Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Trends in charging infrastructure – Global EV Outlook 2023 – Analysis – IEA

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In the regions where electric trucks are becoming commercially available, battery electric trucks can compete on a TCO basis with conventional diesel trucks for a growing range of operations, not only urban and regional, but also in the heavy-duty tractor-trailer regional and long-haul segments. Three parameters that determine the time at which TCO parity is reached are tolls; fuel and operations costs (e.g. the difference between diesel and electricity prices faced by truck operators, and reduced maintenance costs); and CAPEX subsidies to reduce the gap in the upfront vehicle purchase price. Since electric trucks can provide the same operations with lower lifetime costs (including if a discounted rate is applied), the time horizon in which vehicle owners expect to recuperate upfront costs is a key factor in determining whether to purchase an electric or conventional truck.

The economics for electric trucks in long-distance applications can be substantially improved if charging costs can be reduced by maximising “off-shift” (e.g. night-time or other longer periods of downtime) slow charging, securing bulk purchase contracts with grid operators for “mid-shift” (e.g. during breaks), fast (up to 350 kW), or ultra-fast (>350 kW) charging, and exploring smart charging and vehicle-to-grid opportunities for extra income.

Electric trucks and buses will rely on off-shift charging for the majority of their energy. This will be largely achieved at private or semi-private charging depots or at public stations on highways, and often overnight. Depots to service growing demand for heavy-duty electrification will need to be developed, and in many cases may require distribution and transmission grid upgrades. Depending on vehicle range requirements, depot charging will be sufficient to cover most operations in urban bus as well as urban and regional truck operations.

The major constraint to rapid commercial adoption of electric trucks in regional and long-haul operations is the availability of “mid-shift” fast charging. Although the majority of energy requirements for these operations could come from “off-shift” charging, fast and ultra-fast charging will be needed to extend range such that operations currently covered by diesel can be performed by battery electric trucks with little to no additional dwell time (i.e. waiting). Regulations that mandate rest periods can also provide a time window for mid-shift charging if fast or ultra-fast charging options are available en route: the European Union requires 45 minutes of break after every 4.5 hours of driving; the United States mandates 30 minutes after 8 hours.

Most commercially available direct current (DC) fast charging stations currently enable power levels ranging from 250-350 kW. The European Union’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) aims to enable mid-shift charging across the EU’s core TEN-T network, which covers 88% of total long-haul freight activity, and along other key freight corridors. The provisional agreement reached by the European Council and Parliament includes a gradual process of infrastructure deployment for electric heavy-duty vehicles starting in 2025. Recent studies of power requirements for regional and long-haul truck operations in the United States and Europe find that charging power higher than 350 kW, and as high as 1 MW, may be required to fully recharge electric trucks during a 30- to 45-minute break.

Recognising the need to scale up fast or ultra-fast charging as a prerequisite for making both regional and, in particular, long-haul operations technically and economically viable, in 2022 Traton, Volvo, and Daimler established an independent joint venture, Milence. With EUR 500 million in collective investments from the three heavy-duty manufacturing groups, the initiative aims to deploy more than 1 700 fast (300 to 350 kW) and ultra-fast (1 MW) charging points across Europe.

Multiple charging standards are currently in use, and technical specifications for ultra-fast charging are under development. Ensuring maximum possible convergence of charging standards and interoperability for heavy-duty EVs will be needed to avoid the cost, inefficiency, and challenges for vehicle importers and international operators that would be created by manufacturers following divergent paths.

In China, co-developers China Electricity Council and CHAdeMO’s “ultra ChaoJi” are developing a charging standard for heavy-duty electric vehicles for up to several megawatts. In Europe and the United States, specifications for the CharIN Megawatt Charging System (MCS), with a potential maximum power of 4.5 MW, are under development by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and other organisations. The final MCS specifications, which will be needed for commercial roll-out, are expected for 2024. After the first megawatt charging site offered by Daimler Trucks and Portland General Electric (PGE) in 2021, at least twelve high-power charging projects are planned or underway in the United States and Europe, including charging of an electric Scania truck in Oslo, Norway, at a speed of over 1 MW, Germany’s HoLa project, and the Netherlands Living Lab Heavy-Duty and Green Transport Delta Charging Stations, as well as investments and projects in Austria, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Commercialisation of chargers with rated power of 1 MW will require significant investment, as stations with such high-power needs will incur significant costs in both installation and grid upgrades. Revising public electric utility business models and power sector regulations, co-ordinating planning across stakeholders and smart charging can all help to manage grid impacts. Direct support through pilot projects and financial incentives can also accelerate demonstration and adoption in the early stages. A recent study outlines some key design considerations for developing MCS rated charging stations:

  • Planning charging stations at highway depot locations near transmission lines and substations can be an optimal solution for minimising costs and increasing charger utilisation.
  • “Right-sizing” connections with direct connections to transmission lines at an early stage, thereby anticipating the energy needs of a system in which high shares of freight activity have been electrified, rather than upgrading distribution grids on an ad-hoc and short-term basis, will be critical to reduce costs. This will require structured and co-ordinated planning between grid operators and charging infrastructure developers across sectors.
  • Since transmission system interconnections and grid upgrades can take 4-8 years, siting and construction of high-priority charging stations will need to begin as soon as possible.

Alternative solutions include installing stationary storage and integrating local renewable capacity, combined with smart charging, which can help reduce both infrastructure costs related to grid connection and electricity procurement costs (e.g. by enabling truck operators to minimise cost by arbitraging price variability throughout the day, taking advantage of vehicle-to-grid opportunities, etc.).

Other options to provide power to electric heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) are battery swapping and electric road systems. Electric road systems can transfer power to a truck either via inductive coils3 in a road, or through conductive connections between the vehicle and road, or via catenary (overhead) lines. Catenary and other dynamic charging options may hold promise for reducing the uncertainty of system-level costs in the transition to zero-emission regional and long-haul trucks, competing favourably in terms of total capital and operating costs. They can also help to reduce battery capacity needs. Battery demand can be further reduced, and utilisation further improved, if electric road systems are designed to be compatible not only with trucks but also electric cars. However, such approaches would require inductive or in-road designs that come with greater hurdles in terms of technology development and design, and are more capital intensive. At the same time, electric road systems pose significant challenges resembling those of the rail sector, including a greater need for standardisation of paths and vehicles (as illustrated with trams and trolley buses), compatibility across borders for long-haul trips, and appropriate infrastructure ownership models. They provide less flexibility for truck owners in terms of routes and vehicle types, and have high development costs overall, all affecting their competitiveness relative to regular charging stations. Given these challenges, such systems would most effectively be deployed first on heavily used freight corridors, which would entail close co-ordination across various public and private stakeholders. Demonstrations on public roads to date in Germany and Sweden have relied on champions from both private and public entities. Calls for electric road system pilots are also being considered in the China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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