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Clean Transport

Reality EV Charging

By William H Fitch III, We Are Solar Owner

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Note: The next paragraph of this story is about a glass art event. We get into EV charging right after that.

Corning Museum of Glass once again brings you, “2300 Deg,” an evening of music, glass, and artisanship. I got an email regarding this event and decided to attend. The event occurred last week (Thursday, November 18th) from 6:00–8:00pm at the museum. They have not had that event since before, wait for it, COVID-19! Imagine that. (Disclaimer: Anger is fueling this article, so expect sarcasm.) I had never been to one of these. In short, it was great! I would recommend it to anyone. They had a live group playing mixed music above the glass artists while they were creating an original glass piece. They had another full band playing in a whole other room — music only and dance floor space. Wine and beer were at both venues. There was a team of about 7 working the project in the large mezzanine “hot lab,” with the “artist” directing and working the details as the piece progressed. It was really interesting because I had never before seen more than 2 to 3 people working a piece. This was a whole coordinated team, each having specific tasks. The artwork ended up being a glass reveal of a kids toy vacuum cleaner with white teeth, wheels, a dark reddish body, and a black handle. It was really creative and detailed in nature. A guy suited up in refractory clothing (it looked like he was dressed to put out an oil well fire), grabbed the hot piece as they broke it free from the stainless steel blow tube, and placed it in the annealing furnace to cool very, very slowly. This piece probably weighed 20 to 30 pounds!

Now, for a turn to the dark side: It’s night time and dark, around 9:00pm, 31°F (-0.06°C). The Level 2 ChargePoint charger at the Museum took us from about 35 miles left to about 1/3 charge, 90 or so miles. We needed a DC fast charge to get home (2-hour and 20-minute drive home, 140 miles). So, we found one 15 miles away in Bath, an EVolve NY station of 4 DC duel fast chargers. 3 miles of that 15 mile journey was in our home direction. The rest was not. To compress, it took me 3 attempts across 3 chargers trying to get a response to my credit cards, which all failed no matter what sequence I tried to use. So, out comes the cell phone and the toll free number. The “agent” ended up rebooting the charger. As it was booting up in B&W screen mode, I noticed that it was actually an ABB charger (that is, ABB was the actual charger manufacturer). Once stable after a fresh boot, I plugged in our car, a 2020 Kia Niro EV (19,500 miles) — 64 kWh battery pack, max charge rate 75 kW. I gave him all my credit card info and the charge started. Now, as I continue with this proclamation, keep in mind it is 31°F outside. The car and its battery were in no way overheated or really, really cold. It was well within the normal temp range, cool side, ready for full charge power.

The charger went to 34 kW and sat there. I will spare you the associated language that started to erupt from me. After a bunch of minutes, it bolted forward and upward to a whopping 42 kW. You can imagine my excitement estimating how long it was going to take to get 40 or 45 kWh delivered. The car said 2+ hours of course. Wanting to get home ASAP, tired, “interstate” nighttime reflector driving ahead, yawn, yawn, etc., etc. — that energy flow rate was like waiting for the sun to go “Red Giant” (10 or so billion years). 42 kW seemed to be it, then after about 10 or 15 minutes, it made another spectacular increase to … 54–55 kW. WOW!! Now we are at least beginning to get serious, maybe. With that said, all of this nonsense is occurring well under 80%, coming off a 6 kW Level 2 charge for 2+ hours and then a 20 minute decent-speed drive.

They all claimed (this phone agent included) that we would stay at full power till around 80%. Oh, really! I started at 26% and we are at this point in the 40% or 50% range. This charging station location charges by the kWh, so there’s no impetus to price gouge from longer charging. Things meandered along, and then it decided to drop back to 42 kW. Well, this just keeps getting better and better.

A few more minutes passed (imagine watching the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass trickling its red sand through its small energy throat). Then, in an almost last gasp for life, it jumped to a new high of 58 kW! Where did that come from? I feel like I am in a casino waiting for my various blackjack hands to approach 21 (75 kW). I am getting whiplash. Red Giant, Wicked Witch, Casino … this is where my brain’s going. 58 kW didn’t last long — a few of minutes and it was 55 kW, 42 kW, and finally … 24 kW. After almost an hour of real charge time, I finally terminated charge at 82%. Never even for a second did the charge rate exceed 58 kW on a 75 kW capable car — in a temperature situation that could without thermal stress take on full capacity. Oh, and by the way, this charger had 2–150 kW CCS port cables.

Well, besides anger, why did I feel compelled to write about this, “A Charge in the Life of …” — I should have made that the title of the article perhaps? There has been much digital blood devoted to EV charging infrastructure and real-world experiences across the USA and the world here on CleanTechnica. This particular charging site at 9:00pm was an urban building backside parking lot, a dead zone, far from the much talked about and desired digital-friendly, warm, comfortable food café EV charging spot (with enabled scenery of suave customers on iPads and laptops waiting for electrons in a state of caffeine bliss). But aside from that desired utopia of charging, I really would have settled for 74 kW to at least 70%. That would have been around 30 minutes, hopefully accompanied by a smooth startup process, rather than, “Hey! HELP over here!”

Circling back to the offered front screenshot of my email charge confirmation “sheet,” an instantaneous thought flashes. I imagine myself sitting down for a delicious vegan meal and noticing that the plaque above the door says “Owned by Rare Red Meat, Inc.,” or sitting down for a steak and potatoes with hot buttered rolls on the side and noticing the plaque above the door says “Owned by Vegan International.” There is something “wrong” and disingenuous about seeing the direct conflict of interest on the header display, especially at this prodigy’s system growth state (the EV charging network is still a child, figuratively speaking).

Our EV charging network is an engineered system splattered with the hot political paint of polarization. There’s an ongoing attempt to allow the phoenix of our transportation system to die and be re-born in a better and more sustainable version, through the ever present overwhelming gauntlet of the FFI (fossil fuel industry) and all its downstream and upstream profit interests. On a cold November night, to experience absolute charging nonsense, without ANY logical engineered escape clause, I was left wondering if the current “state of play” is to just muck up, slow down, and lace with misery the enviable outcome. The current state of EV charging infrastructure allows the FFI to own the competition. Does the phrase “conflict of interest” even exist anymore, anywhere? I am leaning towards a hard NO.

As an afterthought, does EV charging infrastructure (possibly excluding Tesla’s) really need any more headwinds, given its startup track record to date?

By, Willian H Fitch III, WeAreSolar

Let’s get all of these assorted problems solved, which we are more than capable of doing. Let’s stop poisoning our own well water and produce a world-class service for the re-birth of the phoenix.

By William H Fitch III, We Are Solar Owner is a multi-decade company in solar and renewable energy consulting and distribution, as well as some direct installations. He is a current ASES member and has various other renewable energy affiliations. He has been “into” solar and renewable energy since the 1970s in the solar thermal area — everything from solar cookers to super-insulated houses to hot air and liquid thermal systems, flat plates, and evacuated tubes. William’s own residence generates around 20 megawatt-hours a year of PV electricity, and it also includes geothermal and solar thermal systems. He and his wife drive all-electric cars and use all-electric yard tools. No gasoline.

Professionally, William spent approximately 40 years in I.T. — from software coding to systems design to full network hardware installations in multiple commercial environments and major corporations.

Featured image courtesy of EVolve NY.

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