The field of battery-enabled ultra fast EV charging is about to blow up out of nowhere. In the latest development, the company FreeWire Technologies has inked a deal with the convenience store chain ampm to install its battery-integrated Boost Charger System. Look for plenty more where that came from: ampm happens to come under the umbrella of newly minted clean tech giant bp through its bp America, Inc. subsidiary.
Why We Heart Energy Storage Plus Ultra Fast EV Charging
Hey, what’s with all the lower-case corporate naming? Whatever.
The idea behind battery-enabled EV charging is that you can now install an ultra fast EV charging system in places where the grid connection normally would not support it, which includes numerous convenience stores. The battery supplies the extra boost for a quick charge, and Bob’s your uncle.
The ampm chain consists of more than 1,000 convenience stores in 5 states, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the convenience sector goes. Last time we counted, there were 8,500 7-11 stores in the US, and about 850 WaWa stores, among others.
Our friends over at convenience.org ran the numbers and came up with a total of more that 152,000 convenience stores, of which almost 122,000 sell fuel.
If even a fraction of those stores had ultra fast EV charging, that would certainly be a convenience for fans of electric vehicles.
However, in-and-out is a top priority — it’s supposed to be convenient, right — so these stores can’t have EVs clogging their property for a long time. Apparently the average time customers spend at a convenience store is just 3-4 minutes, and that includes walking back and forth from their car. Add another 5-10 minutes to gas up, and you’re looking at an average of 15 minutes or so.
That’s what electric vehicles are competing against, and that’s why ultra-fast charging is so important.
According to FreeWire, the new storage-enabled EV charging system can juice up any electric vehicle (with an adapter for Tesla) in “just minutes.” That sounds about right. Our friends over at San Francisco Business Times report a speedy charge of 15 minutes or so.
Ultra Fast EV Charging To The Rescue
The energy storage angle explains the name FreeWire chose for its ultra fast system: Boost Charger.
FreeWire Technologies has dropped its first Boost Charger at an ampm store in Lodi, California, but it appears that will be the first of many.
“By using the integrated battery as a buffer, Boost Charger is able to ‘boost’ the existing power at the site, thus delivering the highest power output in the region while enabling widespread deployment at any commercial location,” the company explains.
That’s not all.
“Boost Charger easily connects with ampm’s existing infrastructure, allowing the system to be installed in hours without requiring expensive new grid power supply,” FreeWire continues. “Boost Charger can be powered from a single-phase connection and installed in places that previously could not support higher power demand.”
From Gas Stations To EV Charging Stations
Having made its mark on the world by making a major contribution to global warming, BP is now turning its attention to fixing the problems it has helped to cause.
Oh well, water under the bridge. BP recently ramped up its commitment to decarbonize by committing to ramp down its oil and gas operations. That’s a sea change from the clean tech baby steps BP was taking back in 2018, and a major league step above other fossil legacy companies, many of which are still relying on natural gas and offsets to tout their green cred.
The ampm connection is key because BP is the brand of gasoline most ampm stores sell to gasmobile drivers. The faster BP switches over to clean tech, the more likely ampm is to install more EV charging stations at more locations.
That appears to be in the cards. BP bought a $5 million stake in FreeWire back in 2018, with the aim of testing out the company’s mobile charging station in the EU market.
The Renewable Energy Connection
So, here’s where it gets interesting.
Among other big moves in recent years, BP is exploring a green hydrogen scheme in Australia. It also acquired the leading solar developer Lightsource in 2017, and it has a number of wind farms under its belt in the US.
That renewable energy connection is the key to winning the EV charging race. After all, you probably don’t want your nice clean zero emission vehicle charging up from a stinky old coal power plant.
With the energy storage angle in hand, FreeWire’s Boost Charger provides more opportunities for deploying more wind and solar power.
There is also an interesting connection afoot between agriculture, clean EV charging and BP’s shift into clean tech.
That would be the field of agrivoltaics, in which solar panels are raised off the ground to permit livestock grazing, pollinator habitats and other crops.
As it happens, Lightsource already has 10,000 acres of land under solar management, and it is counting on the agrivoltaic angle to broaden its reach.
“Our solar farms are custom-designed with dual-land use in mind, such as grazing small livestock, increased biodiversity and cropping,” Lightsource explains. “Best of all, none of this costs our clients a penny as the finance for our projects is already available, meaning rental income can begin as soon as construction starts.”
This sounds like a lifeline for beleaguered farms. “The system is installed at no cost to the landowner, and our 30-year land rental scheme is index-linked. This allows you to farm and produce energy on the same plot of land, while receiving a steady quarterly income,” is the BP pitch.
The Lightsource solar plan also dovetails with the regenerative agriculture movement, which aims at rebuilding healthy soil and conserving water.
We’re guessing that BP will find a way to pitch its wind and solar business to EV drivers who prefer to use EV charging stations that can guarantee the most clean power for the buck. The agrivoltaics angle would be icing on the cake, to attract drivers interested in supporting local agriculture.
BP’s stake in FreeWire will also enable it to have a hand in accelerating EV adoption. In addition to convenience stores, FreeWire is taking aim at the all-important fleet market for rapid EV turnover. The company is also targeting food trucks, which is not a bad idea, considering that outdoor dining will be in the cards for as long as the COVID-19 virus continues to run rampant in the US and elsewhere.
They better act fast to grab a piece of the US pie. Last month, GM CEO and President Mary Barra inked a deal with the EV charging company EVgo to install 2,700 EV chargers across the country, with all the electricity provided through clean power contracts.
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