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The How and Why Level 2 Chargers

Image: seneddhome.com

Randy Bryan

First, happy holidays to all. I hope you have a wonderful time while staying safe and healthy.

Now onto electric vehicles (EVs). You’ve probably heard the statistic that 80% of EV charging will happen at home. Well, given the 150-350-mile range of most EVs, the 20-50-mile range of most plugin hybrids, and that most people drive an average of about 40 miles per day, it makes sense that most charging will happen at night, at home, so the car has a full battery each morning. Since the early EVs were on the expensive side, the early adopters had above-average incomes so were likely to have off-street parking with electric access. Hence, they could charge at home.

But, many potential owners might live in multi-tenant complexes without electricity available at a dedicated parking space, and a property management administration to convince to make the needed changes. All this means that the cost and fun advantages of EVs would be unavailable to many potential owners.

What to do? In the short term, having commercial fast charging available around the state is priority one. New Hampshire sorely lags in this development but is working hard to catch up. Even so, fast charge locations may be inconvenient (50-70 miles between locations) for everyday use and can be expensive (2-3 times the cost of residential electricity).

More ubiquitous, privately funded, lower cost (Level 2) chargers are needed. These chargers take hours to charge a car, not tens of minutes. The best places to put them are where people leave their car for hours at a time, and where electricity can be made available curbside. Good examples are businesses, public garages and parking lots, airports, train and bus stations, hotels, shopping malls and even some restaurants. Where cars stay for multiple days at a time, smart 110-volt sockets may be a good solution. In the case of retail outlets, simply attracting EV drivers can reap more rewards than parking fees.

Still, you’ve got to have outdoor, rugged charge stations or sockets linked to kiosks for enabling and disabling the stations. The bad news is that these stations can be expensive, and this charging often happens in the middle of the day when other electrical demand is highest and more expensive (i.e. may be 2-3 times the normal residential rates.

The best option is to provide charging service and equipment convenient to where people sleep, in this case, for multi-tenant buildings and complexes. They need parking and charging close to home and at costs that are comparable to residential rates. For some places, the needed wiring-to-station installation can be made easily. But in many cases, this can be more complex and expensive, dealing with city public works, or a building management association plus the utility and expensive buildout costs. Heavy duty wiring needs to be brought to the parking area and to multiple substations. Then, wiring to each parking space needs to be installed. Someone has to pay for this, and multi-tenant places have to deal with resident turnover. Not many plugin cars need to be accommodated at the start, but the whole setup needs to be expandable over time. Recall Tesla and Volkswagen have declared that they will produce affordable cars in massive quantities by 2025 (others to follow), and California just declared that no more new gasoline vehicles can be sold in-state after 2035. Change may come faster than you thought.

The equipment for these multi-tenant installations is still evolving and the manufacturers are coming up with better solutions, so I rate this area as good and getting better. But getting a parking lot ready for charging (wiring to substations and around the parking lot) needs better solutions (really policies) than are present in New Hampshire, so far. Other states have already come up with solutions that New Hampshire might consider. I’ll mention two of the most useful: One answer is through building codes. New (or highly renovated) complexes must pre-install the basic cabling to substations and parking spaces to accommodate resident charging. This is a very minor cost if pursued when building out, yet the benefits can be huge and long term. The other answer needs to come from the utilities. A pledge to install the cabling infrastructure to these complexes’ parking lot substations and recoup the costs long term needs to be made. It’s called ‘Make Ready’ and it’s sorely needed.

If these policies are not on your radar, they probably should be. Think about it. If we don’t keep up with surrounding economic markets, tourism will suffer, job recruiting will suffer, and New Hampshire and its residents will miss out on the internal economic gains that electric cars bring over combustion cars.

Enough said. Please vote. Stay healthy. Enjoy the holidays.

Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars since 2006. His company, PlugOut Power [formerly ConVerdant Vehicles], has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids and currently develops and sells inverters that turn electrified cars into emergency generators.

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