Electric Vehicle charging and community design.

While doing research regarding how Electric Vehicle Charging stations would be affected by the design of communities, I came to a disparaging conclusion. The Green Party objective of smaller communities is counter to having Electric Vehicles.

What? you say. 

Let me explain. Our society today encourages the use of the personal automobile. There is often more than one vehicle per household in this Nation. Even apartment dwellers often have a vehicle for each adult member of the family. This results in a lot of space devoted to “storing” a vehicle when it is not in use. Is it practical to have a charging station for each electric vehicle wherever this vehicle is parked?  Unlikely in my view.

Apartment dwellers, in particular, will have difficulty in finding a charging station.  Outdoor parking would offer the option of plugging in to the individual’s electrical meter just as is done in winter to keep the ICE (internal combustion engine) warm enough to start without difficulty.

Apartments with communal underground parking are unlikely to have these power points, so they must rely on commercial charging stations. Unfortunately, these charging stations are few and far between. Of greater concern is the time this charging takes. With a Class 2 charging system, the time would be in the range of 4 to 8 hours.  This is impractical in any but a residential location. A Class 3 charging system would take 30 minutes for an 80% charge. This works if you are stopping for a bite to eat while recharging, but is far from the norm of 5 minutes to fuel a vehicle with an ICE.

So, we have a number of options which we can explore.

We can have charging stations at shopping malls. We can have charging stations at work places. We can build roadways that have a wireless induction charging system in place to recharge a vehicle while it is moving. In this case, we can travel long distances without the need to charge the battery. When the vehicle charge indicator indicates charging is needed, the vehicle would be moved into the charge lane. Charging takes place there. When sufficient charge is accomplished, the vehicle is moved out of the lane to reduce the demand on the system.

Unfortunately, this will take large amounts of capital, a focused government, and a significant amount of time and resources to accomplish.

For charging at detached residences with individual parking, a charger can be installed. As more communities experience growth of personal BEV’s (Battery Electric Vehicles), the electrical subsystem will be taxed more and more. Consideration must be given to a smart charging system that can automatically start the charging cycle when the subsystem is experiencing lower demand. (refer to the Charge TO study for details). Interestingly, personal BEV’s could be used as a backup power system in the event of a brown out when connected to the subsystem.

My belief is that the solution comes with adoption of the autonomous vehicle. Personal vehicles would no longer be a large factor on the road. Autonomous vehicles would be called with your own cell phone when needed, and turned over to someone else when no longer needed. These autonomous vehicles would return to their charge point when required for charging and inspection for safety and cleanliness. The need for owning a personal auto would no longer be required. Rental vehicles would be available for special needs, such as a holiday camping or the like. Moving house would be a matter of packing up, calling an appropriate vehicle and manpower as needed. Load the truck and meet it at the destination to unload. Driving skills would not be stretched as they often are when renting a box truck for a move.

Safer roads would be the result.

A change of our society to autonomous vehicles on demand will free up that “storage space” for underutilized vehicles. These parking lots can be changed to green spaces or community gardens.

A win for all.

Pat Cuthbert – Infrastructure and Transit

Comments 2

  • The question of electric vehicles (EVs) in condominiums is much under discussion in the condominium world. If a person wants a charging station at their parking stall, additional or upgraded electrical systems will be required and the whole development’s electrical system may have to be upgraded. Who pays? the condominium/car owner or the corporation as a whole? Who pays for the electricity – the EV owner or the condominium corporation through a centralised billing system? Where does the electricity come from? Fossil fueled generating stations or ‘green’ power? An EV powered by a fossil fueled generator is no real benefit to society. In Calgary’s (or Alberta’s) winter, are EVs a real prospect? My opinion – the hype is greater than the probability, for many years.

    • Thank you for your comments Mark;

      As a condominium owner, this has been a concern to me as well. It is unlikely that Condo Corps would be willing to upgrade the whole system for the few that currently own and will adopt the BEV in the near future. Perhaps a requirement to include the capability during new construction would be forward looking.

      This is part of the reason that I see a move away from personal autos in the future. Consider the autonomous vehicles becoming the public transit system. Short haul from your doorstep tot he transit hub, or directly to your final destination. “Ride-sharing” from one’s neighbourhood to one’s place of employment would be another option.

      Re: northern climes. The Scandinavian Nations are embracing the BEV. They have developed their electrical generation system to allow this use. Smart charging of vehicles depending upon utility load and vehicle owner requirements help them to find the means to succeed.

      Interestingly, a fully developed system can draw power from the vehicle battery when power availability is lower than generating capacity. This is even more beneficial to people who own PHEV’s (plugin hybrid electric vehicles) as their batteries may be tapped without concern for recharging from the grid.