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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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New fast chargers in our area

New fast chargers in our area

The daisy-chain of high-speed chargers planned for the US-285/US-160 corridor between Cortez and Denver is finally springing to life. Pagosa Springs (445 Pagosa St.) has a new fast charger with CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE connectors (adaptor required for Tesla). The new chargers are right downtown, overlooking the river, next to the existing level II chargers. There are two stations, each with both types of connector; if both connectors for a given station are in use, each connector will deliver 62.5 kW, but a single user will receive 125 kW. The full amount will charge most pure electric vehicles to 80% of full charge in 30-50 minutes.

Next in line is Durango, where a similar Charge Point fast-charging station is planned for early 2021 at the transit center (250 W. 8th St.). Further west there are existing fast chargers in Bluff UT and Monticello UT; further north there are similar but slightly slower (62.5 kW) chargers in Lake City CO and Creede CO. The Tesla Superchargers (150 kW) in our area are in Farmington NM (4200 Sierra Vista Dr.) and Blanding UT (12 N. Grayson Parkway).

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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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April DEVC Newsletter – with CO Legislative Updates

A gathering of Teslas in Durango, CO

I hope everyone is weathering the Covid 19 shutdowns well, and if you’re able, helping those who aren’t in whatever ways you can. It’s saddening to see how many workers deemed essential to our economy are the same workers who have no or limited health insurance and paid sick leave. It’s my hope that when this time of crisis is over, we re-evaluate how we value and reward people’s work, whether it’s a migrant farm worker picking our fruits and vegetables in the field, the person behind the cash register or stocking the shelves at our grocery stores and pharmacies, people who give care and comfort to our elderly and children, or the janitorial and cleaning staff that keep our public buildings and medical centers clean and sanitary.

One thing remaining consistent this month is the arrival of the Denver Electric Vehicle Council’s newsletter. It includes a section on Colorado Legislative Update related to EVs which I greatly appreciate for letting me know when to make my voice heard in the statehouse on EV-related issues. I also enjoy reading about what other EV groups and related businesses are doing in other parts of the state.

In this issue, David at DEVC asks if it’s time to retire the newsletter. I hope it continues in some form. I like the pdf format as a document I can scan over and read the items that catch my eye. Please take a minute to look this one over and email David your feedback on if and how you’d like him to continue the newsletter. You can also leave a comment on this post if that’s easier. I’ll make sure David gets your feedback.

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