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Ford F-150 Lightning and Other EVs: What They Could Give (Part 2)

First Bi-Directional EV Charger in Durango, CO, at 9R School District’s Bus Barn

Part 1 discussed what is required to use the home backup feature sold as an option for the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. While researching that article, I spoke with Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect at the rural electric cooperative (co-op) serving my community in the southwest corner of Colorado, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA).

His answer to the F-150 Lightning question was pretty simple; you can read about it in Part 1 of this post. What was more interesting were the incentives LPEA may make available for all their EV-owning customers. LPEA is now gaining experience with their first-in-the-state electric school bus as a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) source of peak-hour energy. Now they’re turning their attention to possible V2G incentives for all their EV-owning customers.

That’s the dream of V2G, that we can multi-purpose this big fleet of batteries out there in our service area.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

What is V2G again?

V2G uses a specific kind of charger, a bi-directional charger. It allows the grid to fill your car’s battery with electricity. It also allows, at pre-set times of the day, the grid to pull electricity out of your car’s battery. Under a V2G program, the electric company doesn’t just provide electricity to you. You also provide electricity back to them at the specific times when it saves them the most money: during peak energy use hours of the day.

Dominic May, with LPEA’s first V2G School Bus sending electricity back to the grid.

How does the little bit of energy my EV can provide save an electric company enough money to make V2G worth it to them or me?

In southwest Colorado, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns and maintains the large power plants and transmission lines that bring electricity to all the area electric co-ops. Tri-State charges LPEA a monthly demand charge of $20 per kW of peak demand. That means every month, Tri-State looks at the one hour of highest demand from the LPEA service area and charges $20 for all the kilowatt hours delivered during that hour. If LPEA as a whole uses 100,000 kW during its highest hour in a month, Tri-State charges them $2,000,000 for that month’s demand charge. That is addition to the price LPEA pays at lesser rates for electricity supplied during all the non-peak hours.

LPEA is a winter peaking, evening peaking utility. It’s pretty much never fully dark until 5 PM, even in the depth of winter. Our peaks usually happen between 6 and 7 PM. It’s about an hour after dark, everything’s gotten quite cold and all the heat is coming on, everybody’s home, dinner starts getting cooked, et cetera. All the devices in the house come on.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

If your 80 kWh battery EV rolls into the garage at 5:30 PM with 60 kWh left in the battery and plugs into a V2G charger, it could supply 40 kW to the grid between 6 and 7 PM to allow having 20 kWh left in the battery in case of a night emergency. (Most EVs on the road today could get 60 – 80 miles on 20 kWh.)

Happy people help each other out!

The EV could then easily regain the 40 kW it sent out by more slowly pulling it in overnight, when electricity rates are lowest. While you ate dinner, relaxed at home and then slept, you helped save your electricity provider 40 kWh x $20/hr = $800. Since electric co-op members include all your neighbors and everyone in their service area, you’ve helped everyone in your community save money. Your electric co-op or company will want to find a way to make that worth your while.

LPEA recognizes people participating in a future V2G program would need to expend some money to be able to take part. Bi-directional chargers are significantly more expensive than your basic Level 2 home charger. EVs are still more expensive than comparable petroleum-fueled cars.

LPEA is working on creating a battery storage program for customers with home back-up batteries, like Tesla Powerwalls or LG batteries. We hope to learn from that and extend the same incentives to customers who want to participate in a V2G program. The V2G program will need to include an aspect controlling the time the customer is willing to participate, and how much of their battery capacity they are willing to contribute each day.

We want to pass as much of that back to the customer as we can. We’re considering upfront rebates for V2G equipment purchased and annual credits based on energy sent back to the grid, things like that.

Right now, we have the small demand charge of $1.50 per kW we pass through to non-time-of-use rate members, but that’s obviously not reflective of the $20 the whole membership pays. Equity is a big consideration for LPEA. We will need to balance the price signals we offer to the V2G participating members so we don’t punish lower- and fixed-income members with electrified homes.

Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect

If you live in LPEA’s service area, keep an eye out for upcoming battery storage programs offerings. If not, contact your local electricity provider and ask them if they have any plans to implement a home battery storage or Vehicle-to-Grid incentive program in their service area. Let them know you’d be interested in participating.

People served by rural electrical co-ops can have a strong influence on the board members of those organizations. Encouraging them to look into these types of programs may be just the push they need. Investor-owned utilities also might be influenced by their customer’s interest in taking part in V2G programs. If you are served by an investor-owned utility, such as Xcel Energy (CO), PNM (NM) or Rocky Mountain Power (UT), check their website or give them a call to find out what their plans are.   The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is unique as the largest multi-utility enterprise owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. If you live in their service area, give them a call to find out if they are investigating how they can use distributed battery storage resources to bolster their electricity distribution system.

