Getting Started with your EV

Picking up Electric Alice at our dealer

 

Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR):
If you have an EV, buy a 240 volt/30amp home charger.
For a PHEV, the charging cord that comes with the car might be fine.
Get accounts and cards for the main charging networks in areas you plan to travel. Install Plugshare on your phone to find chargers away from home.
Enjoy road tripping at a relaxed pace

 

When you buy your EV you may find that your dealer does not know much about charging and how to make life easy with your EV, here is what we have discovered over the last 3-4 months and 11,000km of ownership.  This page does not cover Tesla’s cars and charging because Tesla has this packaged really well and Tesla has their own resources to help.

About EV Plugs in North America:
Your EV and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) will have a plug known as a J1772 EV Plug. This universal plug is used for level 1 and 2 charging, all public Level 2 stations support this standard.
You may also have an L3/DC fast charging with either a CCS connector, where the EV Plug has 2 extra pins for DC fast charging or a CHAdeMO plug.The vast majority of Level 3 chargers support both CHAdeMO and CCS, but there are sites with either one or the other.

 Home Charging

Charging at home is perhaps the biggest advantage of owning an EV, no more getting up to leave on a cold wet morning to find your S.O. has brought the car home with the gas light on. There are 2 options for charging at home, Level 1 using the cord that came with the car or Level 2 using a charger wired to your house.

 

Level 1 charging uses a normal 110v plug and charges the car at 10-12 amps.  This will add about 7km/hour to the cars range, slow but usable.  Lots of EV owners only ever charge this way and for many it works well. There are some disadvantages, it takes a long time to fully charge the EV, for an e-Golf this could be up to 30 hours. Level 1 charging is less efficient as the EV’s charging system losses are a bigger percentage of the load.  Level 1 makes it harder to take advantage of Time-Of-Day rates from your electricity provider as the time to charge might be longer than the cheap rate times. If you have a Plug-in Hybrid EV, Level 1 could be all you need.

Level 2 charging is more convenient as most EVs will charge at 40km/h so the charging time is much shorter – 3 to 5 hours.  The cost of charging at level 2 is cheaper as the loss in the EV’s charging system is less as the charger runs for less time.  Level 2 is much easier to use with Time-Of-Day rates.

The disadvantage of Level 2 charging is the start up costs.  You need to run a 40 amp circuit to your garage or parking spot, you need to buy a charger.  Installed this can run $1500-2000.  Some jurisdictions provide subsidies for EV chargers, Ontario has a program that covers 50% of both the charger and the install, providing up to $500 for each.  The only downside to this that you have to have bought the car new and received the Ontario EV rebate to get the charger rebate.

We have a ChargePoint Home charger that we are very happy with.  There are quite a few manufactures with a wide range of prices.  You need to decide between a basic charger or a “smart charger” that connects to the internet for control and energy monitoring.   If you are going the smart route, take a good look at the app and website for controlling the charger.

There are other options for home charging such as kits and lower power units that can reduce the costs, we will cover these in a future post.

Public Charging

A couple of days after we picked up our car we headed out on a road trip to Maryland.  We had some book smarts from researching on the Internet, but we really did not know what we were doing. That said, by the time we got back we were pros and we had a list of things we could have done to make life easier.

Finding Chargers:

Plugshare is the best app for finding chargers.  Most of the information is crowd sourced and they have a check in and scoring system that highlights chargers with poor reliability, if the score on a charger is less than 10, check the comments to see if there is a problem.  Checking in on Plugshare when you are charging allows you to be contacted if someone is waiting for you to return and you can use ChargeBump to help too.  Having a pad and pen to leave notes – requesting to be plugged in for example is also handy.

Types of Public Chargers:

Public Level 2 chargers, most are 6-7kW (40km/h).  They are often installed in pairs as the picture on the right shows. Costs for charging range from free to $1-2 per hour or fixed session prices around $4.

