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Reminder to EV owners in the LPEA service area (La Plata and Archuleta Counties, Colorado)

On 1 July LPEA initiated a “demand charge” for residential electricity users. The point of the new charge is to “bend the curve” of electrical demand down at the time of day when high use is straining the capacity of the grid. EV owners are exceptionally well placed to assist in this endeavor, because most can automatically shift their charging time away from the peak demand period (4-9 PM) until later at night, when surplus electricity is available. Regardless of the new charge on our electric bills, this is a great idea, as shifting EV charging to times of power surplus will reduce the need to build more power plants. In most cases, this will not inconvenience EV users in the slightest; on the rare occasions when it might (you need to drive again in the evening after arriving home with a dead battery), tap the “override” button on your car’s charging display when you plug it in, and it will charge immediately.

The charge works as follows: LPEA calculates which single hour of a billing month you used the most electricity between 4 and 9 PM. It then charges you a high rate ($1.50/kwh) for that hour. Note that LPEA’s power supplier (LPEA has an electricity bill to pay too, for purchasing bulk electricity from Tri-State) charges 460 times more for the one hour of highest usage per month than it does for power used at other times. LPEA is passing a tiny fraction of this surcharge along to the consumer in an effort to nudge residential customers into shifting their usage to other times of day (https:\\lpea.coop/rates#collapse-accordion-173-4). Note that this extra charge does not apply to residential users that have already adopted time-of-use billing. Most EV users that do not have their own generation (e.g., photovoltaic [PV] panels) are likely to benefit from time-of-use billing. Most residents with PV panels with not benefit from time-of-use billing.

To automate your car’s charging schedule, open the charging options screen on your car’s dash and set the hours of 4-9 PM to be a “peak electricity” billing time, set the charging schedule to prioritize charging during off-peak hours, and then set the other options to ensure that your car will be charged by the time you are likely to next need it (typically 7 or 8 AM). All EVs have some menu choice to easily override this charging block-out, on specific occasions when overriding is desired. For example, on my Volt, a window pops up when I open the charging port, and the button across the bottom of the screen allows me to “override this time.” EV owners’ ability to shift electrical use to non-peak hours is one of the primary reasons why electric utilities love EVs.

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Colorado’s New EV Plan

Colorado rolled out their 2020 EV plan on Earth Day! A lot has happened since the state’s first EV Plan came out in 2018. According to the Colorado Energy Office:

  • The number of EVs registered in Colorado more than doubled from 11,238 in August 2017 to over 24,000 in June 2019,
  • Awarded a contract to ChargePoint for the build-out of EV fast-charging stations at 33 sites along Colorado’s major transportation corridors.
    • We’re still waiting for the SW Colorado fast chargers planned under this award to be installed in Cortez, Durango, Silverton and Pagosa Springs. I’m told they should be in by this summer, but Covid19 may have further stalled progress.
  • Adoption of a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standard in August 2019.

I haven’t had a chance to read the plan yet, but you can find Colorado’s 2020 EV Plan here. The vision for the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020 is:

Large-scale transition of Colorado’s transportation system to zero emission vehicles, with a long-term goal of 100% of light-duty vehicles being electric and 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles being zero emission. 

Colorado EV 2020 webpage

This will be accomplished by taking actions to meet five goals: 

  • 1) Increasing the number of light-duty EVs to 940,000 by 2030
  • 2) Developing plans for transitioning medium-duty (MDV), heavy-duty (HDV) and transit vehicles to ZEVs
  • 3) Developing an EV infrastructure goal by undertaking a gap analysis to identify the type and number of charging stations needed across the state to meet 2030 light-duty vehicle (LDV), MDV and HDV goals
  • 4) State government agencies meeting directives and goals related to EVs from the updated Greening State Government Executive Order
  • 5) Developing a roadmap to full electrification of the light-duty vehicle fleet in Colorado

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Electrify America – Problems and Solutions for Non-Tesla Fast-Chargers

