Utilities Investing for the Future Should Look to DC Chargers

11 Dec 2018

Carmakers have recently announced higher-power electric vehicles hitting the market across the cost spectrum, prompting EV charging infrastructure company Tritium to warn utilities and government agencies against large-scale investments in Level 2 AC chargers.

The new EVs will be capable of accepting a much faster charge than AC chargers can deliver, and hours-long charging times will render those chargers useless to drivers looking to recharge in public spaces. DC fast chargers provide 100 to 200 miles of range per hour (RPH), while the Level 2 AC chargers that many utilities are investing in provide about 12 to 25 miles of RPH. These AC chargers are already on the cusp of obsolescence, and emerging technologies will soon push them into flip-phone territory.

The next generation of DC chargers approximates the gasoline fill-up experience. DC high-power chargers (HPCs, delivering up to 475kW)—already in action in Europe’s IONITY network and in limited numbers and capacity (up to 350kW) in the U.S.—will add 60 miles of range in 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the car’s capabilities. The new cars coming on the market won’t be able to take full advantage of these chargers, but the next generation likely will.

Meanwhile, home DC charging is on the way. Utilities that incentivize home AC charging may soon find that customers are moving on to more useful DC home charging that can connect to the grid, store energy, and send and receive utility pricing signals. When the bulk of public charging infrastructure is DC and in-home DC chargers are on the market, automakers will have no reason to provide onboard AC chargers. At that point, AC chargers will be fully stranded assets.

“Obviously, we have a horse in this race, but the numbers tell the story,” said David Finn, Tritium CEO and cofounder. “Electric cars with DC-only charging capability will be on the market within the next decade—we’re already seeing automakers remove AC charging equipment or downsize it to an emergency level.”

While AC chargers are cheaper now, the price of DC technology is dropping—and HPCs will change the whole calculation. They can charge multiple vehicles at the same time, so charging sites will need far fewer units, making DC chargers a more cost-effective choice even at a higher per-unit price.

“Government agencies and utilities should prioritize investments in DC chargers that serve current and future EV models, so they don’t get stuck with unusable AC assets,” said Finn. “That’s a responsible use of public and ratepayer money that will accelerate the transition to low-emission transportation, rather than slowing it down.”

Tritium | http://www.tritium.com.au