Building corridors of fast-charging stations along heavily trafficked routes and between major cities is the first step to increase electric vehicle adoption, Mike Calise, Tritium’s president of the Americas, told FreightWaves.
People and companies are still dealing with range anxiety, and the more public chargers there are near routine routes around cities, the more they will feel comfortable that a charger will be available when they need it.
EV charger provider Tritium partnered with Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) and Greenlots, a member of the Shell Group, to deploy Tritium RT50 direct current (DC) fast chargers at 12 sites throughout central Maryland.
The chargers have been installed at libraries, airports, retail centers, Department of Transportation sites and government parking lots, with eight additional charging sites planned to be installed in the coming months.
It takes permitting and coordination among contractors, city officials and companies, Calise said, but the deployment plan “is going well.”
“It’s pretty quick when you have a lot of alignment among the stakeholders,” he said.
There are now 100 BGE-owned DC fast chargers in its service area. These chargers have comparable rates to competing chargers in the area, according to a release.
Maryland’s zero-emission-vehicle goal
“Not only will these installations encourage Baltimore-area drivers to consider purchasing EVs by reducing range anxiety, but they will also help Maryland reach its goal of having 300,000 zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025,” Divesh Gupta, director of strategy at BGE, said in the release. “Implementing this technology supports our purpose of powering a cleaner and brighter future for our customers and communities.”
There are currently 36,080 registered EVs in Maryland, according to the Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council.
Calise said he is not worried about the state meeting the 300,000 zero-emission-vehicle goal within the next four years. “I think they’re going to beat it,” he said.
The curve for EV adoption has been very slow over the past 10 years — partially because of technological developments, Calise said.
Now, he said, “With the convergence of technology, and that is the ability to fast charge, the cars coming off the lots with more models, battery technology shrinking and battery costs coming down,” EV adoption should increase drastically.
One of the core goals of Exelon Corp. (NASDAQ: EXC), parent company of BGE, is to “deliver adequate charging to allow drivers ease of adoption, including fleets,” Calise said. He noted that BGE has “spread out the accessibility of these units” quite well.
What it means for fleets
Just like families and individuals, companies have range anxiety when it comes to considering a switch to EVs.
Calise said that public AC dwell chargers are great for overnight charging if fleets are dormant. However, he added, DC chargers will likely be much more useful for fleets because they charge batteries so much faster, and “downtime is the killer.”
“The start right now with 50 kilowatts (kW) chargers is more than adequate for most use cases, and we believe that the Freightliners and fleets in general will come to appreciate that they can stop off, they can get a charge, they can make the plunge into EV and have this available charging to get to their next destination, so it’s definitely a start,” Calise said.
A more robust charging network has potential to encourage more small and medium-size businesses to electrify their fleets, Calise said. “It shows people, ‘Hey, you won’t get stranded, you can do that last-mile delivery. If you need a charge, it’s here for you. Make use of this.’”
The larger challenge still sits with electrifying heavy-duty vehicles that travel longer distances because they require larger batteries and higher-capacity chargers, Calise said.
But, he noted that technology is changing quickly, and, after 2010 to 2020’s focus on passenger vehicles, 2020 to 2030 will be “the decade of the fleets.”
Tritium’s DC fast chargers have 50-kW capacity, about eight times more than the typical 6.6-kW average of AC dwell chargers, Calise said. Tritium is getting into DC chargers with 50 kW, 75 kW, 175 kW and even 350 kW, which could help increase adoption rates for EVs in the heavy-duty market.
The company’s EV chargers are also liquid-cooled, meaning the air they use to cool the chargers never actually enters the unit. This prevents issues related to water, dust and particulate matter.
These chargers are “impervious to extreme environments,” Calise said, and they have been tested in the hottest and coldest climates — from Death Valley, California, to northern Norway.
Calise said that DC chargers can typically add about 100 miles of range in 30 to 45 minutes — a reasonable amount of time someone might spend shopping, having lunch or going to the gym. He said this is usually plenty to “top off the tank” and get drivers where they need to go.
AC chargers are meant for significant downtime or overnight use since they typically take four to eight hours to fully charge an EV, depending on the size of the EV.
Incentives and economics
With partnerships and current technology, Calise said Tritium can deploy DC chargers pretty much everywhere.
Once there is a large enough network of DCs, drivers and fleets can more confidently switch to EVs. The environmental and operations cost benefits of EVs can positively impact the bottom line and sustainability goals for a company. But first, fleets will have to get past initially higher purchase prices, which can be more difficult for small businesses to justify.
“We’re incentivizing this because we have major global challenges relative to fossil fuel reduction, climate change mitigation and decarbonization. There’s no controversy any longer how important it is for us to decarbonize our world,” Calise said. He said the longer we wait, the more challenging decarbonization will be.
He noted that rebates and tax incentives on the federal, state and local levels are changing rapidly and depend on the administration and air quality goals for different regions. Monetary incentives play an important role in reducing the “financial barriers of entry” and getting the public’s foot in the door.
“It’s just a start really on the freight side, but there’s tremendous incentives, and when business operators see the benefit to their bottom line, they’ll move pretty rapidly,” Calise said.