Grand Junction Fast charger
Electrify America Fast Chargers (for Non-Teslas), Grand Junction, CO

Electrify America (EA) is the organization charged with installing fast chargers along all US Interstate Highways for non-Tesla battery electric vehicles (BEVs). In the Four Corners, we care about them because they will help connect us to the rest of the country. For example, in 2018 I could not drive my Chevy Bolt from Durango, CO to Flagstaff, AZ without making a two day trip of it to allow for overnight charging time. Since May 2019, when an EA charger was installed at Gallup, NM, I can now make the trip in a day with a fast charge in Gallup before continuing west on I-40. As more people begin to feel comfortable in their BEVs, more of us are pushing the limits of our range anxiety. The last thing we need to hear is one of the few fast-chargers available to us might not be working when we arrive at it.

EA’s roll-out has not been smooth. Trouble with credit card readers not working, brand-new chargers not working, and apparently the charge plugs getting locked on to Audi e-tron ports. The website insideevs.com contacted EA about the problems. Instead of providing a “public relations whitewash”, EA invited insideevs.com to their headquarters to talk about the problems, their roots and the work towards solutions. Read the whole story here: Electrify America Talks Charging Network Problems, Has Solutions

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A solution for parking garages lacking chargers

Volkswagen is promoting (https://newatlas.com/automotive/volkswagen-autonomous-electric-vehicle-charging-robots/) a new twist on the problem of building difficult or expensive charging ports into every parking space: robots that bring the juice to the needy cars. We know of apartment complexes in Durango that are flummoxed by the problem that every parking space is assigned to an individual apartment, and there are no extra spaces that could be devoted to charging EVs. Even if there were a few such extra spaces, there would be conflicts over how many dedicated charging spaces to create and who is the reprobate responsible for leaving their fully charged car in the space overnight, preventing others from charging.

VW’s solution is a autonomous charger that, when requested through a car owner’s smartphone, hooks the car up to a battery wagon that the robot guides from needy car to needy car. The wagon can be hooked up to several cars simultaneously, and the robot will switch hookups as needed to ensure that all the cars get charged.

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Federal tax credit reinstated for 2018-2020 EV purchases and chargers

Chevy Bolt taking care of Christmas.

Current EVents (Jan 2020, the magazine of the Electric Auto Association) reported:

Receive a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of purchasing and installing an EV charging station (up to $1,000 for residential installations and up to $30,000 for commercial installations) with this retroactive credit.

Previously, this federal tax credit expired on December 31, 2017, but is now retroactively extended through December 31, 2020. The full details can be viewed on the U.S. Department of Energy website: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/10513.

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New Public Chargers and free ChargePoint Chargers for Residential LPEA Customers

News from La Plata Electric Association on the charging infrastructure:

  • There will be a new Level 2 charger at the Bayfield, Colorado Town Hall parking lot by Memorial Day, 2020.
  • The locations for the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) Fast-Charging Corridors are still up in the air for Pagosa Springs and Durango.
    • We know the grant money has been awarded by CEO to ChargePoint for these chargers. Hopefully the locations will be settled on SOON!

LPEA’s home charger program has changed in some really positive ways since the description in the ad below:

  • They have removed the requirement that the car be purchased after Jan 1, 2019, so now all cars qualify.
  • They have just this week removed the requirement to be on their time-of-use rate, so now anyone is eligible.
  • LPEA has FREE Chargepoint units that they provide or rebates towards the purchase of your own charger, as well as rebates to help with the electrical cost of installing the appropriate outlet.

