Is Level 2 Charging Coming to Your Community?

Don’t you wish you could charge your PTV in less time? Most of us charge out of our 120-volt household system in what the industry describes as Level 1 charging. What about Level 2 charging, which uses the 220-volt outlet, that powers electric ranges and washer/dryers? Pondering the potential for Level 2 charging systems at individual residences in the typical gated community and for opportunity charging networks in the community at strategic points, this emergent capability is best viewed in the context of broader investments which would serve on-road vehicles, as well as golf car-type vehicles. Bear with me as I review some of the wider issues and bring the points back to the gated community.

For an electric transportation/mobility system to supplant the current hydrocarbon-based energy complex, an entire infrastructure must be put in place to support the millions of electric vehicles, which are envisioned by many analysts and experts. Two of the essential components of this support system would be an electric grid capable of meeting the significantly increased demand for electricity, and a broad-based, national network of charging stations. Electrical generation plants come in large sizes.

The required additional electricity-generating infrastructure that would be needed is potentially very sizable, and power engineers will tell you that efficient electricity generation requires high megawatt capability—which in turn, means that high volumes of new demand must be present to justify the significant investment in a new base-load plant. Well, you say, if everyone is driving an electric vehicle, won’t the demand be there? The answer is, yes, eventually. The transition from the internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric power may take decades, and this transition process, albeit slow, implies that currently available baseload plants must shoulder a larger and larger burden of output, until an investment in a new plant becomes economically viable and physically essential to support a growing body of electric vehicles.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that a stock of 60 million electric vehicles (sales of 15 million vehicles per year for four years) would require the addition of 75-85 base-load plants of 600 mW average capacity and an investment of $250-$300 billion. In addition to the high cost of initial investment, the rate at which these sorts of generating plants could come on stream is difficult to estimate, given the rigors of state-level regulatory bodies and the typical construction review process.

Charging infrastructure build-out is a bit easier, because scalable

The second needed component is the charging infrastructure. In contrast to a base-load electricity-generating plant, this component of the needed build-out can be scaled up on an incremental basis to serve local needs, much like gas stations.

Despite the time required to charge a battery on a 120- volt or 240 volt charging system, these devices have certain advantages over the local gas station. For example, you can charge your electric vehicle at your residence, and, if available, at public-access charging units, located in parking facilities, convenience stores, and other locations, providing opportunity charging. Rather than standing at the pump and being forced to listen to squawking commercials blaring out at you, you can be doing other things and possibly living a part of your life more efficiently.

EVBox, with global headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is a manufacturer of a variety of Level 2 charging devices. According to company executive, Tim Kreukniet, the company has placed over 50,000 Level 2 devices around the world in over 23 countries. Kreukniet notes that installation costs vary considerably from several hundred dollar to several thousand, depending upon the circumstances. Scalability does not mean, however, that an extensive Level 2 charging network would be cheap.

As to the potential size of a national charging station network, note that convenience stores alone provide for over 100,000 gas pumps in the United States, according to the National Convenience Store Alliance. Overall, there may be twice as many service stations in the U.S. Think of replacing just half with charging stations, and you can grasp the idea that this, too, would be a sizable investment.

For the present and over the next five or so years, however, local generating capacity should easily accommodate the gradual ramp-up of public access charging networks, as well as individual residential connections.

Level 2 charging for the home and for opportunity charging away from home

EVBox features two Level 2 product lines, one for residential use, the Elvi, and the other, the Businessline, for commercial fleets. The Elvi delivers 240 volts at four different levels of amperage, resulting in 3.7 kW, 7.4 kW, 11.0 kW, and 22.0 kW. The Elvi can be connected to the household circuit panel or directly to the grid, if located in a public place. Speed of charge is somewhat restricted by the charge the typical deep-cycle golf car battery can take.

With regard to future Elvi devices, Kreukniet notes, “Our next generation of chargers will not only charge your vehicle, but will also integrate with your home or building energy management system and other smart devices.”

The company’s Businessline is well-suited for commercial fleets, and as Kreukniet explains, [the system] “…authenticates the user, optionally also does billing via a network system (not so much different as you do with many applications on your smart-phone) and provides smart charging to limit installation and operational cost.” Keep this in mind at your next community board meeting.

It should be noted that there are a number of manufacturers of Level 2 charging devices, so the widening market has resulted in a variety of products from which to choose.

Is your gated community ready for Level 2?

The answer is likely to be yes, if within the gates, mobility has the following characteristics:

  • Most of your PTVs and golf cars are electric;
  • Essential shopping and recreational facilities are contained within the community; Geographically, the community with its various amenities is spread out over, possibly, several square miles or more.
  • In the latter case public access charging stations are desirable for purposes of opportunity charging, thus assuring adequate range of operation. Opportunity charging also allows more intensive use of your PTV, as it is less likely you will need to set it aside for lengthy refueling.

In summary, Level 2, faster charging may be the next step in bringing your gated community up- to-speed in today’s electrifying world.

Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.

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