Public Level 3 chargers (CCS and/or CHAdeMO) can range from 20-50kW, providing 100-250km/h charging.   Costs vary from free to $10-20 per hour, some networks also charge a connection fee of $4-6. Fast charging can be quite expensive,  particularly if the charging rate is restricted, perhaps ending up costing more than buying gas, but it is quite a small portion of the charging most people do that it does not impact the overall costs too much.

Paying for Charging:

One of the big issues with the EV world is the large number of separate charging networks that all seem to require their own accounts, apps and cards.

We discovered that using a card to start a charger is far easier than using your phone so we now have cards for all the networks we will normally use on trips.

If you live in Ontario or Quebec and you plan to travel, we recommend getting accounts with FLO or Electric Circuit, myEVRoute, ChargePoint and Greenlots.  In other areas, take a look at the chargers in Plugshare to see if which accounts you might need.

With FLO or Electric Circuit you only need one or the other, they are both brands of the same company, Addenergy.  FLO and EC provide the vast majority of charging stations in Quebec.  They are growing their Ontario network under both brands.  FLO and EC accounts also work in New Brunswick on the eCharge Network and it seems likely they will work on the new Nova Scotia Power chargers too.

An account with myEVRoute, KSI’s charging network is required for travel in Ontario, they are installing over 90 Level 3 stations in Ontario, all west of Ottawa.

A ChargePoint account is handy for a number of free stations at VW dealers (CCS only) and free stations at various other locations.

Greenlots have some stations in Canada including a handy free one at Veridian Corporation in Ajax, I have their app, I have not bothered to get a card.

For our trip to the US we used EVGo at some stations and at the time we had to phone in and use a credit card which added to the cost.  We now have an account and card and this should simplify matters with them.   ChargePoint  and Greenlots have lots of chargers in the Eastern US.

Sema Connect Level 2 chargers are very common but you can use Plugshare to activate and pay, avoiding yet another set of accounts.

 

Road Tripping

Enjoying heading out on the open road in an EV is all a matter of attitude. A bit of planning and a relaxed schedule can make for a great trip.  It is much like travelling in the early days of the car, you go where the chargers take you and the journey is richer for it.

The wonderful Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Vermont – We found this because there is a fast charger in the parking lot.

The Gas Station of the Future

A few days ago, Canadian newspapers published an interesting, but slightly misguided article on the issues of moving gas stations to charging stations. You can read it here.

The summary of this article is that the transition from gas to electricity for inter-city travel is too hard and too expensive. The article missed the fact that the transition is going to take years and that there are other factors at play that make the conversion of a highway service stations a potential money spinner.

Timing: Even if Canada stopped buying fossil/ICE cars today and switched over to 100% battery electric vehicles, it would take 10 years or more to replace the current cars on the road. We buy just under 2 million cars per year and there are about 22 million cars on the road. Many cars now last 15-20 years so the time for total replacement will be much longer. Given current projections my guess is that it will take 20 years or more for the transition to run its course.

Electrical supply changes: In 2016 the US generated about 65% of its electricity from natural gas (33.8%) and coal (30.4%) plus a small amount of oil and other non-renewables, 19.7% came from nuclear and 14.9 percent from renewables, Hydro (6.5%) wind (5.6%), biomass (1.5%), solar (0.9%) geothermal (0.4%).

US solar and wind capacity will continue to grow, even in the current political environment.  As renewables grow, the issue becomes matching sunny and windy days to electrical demand. Storing electrical power for use later enables the power grid to make much better use of solar and wind reducing the use of fossil fuel. Tesla’s Powerwall is designed for a single home, but local, regional and grid energy storage systems are being deployed now.

As the installed base of renewables rises, grid storage becomes more and more attractive and important. By storing power in the grid or at the edge of the grid, renewable energy can be captured when excess is available and delivered back to customers when demand exceeds supply. If we are to move to 100% renewables, this will require a lot of power storage. Homes will have power walls and EVs connected to act as storage, neighbourhoods will have local storage and there will be lots of grid storage whether it is battery or other techologies.