By Sarah Kelly

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EV and Charging Tech – December 2019

Battery Breakthrough May Revolutionize Electric Transportation, 12/19/19

IBM announced recently it is joining forces with a major electrolyte manufacturer,  Japan’s’ Central Glass Co., Mercedes-Benz, and a silicon valley firm (Sidus) to commercialize a new lithium battery formulation that eliminates cobalt and nickel, reduces battery fire risk and allows 80% charging in 5 minutes (www.eenews.net/climatewire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847515). The original work was directed at making batteries suitable for commercial aviation, and may yet do so. That IBM is convinced of the merit of its discovery is perhaps reflected in another recent story in which IBM lined up with other energy firms to promote a carbon tax among Republicans (www.eenews.net/energywire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847813) via Americans for Carbon Dividends. That this discovery may play a large role in solving the climate crisis is reflected in its appearance under the “climatewire” banner rather than automotive news, as a transportation electrification breakthrough combined with enhanced stationary storage for power grids could remove the two central technological holdups in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The technical details of IBM’s discovery are of course proprietary, but IBM noted that they are replacing the cobalt and nickel with iodine, an element inexpensively extracted from sea water, eliminating the questionable supply network for cobalt and nickel, especially in the war-torn areas of central Africa. IBM discovered the virtues of iodine while studying the formation of dendrites within conventional lithium ion batteries. Dendrites can grow on the battery anodes, and when sufficiently elongated are responsible for the fires that plagued early lithium batteries and still cause fires in large stationary power applications. Without giving specifics, IBM asserted that the new formulation resulted in “just extreme, out-of-the-chute power density.” Power density is critical for automotive and aviation applications.

The newly formed consortium is aiming to produced the upgraded batteries in 2-3 years.

Ten Minute Fast Charging Developed

A team of engineers at Pennsylvania State University just discovered a way to add 300 miles of range to an electric vehicle in 10 minutes, according to a pay-walled article in E&E news (www.eenews.net/energywire/2019/10/31/stories/1061420305). The key to avoiding battery degradation now associated with ultra-fast charging was raising the battery’s temperature to 140 °F for 10 minutes, then promptly returning the battery to air temperature. They engineers designed a self-heating battery for the heating component, and would rely on the battery’s cooling system—already present in most EVs—for the cooling component. The internal heating elements add about 1% to the battery’s weight and enables the battery to retain nearly 92% capacity after 2500 extreme, fast-charging cycles. As with any laboratory development, additional practical constraints are likely to emerge in translating this exciting development into commercial practice.

Although this discovery was announced as a “breakthrough” in the mainstream media, I also noticed that Tesla apparently already knows this (https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-s-model-x-on-route-battery-warmup-supercharger/). This spring (2019) they introduced a feature for larger-battery models S and X called “On-Route Battery Warmup.” This uses existing battery heaters to raise the temperature of the car’s batteries while driving the last 15 minutes toward a Supercharger, “reducing charge times for owners by 25%” and thereby achieving much of what the Penn State engineers designed an internal heating element for.

Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda

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Ford announces network of chargers for owners of forthcoming Ford EVs

From: https://www.engadget.com/2019/11/27/ford-mustang-mach-e-first-edition-sold-out-in-us/

In a pay-walled article in Friday’s E&E news (eenews.net/energywire/stories/1061307785), a new charging network made up of existing or forthcoming chargers would be partially funded by Ford Motor Company for the benefit of Ford EV owners. The network would allow Ford customers to charge at over 12,000 locations, nearly three times the size of the Tesla network. The network will be free for the first two years to purchasers of Ford EVs. The network will include fast chargers that deliver about 47 miles of range in 10 minutes for the forthcoming Ford electric SUV.

     In addition to incorporating the networks of Greenlots (Shell) and Electrify America (VW), the plan brings in Amazon.com to facilitate installation of residential chargers at the homes of Ford EV owners. The structure of the plan (handing out charger passes to Ford owners) may conflict with California’s recent rule to require charging networks to accept credit cards. Ford acknowledges that it may eventually need to open the network to drivers of other car manufacturers. This implies some level of proprietary use that does not presently exist for chargers provided by Electrify America, for example. Presumably this will be sorted out prior to the release of pure electric Fords in 2020. Environmental groups generally lauded Ford’s plan for easing the transition to electric fueling. Other manufacturers, such as GM, are also lining up or creating charging networks.

Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda

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