When a V2G or home battery program might become available in your neighborhood: Two caveats

  • Most EVs currently on the market and on the roads don’t have the internal hardware that would enable them to participate in V2G programs, even if they do install a bi-directional charger at their home. While V2G programs are currently operating in Europe with EVs capable to participate, car manufacturers have not provided US models with that functionality yet.            
  • Administrative hurdles remain to be solved before LPEA can actually implement a V2G program. Tri-State policies may need to modified so both Tri-State and the co-ops it serves can use customer-owned batteries to their full potential.
Finally, if you are unclear about what peak demand is, why it costs so much, and why we should all be doing what we can to reduce it, I recommend reading this article by David Roberts on Canary Media. Rooftop Solar and Home Batteries Make a Clean Grid Vastly More Affordable.

Finally, here’s a nice short video to sum up V2G from Nuvve.

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Do you have a few minutes for a UC Denver survey on EV charging and V2G?

The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids. We’d love to hear from you about how you may charge your EV. The results of this survey will inform our recommendations for public policies related to the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) technologies. 

As a thank you for sharing your input, 10 completed survey respondents will each receive a $50 Amazon gift card. This survey only takes 8 – 13 minutes. The survey is closed on November 12, 2021. You must be 18 or older to participate.  

TAKE THE SURVEY: https://ucdenver.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_d0ZSdrrhCuwFgN0 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What questions do I expect to be asked?  

A: You will be asked where, when, and how you may charge your EV using a bidirectional EV charger, which allows EV users to not only charge the batteries of electric vehicles but to also take energy from cars. Bidirectional charging enables the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-building (V2B) capability, allowing EVs to inject energy into the grid or a building. 

Q: Who is conducting the study? 

A: The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids.  

Q: How will my answers be used? 

A: Only the aggregated results will be used to create an infographic of the findings, several short reports, and several presentations hosted by the University of Colorado Denver. 

Q: Who will see my responses? 

A: Privacy is of the utmost concern, and all respondents’ data will be anonymized and de-identified as the first step in the analysis. Only the Principal Investigators (Hilary Haskell and Serena Kim) holding current certification in human subjects research will have access to individual-level survey responses. Individual responses are not shared with any other individuals or groups. 

Q: Will any of my information be used for marketing purposes? 

A: No. This project is non-commercial — responding will not subject you to any marketing. 

Hilary Haskell, University of Colorado Denver 

Dr. Serena Kim, University of Colorado Denver 

If you have any questions about the survey, please email us: hilary.haskell@ucdenver.edu or serena.kim@ucdenver.edu 

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Ten Big EV Developments That Transpired During Covid (2020 – mid 2021)

1) Tesla sales soared globally and nationally, jump-starting the EV revolution and attracting big investments in EV companies. Tesla dominates the global market for BEVs; no other manufacturer has even a fifth of the global sales of Tesla. At one point Tesla’s model 3 sales in California made it the single most popular new vehicle model bar none. As Tesla stock soared in price (at one point giving Tesla a market valuation greater than that of all the legacy car manufacturers combined), investors sought out other firms in which to plunk their money. Rivian raised several billion in new funds. Other investors were not so lucky. Nicola apparently fudged the numbers and collapsed after the Securities and Exchange Commission went after them. Lordstown fibbed when they said they were ready to begin sales, and its stock also collapsed, in part because Ford announced that Ford was to market to exactly the same niche market (electrical utility fleets) that Lordstown had bet its future on.

2) The major legacy car manufacturers got into a publicity arms race over promises about the future of EVs, but didn’t actually produce many. Most announced they were going to spend X dollars pursuing electrification, and that they planned to have Y percentage of their sales electric by date Z (or cease selling regular vehicles ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) by a certain date. Given their inability to meet any of the previously announced EV sales deadlines, one has reason to be skeptical, but the fact that they feel compelled to (over?) promise may be better than inaction.

3) VW may be an exception, as they committed billions of their own money to ramping up charging infrastructure. Whereas VW was legally obligated to spend the fines leveled as a result of the diesel cheating scandal to construct the Electrify America EV charging network (by the end of 2021: 800 sites in the US, featuring 3500 chargers), VW recently committed to spending about $2B of their own unrestricted funds to more than double the size of the Electrify America charging network. To put their claims in context, the US presently has about 41K charging sites and 100K public chargers. By 2025 Electrify America intends to have 1700 sites and 9500 chargers. Electrify Canada will be similarly expanded, and VW expects to spend $86B by 2025 to pursue electrification. This one-upped GM, which had only promised $35B for the same time period. So there!