How does this impact gas station conversion? Urban areas will not require as much public charging capacity as most EVs will be charged at home or work. Existing models of deploying Level 2 and 3 chargers will be extended, supermarkets, shopping centres, hotels and other destinations with parking will continue to deploy charges because they want to attract customers. Local gas stations will slowly disappear and are unlikely to be replaced directly.  As home EV charging has about the same impact as running central air-conditioning, the impact on the grid will be small and will be off-set by home solar and battery systems.

Along highways away from urban centres the story is very different; there is a real need for significant infrastructure to support long distance EV travel. A typical gas station delivers of the order of 200,000km of range per day to the vehicles it services. This is a huge amount of energy and is highly variable. On a holiday Friday evening, some gas stations deliver much more gas than the average day.

The move from gas to electric does not need a one for one replacement of capacity as behaviour and patterns change as we move from fueling to charging. Rather than leaving on a trip in your fossil car with whatever gas you happen to have in the tank, your EV will be fully charged before you leave home. Your car will have a range of 4-500km before you need to charge. This may serve to limit the number of times we need to stop as Ottawa-Toronto would not need a charging stop and Montreal-Toronto would only need one quick stop.

What does a highway service station of 2025 or 2030 look like?  The obvious change is that all the parking spots have high power EV chargers. A visit to the service station is just pull up, plug in and go find the coffee and the washroom. With a new generation of EVs charging at 150kW, 200km range added takes only a few minutes and you are on your way.  As there is no holding a fuel nozzle in the rain to fuel up, more time is available to relax and take a break from driving.

So this all seems great but how do we get there? The obvious answer is slowly, there is a huge investment required to make this all work but there is a less obvious way this can all work and be economic. The one key technology is local battery storage to smooth demand on the grid. Tesla is already deploying battery storage and solar at their Supercharger locations with the long term goal of disconnecting Superchargers from the grid completely.

The scale required to support a highway service area in a world where most vehicles are EVs brings us back to grid storage. By building large scale energy storage at service stations to allow them to deal with holiday weekends without overloading the local grid service stations have a huge and potentially profitable asset they can use as grid energy storage.  Grid storage works by charging when electricity supply exceeds demand when prices are low or even negative and then selling that power back to the grid when prices are high.  This technology reduces the need to have lots of backup generating capacity in the grid.

Because we all tend to hit the road on the holidays, there will be a huge difference between the typical usage of the chargers and the peak usage.  This means that the energy storage can be used by the grid most of the time, providing a significant revenue opportunity.

This model has the possibility to move service stations to an entirely sustainable future, both economically and environmentally. As service stations are largely rural, colocation of solar and wind farms is also attractive.

For highway service areas, the transition from selling gas to becoming a key part of the electricity supply system will not be easy, but it is achievable and potential profitable.

 

 

Introducing Electric Alice

Electric Alice is our Volkswagen e-Golf, She is white, like a lot of Golfs and she is a 100% electric car.  With no gas or diesel engine we rely on charging at home or on the road to keep moving. Why Electric Alice? Alice as in Alice in Wonderland, buying this car was a trip down a rabbit hole to a different world.

Why did we buy this car?  We choose an e-Golf firstly because it was a Golf.  I like Golfs, they are smallish, well designed and well built.  Golf’s fit our lifestyle and fit in our garage without requiring a huge reorganisation of all our stuff.  The e-Golf is just a better Golf, all the nasty diesel or gas bits are gone, replaced with an electric drivetrain.  We bought the car sight unseen

Here are a few key facts about the car:

Power – 100kW or 134 bhp

Torque – 214lb-ft

0-100km – 9.6 seconds

Battery – 35.8kWh

Range – 201km

I am not a journalist, but Jonny Smith is and he has a great review of the e-Golf that reflects how we view the car.

 

A Fun Summer

Where does all the time go?  We have had a very busy summer and not much time to blog.  A mix of family responsibilities, setting up our new lives ashore and getting back to work have taken a lot of time but we did find time to take some road trips.  Starting with a trip to Solomons in Maryland and trips to see Jimmy Buffett, a break in Vermont we have put over 10,000km on Alice.

We have really enjoyed the road trips, other than a couple of charger issues, we had no problems, even on long trips.