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On the Move: Unpacking the Challenges and Opportunities of Electric Vehicles
On the Move: Unpacking the Challenges and Opportunities of Electric Vehicles

    SINGAPORE - More than 600 electric vehicle (EV) chargers will be installed at some 200 public carparks in HDB estates, industrial estates and the Central Business District over the next 12 months.

    The first of these car chargers are expected to be installed by the end of this year.

    By the third quarter of next year, there will be 210 charging points in the central region, 50 in the north, 100 in the north-east, 120 in the east and 140 in the west.

    The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Friday (Sept 3) that a consortium comprising ComfortDelGro Engineering and Engie South East Asia has been awarded a tender to set up EV charging points in selected carparks in the central, east and west regions.

    Another consortium comprising Primech A&P, Charge+, Sunseap Group and Oyika has been awarded a tender to install the charging infrastructure in carparks in the north and north-east regions.

    The tenders, which form a pilot tender put out in November last year, are the first steps towards a national target of 40,000 charging points in public carparks by 2030.

    URA and LTA said they wanted to ensure that the pilot tender for the charging points was awarded to operators with quality charging services, financially sustainable business models and competitive charging prices.

    "As such, agencies adopted a price-quality method to assess and select proposals that would provide the best value for both consumers and the authorities," said URA and LTA.

    They said the consortiums led by ComfortDelGro and Primech A&P have offered competitive charging rates and a sustainable business model.

    URA and LTA added that these two consortiums have also committed to delivering a complete suite of services, including the installation, operation and maintenance of EV charging infrastructure, among other proposals.

    They said the consortium will pay the Government concession fees ranging between $0.108/kWh and $0.154/kWh for the right to deploy charging points.

    ComfortDelGro and Engie said in a joint statement on Friday that they won the tender to install 479 of the 632 metal car charger in the pilot roll-out.

    They said the chargers installed by them will comprise 192 22kW AC chargers, 279 7kW AC chargers and 8 50kW DC chargers.

    Transport Minister S. Iswaran said in a speech at the Land Transport Industry Day on Friday that the building up of an EV charging network is a key component of Singapore's strategy to promote electric vehicles.

    He noted that land transport currently accounts for 15 per cent of Singapore's domestic carbon emissions, with more than 90 per cent of this coming from the vehicle population.

    Mr Iswaran said the Transport Ministry and LTA have been working on the design of the market structure for EV charging in public residential carparks, and for the necessary upgrades to the electrical infrastructure.

    A request-for-information exercise conducted by LTA earlier this year collected feedback from 27 respondents. Mr Iswaran said these inputs will be considered by the Government in shaping the policy for EV charging infrastructure.

    He also announced on Friday that LTA and public transport operators will seek to generate more solar power from the public transport infrastructure.

    LTA will launch a tender to deploy more solar photovoltaic systems, likely via a leasing mode, said Mr Iswaran. Such systems use cells to convert sunlight into electricity.

    "A notable feature of the tender is that it will seek creative technologies and installation methods to optimise yield at less conventional areas, such as covered linkways and pedestrian overhead bridges," said Mr Iswaran.

    Mr Iswaran, who was speaking to an audience made up of people across the land transport industry, also said that Covid-19 has continued to affect the sector.

    He said rail and bus commuter ridership remain at just over 60 per cent of the levels before the pandemic started. Taxis and private-hire car trips are at around 75 per cent of usual levels.

    Mr Iswaran noted that transport workers have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. “Our transport workers have kept our world moving through the darkest days of the pandemic,” he said.

    Electric vehicles have the potential to reshape the transportation sector in the United States, drastically cutting carbon emissions and clearing the way for significant climate progress. Transportation is the highest-emitting sector in the country, producing 28 percent of all carbon (CO2) emissions in 2018. Electric cars could transform this high-emissions sector. A study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2015 shows that, in the United States, electric cars generate half or less than half of the emissions of comparable gasoline-powered cars from manufacturing to disposal.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom recently underscored the importance of electric vehicles when he announced on September 23 that California would require all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Though electric vehicles (EVs) still emit carbon emissions through the manufacturing process and from the fossil fuels used to generate the electricity they need to recharge, their enhanced energy efficiency secures significant emission reductions. On average, EVs convert over 77 percent of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels, while gasoline vehicles only convert between 12 to 30 percent of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels. Nevertheless, there remain significant hurdles to widespread adoption of electric vehicles, which are explored below in part 1. Congress is considering legislation that would address these hurdles, including the Electric Vehicle Freedom Act, and has already passed the Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies (CHARGE) Act (see part 2 of this article).