4) Tesla announced a vague plan to someday share its charging infrastructure with others, which will double the infrastructure for non-Tesla EV drivers. The financial details remain to be worked out. Presumably the fillup cost to non-Teslas will be higher than those to Tesla owners, though the costs might alternately be borne by the other car manufacturers (as being discussed in Europe). Regardless, when you find yourself somewhere with a nearly drained battery and a handy Tesla supercharger, the cost differential might be immaterial. How this would work physically (who needs to buy which conversion cables) remain to be determined. With the rapidly dwindling number of CHAdeMo connector users, this portends a glorious future in which the connectors become uniform and interchangeable. However, some car manufacturers (e.g., Porsche) are pushing for a doubling of the fast-charging voltage standard (from 480 VDC to 960 VDC), which might complicate things and raise the cost of building fast-chargers.

5) Biden targeted EV infrastructure for a massive buildup, but so far the Republicans have stymied it; the White House has plans for covering some of the blocked buildup using budget legislation. Political inertia is with the Democrats, but political power on the Hill is very close to gridlock. Stay tuned.

6) EV sales have spread out from sedans to SUVs and crossovers. There are now many all-wheel drive vehicles (AWDs) at mid- or higher price points, though availability is somewhat limited in some places. Among the car models with at least an AWD option are (ordered by base MSRP from low to high) (see link for pickup trucks):

Tesla Model 3

Ford Mach-E

Tesla Model Y

Polestar (Volvo) 2

Mercedes EQC-400

Jaguar i-Pace

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model X

Porsche Taycan

7) EV pickup trucks were supposed to emerge in 2020, but did not. First at bat is Rivian, but for the last year this new manufacturer has been promising deliveries in about “a month or so.” Ford and Tesla are teasing mass-market EV pickups, but no firm sale dates have been announced; Ford will sell them to electric power company fleets in 2022. GM is teasing a $117K Hummer EV: that’s a little rich for me, but the day of capable AWD electric pickups is nigh. I expect to see one locally in September.

8) Policy makers have woken up to the cost and complexity of rapidly expanding clean power generation and delivery of electrons for EVs, but no coordinated response is evident. For most, the major expenses have been penciled in for “later”. Texas ran into catastrophic grid failures during a winter cold snap, in part due to their inability to obtain power from neighboring states, which had power (Texas is the only continental state with a stand-alone grid). Texas legislators are now patting themselves on the back for bold new initiatives long adopted by other states (e.g., requiring the utilities to cold-harden their generators), but connecting the Texas grid to the rest of the nation is not on the table.

9) Climate-related natural disasters make the front page almost daily, but most media outlets cry for money to build structural defenses, not prevent climate change. Record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented wildfires, smoke plumes reaching almost all of North America, chronic coastal floods, record-setting deluges around the world, and agriculturally debilitating droughts would seem to be enough to get the worlds’ attention, but media coverage has focused only on mopping up the mess.

And locally:  
10) The city of Durango and La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) wrote a seminal EV readiness plan, but near-term changes are underwhelming. For example, in the “lead by example” element, LPEA committed to buying two Ford EV pickups when they become available sometime in 2022 (or 2023). Meanwhile, fast charging (DC) has finally reached the local area, with Pagosa (2020), Durango (July 2021), and Purgatory ski area (late 2021) acquiring moderately fast-charging capability. Those chargers should boost visitation by tourists and provide solace to local EV owners who might suddenly need to go a long distance. The EV readiness plan has put all the right processes in place; the heavy lifting – you guessed it – comes later. Stay tuned.

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SW Colorado: LPEA EV Webinar Coming Up

Join southwest Colorado’s La Plata Electric Association on Tuesday, July 27th at 6 p.m. for the second webinar in LPEA’s Beneficial Electrification series focused on electric vehicles (EVs).

Topics include:

  • EV models
  • Financial incentives for EVs
  • EVs vs. standard vehicles
  • Batteries, batteries, batteries
  • Charging options
  • Local EV infrastructure
  • A “day in the life” of an EV driver
  • EV road-tripping
  • Q & A

Advanced registration is required: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YAx0dfXfTj2JXR4Rr_4ZmA

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But I’ve heard that EVs don’t do as well in cold weather…

But I’ve heard that EVs don’t do as well in cold weather…
Chevy Bolt on a cold Canadian ski trip

They don’t, but neither does your internal combustion engine (ICE) car, and no one whines about their ICE car in the winter (if it starts). All vehicles lose some efficiency when they are cold, but alert reader Richard Grossman pointed out a recent article (link: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11022021/inside-clean-energy-norway-electric-vehicles/) on Norway’s adoption of EVs: 56% of new car sales, compared to 2% in the United States. This fact was highlighted in a recent Superbowl ad for Chevrolet, but remember this: the top FIVE countries for EVs sales are all near the Arctic Circle:

  1. Norway 56%
  2. Iceland 23%
  3. Netherlands 15%
  4. Sweden 11%
  5. Finland 7%

The linked article explores the reasons for Norway’s rapid adoption of EVs, which include celebrity endorsements, an early and rapid government-funded build-out of charging stations, and tax breaks that provide purchase price parity between regular cars and EVs. If you are interested in EV policy incentives, be sure to check out the lively article by Dan Gearino in the link above.

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