It’s hard to imagine, but in the not too distant past everyone was worried about EV charging, or at least so it seemed, according to fossil energy stakeholders and their allies. Well, that was then. The pace of installation has picked up, and a new hookup between Amazon and the charging station firm EVgo demonstrates how EV stakeholders are taking charge of the mobility experience of the future.
EV Charging In High Gear, With An Assist From Automakers
EVgo has been making regular appearances on the CleanTechnica radar (see our complete coverage here), and in 2020 the company upped the ante on public fast-charging stations when it hooked up with GM’s ambitious renewable energy and vehicle electrification plans. The deal involved about 2,700 DC fast-charging stations, all powered with renewable energy.
The following year, the two companies announced plans to add another 500 EV charging stations, for a total of 3,250 fast-charging stations through 2025.
That brings us up to last summer, when EVgo collaborated with GM on its new “Plug and Charge” app. The app can work with a number of different public charging stations in North America, which GM claims is a first for original equipment manufacturers.
“Plug and Charge provides EV drivers with a single, familiar interface for EV charging,” CleanTechnica observed. “The setup is a bit complicated — GM drivers need an EVgo account, OnStar services, and whatever GM app applies to their vehicle (myChevrolet, myCadillac, myGMC) — but once that’s done, the rest is easy. All drivers have to do is plug in, and the app takes care of the rest, every time they charge up.”
Hooking Up With Alexa For Seamless EV Charging
EVgo stepped up its focus on carefree EV charging earlier this month, when it announced another app-based partnership that links the company with Amazon’s Alexa voice controls.
“This collaboration will allow drivers to ask Alexa to help them find and navigate to nearby EV charging stations, as well as initiate and pay for charging sessions at EVgo stations seamlessly,” EVgo stated in a press release.
“Amazon’s Alexa-enabled EV charging experience is designed to leverage PlugShare™, the world’s leading EV community and a part of the EVgo Inc. family, as well as EVgo Inside™,” the company elaborated.
PlugShare provides the app-based platform for finding EV charging stations. Integrated with Alexa, the EVgo part of the equation provides drivers with an easy way to make full use of the map in the easiest way possible. “With EVgo Inside integration, customers can also register a new EVgo account, find EVgo charging stations, initiate a charging session, and complete payment– all from within their Alexa app,” EVgo explains.
“In the future, customers will also be able to view real-time charger availability and view session and billing information,” EVgo adds.
Gilding The Public Charging Station Lily
The list of public charging stations on PlugShare currently tops 150,000 in the US. Combined with ongoing improvements in EV charging time and battery range, as well as the availability of non-public charging stations, it looks like the anti-EV set will have to find something new to grouse about.
If their next target is EV charging station maintenance, they are barking up the wrong tree. Electric vehicle stakeholders are already on the case, and EVgo provides a good example in that area, too.
Last week the company announced the launch of a new charging station maintenance program it calls EVgo ReNew™, which builds on the company’s existing 24/7 monitoring and preventive care program. Part of the aim is to accommodate the company’s new 350-kw fast charging technology at existing locations as well as new ones.
“Through the [new] program, EVgo plans to replace, upgrade, or in some cases retire, hundreds of stations over the coming year with the goals of enhancing charger availability and building range confidence for EV drivers of all types,” EVgo states. “This effort includes ramping up in-person preventative health checks of chargers; improving system monitoring, diagnostic, and recovery tools; replacing legacy equipment; and retiring problematic chargers if replacement or upgrade is impractical.”
Aside from maintaining peak EV charging performance for the current roster of 50 different EV models on the road today, EVgo anticipates that a total of of 100 different models will hit the road in the coming years as automakers continue to ramp up their electrification plans for the US market.
EV Charging On The Back Roads
EVgo also stated that its maintenance program includes monitoring its charging stations for usage and adjusting them accordingly.
“In addition to site-level analysis, EVgo also works with site host partners to assess factors like charger placement, station size, and power levels to ensure charging options provide the greatest value for their customers and the community,” the company adds.
That could provide EVgo with a head start on addressing the “charging desert” situation in rural areas. The company’s focus on renewable energy could also come into play.
If you’re guessing the solution could involve agrivoltaics, run right out and buy yourself a cigar. Agrivoltaics refers to design strategies that enable ground-mounted solar arrays to enhance livestock and crop operations. In past years, solar panels were seen as the enemy of agriculture. Agrivoltaics turns the equation upside down. In addition to direct benefits in terms of crop yields and other improvements, solar panels can also provide soil and water conservation perks.
Agrivoltaics can help break down the opposition to rural solar development, and that could have significant implications for the availability of rural EV charging.
Last year, the journal Nature published a study on the connection between agrivoltaics and electric vehicles in Oregon, which examined how access to charging stations could spur EV sales in rural communities.
“Agrivoltaic systems (AVS) can facilitate the transition to EVs by powering EV charging stations along major rural roadways, increasing their density and mitigating range anxiety,” the authors concluded.
After filtering out wetlands and other inappropriate locations, the authors identified 231 suitable sites for EV charging stations at agrivoltaic arrays. The median distance between stations would be 3.6 miles, which the research team projected would support hundreds of thousands of EVs on the roads per year.
EVgo has been adjusting its algorithms for income, diversity, and exposure to pollution, with the aim of providing more access to public stations in under-served urban and suburban communities. If rural areas are next, keep an eye out for that agrivoltaics angle.
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Image (cropped): Fast charging stations for electric vehicles courtesy of EVgo.
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