Will We Have Enough Juice to Get Us to an All-EV World by 2035?

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You don’t need to be a Californian to know electric vehicles (EVs) are coming whether we like them or not.

In 2035, if you go to a new car dealership and mention gas, they will likely escort you off the lot. Well, maybe it won’t be that bad, but rest assured if you don’t own an electric car by 2035, your neighbors will talk.

So, is there going to be enough juice in the box to make California—let alone the rest of the country—all-EV in the next 14 years?

Recently, Autobody News interviewed Chuck Reynolds, owner of Cyber Switching, Inc. in San Jose, CA. Cyber Switching’s power management solutions are targeted to small- and medium-sized commercial buildings.

As a 40-year veteran of the electricity game, Reynolds was working on EV charging back when it
was a novelty rather than the norm. He started his business in 1983 with a handful of electricians
who shared his vision of the future, including everyone driving an EV.

We’re going to need enough electricity to power an enormous fleet. Do we have it and if not,
can we have it by 2035?

There shouldn’t be any technical or economic reason why the grid won’t support electrification.
There is likely enough generation capacity out there right now, but it’s just not going to the right
places.

The biggest problem is going to be the infrastructure and getting the power to where it’s needed. A
really good example is that in California now existing buildings, like condo developments and other
multi-unit dwellings, can’t just say OK—we are going to install charging stations here, but the
problem is they have limited power.

You can see the future of EV charging through some of your clients, so what have you
learned?

We installed charging systems in Cisco Systems back in 1996 because several of their employees
had EVs, but that was very obviously forward-thinking at the time.

When many of these buildings were built prior to 1995, for example, these weren’t designed to
handle all of these additional loads. With some of our clients who are in buildings built in the early
2000s, they’re not prepared when people hook up their vehicles and start charging.

So, one of the biggest issues is infrastructure. When you come to work in the morning and you plug
your vehicle into one of our charging stations, there are sometimes 20 to 30 people doing the same
thing at the same time, with just as many waiting in line.

Right now, people have to go out to their cars to take them off the charger, and that’s obviously not
very efficient. Studies have shown that large companies are losing a lot of money while their
employees have to stop what they’re doing so that they can move their EVs.

Will companies that are not prepared end up paying through the nose if they don’t manage
their power?

Well, that’s going to put a spike on the grid because everyone is plugging in at the same time and if
there are others waiting, they will roll it over every two hours approximately. That’s going to put a
strain on the grid and is a concern for whomever is providing that power.

That’s why the utilities are now charging “demand charges” for the peak amount of usage during that
month for 15 minutes. It’s essentially a penalty that could be anywhere from $18 to $20 per kilowatt.
So, if you have a large number of EVs coming in at the same time every morning, that’s going to be
a big spike, especially since that’s when all of your other machinery will start kicking in.
The problem is that if we want to achieve the 2035 regulations, we will need more and better
infrastructure to handle the huge load.

The user can install a power management system in order to spread the load evenly, so that not
everything will come on at the same time. You can do the same with your EV charging to reduce the
demand charge, and we are already doing that here at Cyber Switching, Inc. We have several
patents on rotational charging systems.

We currently have eight EV chargers in front of our building and it’s on one circuit that is staggered,
which enables us to avoid paying the demand penalties. If you have a power management system
like the ones we have patents on, outages won’t ever happen. Most people don’t realize that there
are many alternatives when it comes to power management.

With so many EVs on the roads within the next few years, people will be charging their vehicles all at
the same time, in many cases. There will be some pretty significant spikes and that puts a strain on
the grid in that area.

The worst thing that can happen is when you trip a breaker. That tells you you’re overloading the
grid. I think that’s going to be the No. 1 problem that we can potentially encounter with large-scale
EV charging.

Will EV owners have to adapt in order to get their vehicles charged when needed?
Yes, people are always going to want to charge their cars at work, and by 2035 that will mean large
parking lots full of EVs that are waiting to be charged.

It will also be a problem at home. With many of these homes that have been built starting in the
1970s, the utility company never anticipated this demand when everything comes on at the same
time. It will be the same scenario, but in reverse.

People will come home from work and plug-in all at the same time and it’s going to be a big load. It’s
not like turning on a lightbulb—even with the small charges, it’s still going to be a 120V load, 1,400
watts or more. Even if you’re using one of the smaller chargers, turning it on is comparable to 14
100-watt lightbulbs simultaneously.

The grid wasn’t set up for this originally, so it will have to change and adapt to handle these larger
loads.

Will people be forced to charge primarily during the day to accommodate the huge spike in
usage?

Yes, I think that is what will eventually happen. You want to charge when that power is available, so
that’s why the utility companies are pushing from 4 to 9 p.m.

If you don’t have solar on your house to supplement your power, you might be in trouble. With many
of those tract home developments built in the 1970s, there is not a lot of excess power there. So,
that is where you’re going to have to spend the money—in infrastructure.

Power management is a better alternative for companies on many levels. To meet their growing
needs, they will have to upgrade their service to allow for more charging. But, that’s a large expense.
With our system, you can use the power that’s available, and for most companies, they won’t have to
change their electrical service and their employees will still get a charge for their vehicle.

To avoid people moving their cars, we install what we call “dumb units” that don’t have all of the bells
and whistles, but they save time because employees won’t have to move their vehicles. This means
that the ROI on these chargers is very fast because they don’t realize how much it can cost them in
lost productivity when you have EVs in the picture.