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A simple, inexpensive meter retrofit could blow the home EV charging field wide open.

Clean Transport

Installing Home EV Chargers Just Got Much Easier (And Cheaper)

A simple, inexpensive meter retrofit could blow the home EV charging field wide open (photo courtesy of NREL).

Of all the obstacles between the car-buying public and the electric vehicle revolution, the American home is one of the stickiest. Many lack garages or even driveways, and many others have old electrical systems, which means that EV charging at home is difficult, expensive to get started, or altogether a nonstarter. Nevertheless, there are solutions, and the two firms Siemens and ConnectDER have come up with one that looks like a winner.

The Wall Around Home EV Charging Is Starting To Crumble

ConnectDER popped up on the CleanTechnica radar back in 2019, and they have been rather busy ever since. Their home EV charging solution is a retrofit-able collar that goes onto the electricity meter box, which takes less time and avoids the expense of upgrading other parts of the household electrical system for EV charging.

ConnectDER started testing the collar out in New York City and they must have made a big impression, because last December they received a $1.5 million “High Performing Grid” award from NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“The funding will help the company develop and productize its next-generation meter collar adapters that enable rapid, low-cost, and universal interconnection of power and data to otherwise unmanaged DERs [distributed energy resources] like solar, energy storage, and electric vehicles,” ConnectDER explained.

That particular award is an outward-facing program that leverages DERS on a granular level to help support grid stability and reliability. So, in addition to feeding off the distributed energy resources trend, the new collar also feeds into the virtual power plant trend.

That VPP angle is a critical point because rooftop solar and EV charging at home are just two aspects of the building electrification movement. Heat pumps are also beginning to catch on like crazy, and that covers more than space heating. Air conditioning, hot water heating, and clothes drying are also in the mix.

An Even Better Solution For EV Charging At Home

Siemens came into the picture last week when the two companies announced an agreement that provides for ConnectDER to supply Siemens with an exclusive on their new plug-in adapter for EV charging.

“The new device will enable electric vehicle (EV) owners to charge EVs by connecting chargers directly through the meter socket, a convenient and efficient location available on every home,” Siemens explained. “By bypassing a home’s electric service panel, the adapter will save an estimated 60 to 80 percent of the charger installation cost by avoiding the need for electric panel upgrades.”

“By allowing for a simple, 15-minute EV charger install, the technology eliminates the need for complex and prohibitively expensive installations,” they emphasized.

According to Siemens and Connect DER, almost 50% of homes in the US would need an upgrade to install Level 2 EV charging systems, which they define as a 7–11kW device requiring 40–60 amps on a 240V line.

“This is a major roadblock for EV adoption, especially for low-and moderate-income homeowners,” they note.

Leveling The EV Playing Field

As much as we love EVs here at CleanTechnica, the expense of upgrading a home to accommodate Level 2 EV charging slows EV adoption trends. Even though the lifetime cost of ownership for electric vehicles is beginning to beat gasmobiles at their own game, bridging the upfront costs is a big challenge for many households. (Editor’s note: Level 2 charging isn’t necessarily important for many households, something that is often ignored. I have had a Level 2 charger sitting in a box for over a year due to the fact that Level 1 charging works fine for my family — a one-car family of four. Using Level 1 charging, there is no extra cost beyond the cost of electricity, and charging overnight or at other times the car is parked is ample for normal daily driving needs. That said, for people who feel like they need Level 2 charging, the solution highlighted here seems interesting and useful. —Zach Shahan)

Siemens and ConnectDERS cite a report by Juniper Research, which describes how “the pace of EV growth has left electricians and homeowners struggling to keep up and to find cost-effective solutions for integrating into older homes.” They also cite reports by the National Association of Home Builders, and the firm Pecan Street, which describe the scope of the problem nationwide.

The average American home already has about 40 years under its belt. Many of those were built under a low-demand scenario, when 100 amps would typically do the trick. Many were also built at a time when home heating oil and natural gas were commonly used for space heating and other appliances, further reducing the need for a more powerful electrical system.

Next Steps For Decarbonizing

Siemens has already carved out a huge space for itself in the cleantech field, and its influence on the EV charging field is expanding rapidly.

In July, for example, Siemens joined with other leading electric mobility stakeholders in the commerce and shipping fields under the umbrella of the green nonprofit organization Ceres to formulate a strategy for public EV charging stations.

“Our Goals Alliance members share a common goal of electrifying their U.S. transportation, logistics, and networked fleets, as well as reducing their transportation emissions footprint and are actively working to transition to electric vehicles (EVs),” they wrote in a public letter. “In fact, over the next five years Alliance members plan to collectively procure more than 330,000 zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the U.S. market alone.”

The Alliance is already eyeballing a $7.5 billion pot of funding for EV charging stations set aside in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Last week’s surprise agreement on the Build Back Better climate bill — now called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 — also describes a whole list of actions aimed at making electrification, EV charging, and zero emission vehicles more affordable, including $9 billion in consumer rebates and 10 years worth of consumer tax credits for home energy efficiency and electrification, along with tax credits for both new and used EVs.

Another angle on the EV affordability provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a $27 billion carve-out for  a “clean energy technology accelerator” focusing on disadvantaged communities, which could help expand access to public EV charging stations among many other cleantech endeavors.

The bill also includes an entire section devoted to environmental justice, which could also help expand EV charging access in under-served areas.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: EV charging courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the US Department of Energy.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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