery technology are critical to grow sales. While we’re breaking past the 200-mile battery barrier, range isn’t the only psychological issue impairing consumption. Availability of EV infrastructure may be a more critical concern.
Fast charging plug standards have not been fully resolved in the light-duty sector, and key grid standards are still being debated — underscoring the notion that EV growth in many ways is tied to who controls and monetizes the value of infrastructure rather than technology.
As EVs attain more mindshare, more customer questions follow: Where can I charge my car, and will I have to charge every day? How long does it take to charge with a Level 2 versus a DC charger? Do I have to wait in line? How much will it cost? Are DC fast charging stations equipped with dual standards? Who will I allow to control my charging?
Range, model availability, customer education and easily-accessible infrastructure will drive EV adoption. Drops in the price of batteries — about 77 percent since 2011 — and the lower costs of operation and maintenance compared with conventional vehicles are already hooking new customers. Utilities and municipalities, leveraging private sector investment, can meet this enthusiasm by focusing on the grid. Partnerships among utilities and stakeholders to maximize the value and flexibility of increased electrification in transportation will be crucial as smart city initiatives gain traction.
More than 40 percent of respondents engaged in smart city initiatives ranked EVs as among the most important technologies in the advancement of smart cities, according to this year’s Strategic Directions: Smart City/Smart Utility Report survey from Black & Veatch. These players recognize EVs, and the related clean energy infrastructure, as essential components of a sustainable and livable city.
Selling investors on EV infrastructure
The next question is where the capital for infrastructure expansion will come from. Growing EV sales are already providing new potential revenue streams for electric utilities, as the business case for accommodating EV growth comes into sharper focus.
Infrastructure success also requires municipal participation, at the very least — if not state, regional or national participation. The business case for governments is a more complicated sale. Some of the most successful approaches we’ve seen involve public-private partnerships (P3s). Three-quarters of municipalities surveyed by Black & Veatch believe that P3s are the most effective financing model for smart city initiatives. Leaning on private partners to take on project risk also seems to be an attractive prospect for smart service providers, with 84 percent agreeing that P3s are most effective.
Read full article at GreenTech Media