    Part 1: Electric Vehicle Challenges and Opportunities

    Charging times. There are three major “levels” of plastic shell car charger available for EVs. The standard 120-volt plug, often used for home appliances, charges slowly but can fill a battery to near full capacity with several nights’ charge, or about 20 to 40 hours. The 240-volt "level two” chargers generally provide 20 to 25 miles of charge in an hour, which shortens charging time to eight hours or less. In homes, level two chargers can use the same outlet type required for clothes dryers or electric ovens. In the EV industry, the connectors used for level two charging are known as SAE J1772. Finally, "level 3" direct current (DC) fast chargers can charge a battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Currently, level two chargers are the most widely available—the Department of Energy lists 22,816 public stations in the United States. There are important cost differences between charger types. According to a study by the Rocky Mountain Institute, costs for a level two charger’s components range from $2,500 to $7,210 and from $20,000 to $35,800 for a DC fast charger. The decision of which stations to install requires balancing the cost of installation with the needs and convenience of drivers.

    Charger compatibility. Level two charger development has been a relatively coordinated process, with all automakers besides Tesla using the same charge port model (with Tesla drivers using an adapter to connect). Three different varieties of DC fast chargers are used by different auto manufacturers: the SAE Combined Charging System (CCS), used by most manufacturers; CHAdeMO, used by Nissan and Mitsubishi; and the wireless charger (only available to Tesla drivers). This lack of vehicle compatibility differs from universal vehicle access to gas stations and could be an obstacle to widespread electric car adoption.

    Availability of charging infrastructure. Rather than being refueled at a typical gas station, electric vehicles must be charged at electrical outlets in order to run. Many EV owners charge their cars at home in their garage using a special wall-mounted car wireless charger. This arrangement works for most people, because the average person drives 29 miles per day. This distance is well within the range of today’s electric vehicles, most of which can travel between 150 and 250 miles on a charge, depending on the model. However, two major difficulties arise. First, for drivers who live in apartments, parking garages are rarely equipped with charging infrastructure, and installing such infrastructure may be cost prohibitive for building managers. There is also the additional problem of the electric costs incurred at common outlets. Because regular EV charging consumes more energy than most other residential uses, building managers need a mechanism to monitor EV charging to ensure the driver of each vehicle pays for their own electricity usage.

    Second, expanded charging infrastructure is needed for EVs to make long-distance trips that require multiple stops for charging. A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation indicated that 10,000 more charging stations will be required to support EVs traveling on inter-city corridors by 2025, based on trends of increasing EV ownership. When it comes to longer trips, EV owners can experience “range anxiety,” the fear that the car will run out of power before reaching a suitable charging station. Surveys show that concerns about range and charging availability are an important limit on consumer uptake of EVs. A 2018 report by the Harris polling firm found that 58 percent of respondents named “running out of power” as their top reason for not purchasing an EV, and 49 percent named “low availability of charging stations.”

    Renewable energy and climate mitigation. While not a hurdle to widespread EV adoption in and of itself, the electrical grid’s continued reliance on fossil fuels can reduce the cost-effectiveness of EV adoption as an emissions abatement strategy. Despite reducing emissions even when connected to a fossil-powered grid, electric vehicles are a much more cost-effective emission reduction tool when renewable energy sources make up a greater proportion of the energy mix. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on a relatively high-carbon grid (which produces 500–600 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour of power generation), light-duty electric vehicles can cost “many hundreds of dollars” per ton of CO2 abated. However, in a relatively low-carbon grid (which emits below 200 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour), EVs cost below $200 per ton of abatement. Maximizing the use of renewable energy to power electric vehicles is therefore crucial.

    Grid capacity. Trading out a national fleet of gasoline-powered cars and trucks for a fleet of EVs means that millions of people will depend on the electric grid in new ways. Therefore, power generation capacity will need to increase to accommodate these vehicles without straining the grid. Expert assessments vary on how much electricity demand will increase with widespread EV use. The Department of Energy predicts a 38 percent increase in electricity consumption by 2050, mostly due to a high penetration of electric vehicles. Researchers at the Energy Institute at the University of Texas Austin conducted a state-by-state assessment of a scenario in which all personal cars, trucks, and SUVs are converted to plug-in electric models. The study finds that state energy consumption would range from an increase of 17 percent in Wyoming to 55 percent in Maine. Most states’ consumption increases clustered between 20 to 30 percent. While some state grids have the available excess capacity to generate increased amounts of power with existing infrastructure under favorable assumptions for charging times, others do not. The ability of grids to handle EV charging also depends on what time of day the vehicles are plugged in. EVs have a much lower chance of overloading grids if charged at off-peak hours, when fewer consumers are using electricity.

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