Put some batteries on it

Innovators are finding hacks to get EV chargers built with fewer headaches. One: add batteries.
By Julian Spector

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Electrify America charging station
(Electrify America)

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Remember when we reported on how 5.2 million cargo trucks in North America could go electric with today’s technology?

I flagged at the time that the annual power consumption of all those new electric trucks would add up to about 5 percent of annual U.S. electricity production today. That’s indicative of the huge amount of power that will need to flow through the places where EV charging stations get built.

Figuring out the logistics of grid upgrades and construction for charging stations might sound banal, but the challenge should not be underestimated.

The good news is that numerous startups are hacking that process, finding ways to reduce costs and complexity using technology. Jeff St. John tracked down the latest efforts.

The key breakthrough: Put some batteries on it.

Adding batteries to EV charging hubs solves several problems:

  • In places where the grid literally can’t deliver enough power for a new charging depot, batteries can store the needed power without provoking expensive and time-consuming grid upgrades.
  • Batteries can help charging companies avoid expensive demand charges on their power bills, which can add up to a huge cost of doing business. That’s essential for sustainable business models in the charging sector.
  • Batteries can back up a charging station in an outage so that a grid failure doesn’t cut off fuel for electric vehicles.

Building out charging infrastructure at the scale required to decarbonize transportation is daunting, in the way that any large infrastructure undertaking is daunting in contemporary America. But we’ve only just started taking the challenge seriously. And when smart people start digging in, they come up with solutions like the ones highlighted in Jeff’s story.

New Political Climate alert!

We’ve got a fresh edition of the Political Climate podcast, distributed by Canary Media, on what it takes to get climate and energy policy done in Washington.

This episode features a lively guest appearance by our very own David Roberts. He and the hosts game out what could happen to climate provisions in the big congressional budget bill as Democrats work to win the necessary support of Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).

There’s also some discussion of the lingering ghost of Solyndra, which still haunts Democrats years after an Obama-era loan to the failed solar technology startup, despite the massive overall success of the loan program. In honor of that, and in recognition of the fact that we have entered a spooky time of year, here’s a photo of yours truly from Halloween 2016, dressed up as…the Ghost of Solyndra. Apparently, it’s still timely.

Julian dressed in a Solyndra ghost costume

And charts!

In our ongoing efforts to serve you the clean-energy insights you crave in a range of formats and media, we launched a Chart of the Week feature on Friday. Eric Wesoff assures me this is soon to be your regular source of thought-provoking, eye-catching and mouthwatering graphics and data visualizations about the transition to clean energy.”

If your mouth waters at solar adoption curves that go up and to the right, the inaugural chart is for you. Check back on Fridays for more highly visual content. And if you have data sets worth salivating over, send them our way at [email protected].

Julian Spector is senior reporter at Canary Media.