Yo Quiero Charging Ahora

Yo Quiero Charging Ahora

One of the biggest questions facing the EV transition is how to find convenient charging. The CEC has highlighted how much we need, the practical question is “Where?” Will we charge at home? What about multi-unit dwellings? How about at work? How about charging at Taco Bell? ChargeNet, a California startup, just raised $6.2 million to put solar-powered charging stations at Taco Bells. The first one in San Francisco.

This is an exciting development of shared charging as a convenience service, being able to charge while you are getting other things done. Early on, I have advocated that existing businesses should see charging as an opportunity. I switched my shopping from Safeway to Raley’s based on the availability of EVgo’s fast charging. Charging at retail businesses mitigates the problem of “hogging” the charger at work or at an apartment building.  People naturally come and go while shopping. Most don’t linger long.

Common attacks on the availability of charging focus on its incompatibility with consumer habits and the adding the time needed to get a charge. We have written about the new technologies to cut the time needed to get a charge. These are expensive. But if you in effect spend no incremental time if you get a charge while you are doing other shopping, that avoids the issue. If businesses like Taco Bell and Raley’s see this as an opportunity to attract customers, then we will be able to charge at so many places availability is not an issue. It costs businesses something to do this, but maybe it’s more like a marketing expense.  

In an interview with Will Barrett of ClipperCreek, he clearly summarized the value of on-site charging. “It is the cost of buying a cup of coffee… would you buy a cup of coffee to get a customer?” I assume the answer is yes, and in this case, would you buy them a Cheesy Gordita Crunch?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

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Whats New with Hydrogen

Whats New with Hydrogen

Wondering where things stand on the transition to the greater use of hydrogen as part of the clean energy revolution?  We had a great discussion last night (October 28) with three individuals right at the center of activity.  We hosted Jennifer Hamilton of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Roxanna Bekemohammadi, Executive Director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance, and Leslie Goodbody of the Air Resources Board.  

We heard lots of interesting tidbits:

  •  The CEC has begun approving larger clusters of new fueling stations, rather than just a few at a time in an effort to pick up the pace.  About 50 stations are in operation and 60 in the pipeline, with a goal of having about 155 in operation by 2025.  Details are found in the latest AB 8 report from CARB.  Some of the details found there include new production facilities, the number of FCEVs deployed to date (7,993) and the impact of COVID on the roll out program.  The goal remains having 200 stations by 2025.
  • The difference between the wholesale price of hydrogen (around $3 per kilogram which equivalent energy to a gallon of gasoline) and the retail pump price (about $12 per kg) will likely come down with more competition.  The pump price for larger stations for heavy duty fleets (buses, trucks) is more like $8 right now.  Economies of scale help.
  • The goal for hydrogen price for the commercial and industrial sector is parity with diesel.  (Not sure whether that is price per gallon equivalent or cost per mile.  Fuel cells are much more efficient than diesel engines so that narrows the difference substantially if accounted for.)
  • The hope for hydrogen is reaching a wholesale price of $1 per kg.
  • FCEV manufacturers provide “gift cards” for hydrogen to those that lease their vehicles.  The amount on the card is intended to provide for three years’ worth of fuel.  That was news to those who are not that close to issue.
  • There are many competing ways to use hydrogen as a clean fuel (blending with renewable natural gas or conventional natural gas, using pure hydrogen or blends in conventional gas turbines, producing synthetic renewable conventional fuels) and probably several options will be needed to meet aggressive goals to reduce fossil carbon emissions.
  • The competition between hydrogen plus fuel cells for vehicles or storage and batteries is serious.  The panelists offered that hydrogen has advantages in long-duration storage and in lighter-weight drive trains for long distance trucks.  As we have heard from similar discussions with battery advocates, they do not concede these differences and point out that the kWhs that can be stored per kg is markedly improving (lighter weight per mile of range) and that energy density also improves the long-duration performance.  In addition, the battery advocates note that the “round-trip” efficiency of storing electricity as hydrogen and converting it back to electricity in a fuel cell is much lower than the in/out for batteries.  
  • Figuring out where the lowest carbon footprint for hydrogen vs. batteries depends on lots of details about where the hydrogen and the electricity come from.  Hydrogen from renewable gas has a particular advantage by avoiding emissions of methane from decaying biomass.  The amount of carbon per kWh of electricioty is dramatically changing due to the transition to zero carbon sources.  

The panelists were each asked where the opportunities are for innovators in the areas they watch.  Roxanna made a big point about the need for financial innovations to make the purchase and use of hydrogen easier.  Jennifer and Leslie saw more competition as an important element, along with ways to reduce the cost of pure “green” hydrogen, avoiding the collateral carbon emissions from the supply chain.  In addition, the entire logistics chain is in need of improvement, with opportunities in reducing the energy lost in compression and leakage, and in using pipelines vs. trucks.

This was one of the more fascinating discussions we have had, thanks to the experts we had on our panel and the active participation of the audience.  The session was recorded and is available on our YouTube channel.

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Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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Wireless EV Charging Advances a Step

Wireless EV Charging Advances a Step

I have no answers, but lots of questions on this one: Will wireless charging of EVs overtake plug-in charging? Clearly plug-in chargers are now dominant. But wireless “pad” chargers, like those now being sold for cellphones, are so much easier to use. There is a difference in efficiency of power transfer, but clever people will narrow that.

What was lacking was any commercial installations where from which one could get some hard data. Until now. A recent article shows that e-taxis in Oslo are recharging as they wait in line for riders at various points in the city. The chargers are made by Momentum Dynamics in the US. Taxis must have a special charge plate to use the induction coupling to power up. For taxis, the big advantage is that they are not stuck at a plug getting a top-up and missing out on fares, but are in the moving line of waiting taxis that they would be in anyway.

The charge rate is 75 kWh per hour—pretty fast. So ten minutes crawling forward in line could give a taxi a 12.5 kWh boost, or enough for about 35 miles of range. Could this work for regular drivers? Probably need a way to boot people off, like the metering lights on freeway on-ramps or places where people naturally stay only a short time like drive-up fast food or coffee shops. Or maybe they would be OK in parking lots at malls and workplaces. It will be interesting to see how this pioneer installations work out.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.


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