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Electric vehicles will contribute to decarbonization, but big investments in charging needed


EVs not expected to overwhelm grid in near-term

DOE says battery costs are 'coming down'

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Electric vehicles are projected to comprise 40% of new car purchases by 2030 in the US, up from 2% currently, and require "substantial" power sector infrastructure investments if EV's are expected to contribute to economy-wide decarbonization, speakers said during a US Department of Energy and Electric Power Research Institute webcast Dec. 7

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"With rapid reductions in purchase price and a wide array of models, electric vehicles are projected to gain broad acceptance in the coming years as cost-competitive, high-performance, lower-carbon transportation options," said Rob Chapman, senior vice president of energy delivery and customer solutions at EPRI.

"Utilities will be the key enabling infrastructure. They will need the support of regulators and city councils," said Chapman. "Utilities are at the fulcrum point and they must be enabled to [support] the transportation transformation in an economic manner."

"We know EVs and electrification are intertwined with the grid," said Michael Berube, acting deputy assistant secretary for transportation at the US Department of Energy.

For the grid, energy storage is the "grand challenge," Berube said, with batteries being DOE's "prime mission."

Battery costs have been coming down "dramatically," he said, "but there is more reduction to come." He suggested that the price could come down to $80 per kWh by 2030.

He said the DOE has set up a federal consortium on batteries that is expected to develop a national strategy on raw material use. EV manufacturers have invested in what Berube called "efficient" lithium ion battery technology, but other technologies, such as solid state batteries, could emerge by 2025. "We will see."

The DOE is looking increasingly at end-of-life issues of lithium ion batteries, Berube said. He noted that there are emerging "some innovations" in battery recycling.

Impact on the grid

In comments on the impact of increased EV battery charging on the grid, Dan Bowermaster, senior EPRI program manager for energy utilization, said that "it will show up incrementally, not all at once."

He acknowledged that utilities will be adding generation for EV charging, but this is "not a Chicken Little situation as some people have said."

Katie Sloan, director of e-mobility and building electrification at Southern California Edison, said that SoCal Ed expects to have 80 GW of power and 30 GW of storage to support its anticipated 26 million EV owning customers and its 2045 transportation electrification plan.

At present, Sloan said, SCE has roughly an $800 million of EV investment programs "on both the utility and customer side, including rebates for charging stations."

She noted that SCE has 15 million customers in Southern California and will have invested "almost a billion dollars over the next five years" in bringing its EV charging to scale.

"Though most charging is done at home," she said, "its going to require public access going forward," without, she said, "replicating the gas station model."

New York targets

John Markowitz, director of e-mobility technology and engineering at the New York Power Authority, said among the state's climate goals is to have three million EVs on the road by 2030, which would mean roughly 850,000 EVs on the road in just five years.

He noted that transportation is the sector with the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the utility and building sectors. Moreover, the total amount of carbon emissions from the transportation sector in New York is growing.

Markowitz said that the two main reasons why the state's EV targets will be difficult to reach are due to potential EV buyers' concerns over how and when long-term charging will be available and due to the still limited "battery range" of a typical EV.

Noting that New York is a large state, Markowitz said that with 50 kilowatt chargers it takes two stops to recharge an EV on a 7-hour trip.

Said Markowitz, "150 kilowatts or above are needed—or maybe a 350 kilowatts charge, which would be akin to a filling station" in terms of the time it would take to charge.

Asked if there is any "saturation point" of charging where there would be an impact on the ability of the grid to serve EVs with existing generation, Markowitz said, "the impact on the grid has not yet come up" as a concern.

According to Jeffrey Lehman, electric transportation program manager at American Electric Power, AEP wants to "increase EV adoption" and provide charging options that "optimize the use of the grid."

He said, though, that on a hot afternoon in a PJM zone, with power being delivered to a large number of EVs, "You end up with enough energy to power all personally owned EV passenger vehicles."

He said the challenge is the "timing and the integration."

"At some point vehicle load integration may be needed. But do we need to do that today, or later," he asked.