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IIJA and the Cure for Range Anxiety

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Bill Meehan's picture
Director, Utility Solutions Esri

William (Bill) Meehan is the Director of Utility Solutions for Esri. He is responsible for business development and marketing Esri’s geospatial technology to global electric and gas utilities.A...

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  • Jun 8, 2022
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Range anxiety: a driver’s fear of running out of fuel before reaching the intended destination.

I had a severe case of range anxiety on a road trip from New Jersey to Boston many years ago. I had rented a huge faux-wood paneled Chevy station wagon. The fully loaded beast was lucky to achieve 11miles to the gallon. The fuel gauge dangerously approached empty as the family approached Providence, Rhode Island, on Route 95. It was late in the evening. It was clear that we would never reach Boston before running out of gas. This trip was during one of the gasoline shortage crises. Gas stations were closed or displayed the dreaded red flag signifying no gas. We pulled into a closed gas station and camped out the night. Before the station opened in the morning, we were the first in line waiting for the station to open. The line of cars behind us snaked around the corner of the gas station. Fortunately, we could fill up and successfully complete our trip home.

Gasoline shortages can happen at any time. For example, in 2016, a major pipeline leak caused many stations to run out of gas entirely. This event created significant range anxiety. In addition, refinery fires, international crises, supply chain disruption, earthquakes, storms, and tornadoes can interrupt gasoline supply. The Russian brutal invasion of Ukraine has helped send prices at the gas pump soaring and one can easily imagine a protracted war leading to gasoline shortages in some European nations.

Today range anxiety is mainly associated with electric vehicles. The problem with EVs, at this moment in time, is the current range of most EVs on the road is shorter than most gas cars, and the availability to charge up is limited.

IIJA Funds Half a Million Electric Charging Station

According to MarketWatch, there are about 115,000 gas stations in the US. Let’s assume there is an average number of six gas pumps per station. That puts the number of gas pumps at a little over 600,000. Compared to the less than 10,000 fast chargers in the US, it’s no wonder EV users have range anxiety. But the solution is well at hand.

Three programs funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the so-called “eye ja” or IIJA) address this lack of availability. The programs are:

  • The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, funded at 5 billion dollars
  • Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants (community charging) funded at 1.25 billion dollars
  • Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants (corridor charging) funded at 1.25 billion dollars

Much of the funding is for creating a national network of electric charging stations. In addition, some funding is allocated for alternative fuelings, such as hydrogen. The goal is to install 500,000 charging stations by 2026. This would come close to 600,000 gas pumps available for gas fueling.

GIS Helps Plan for the Rollout

IIJA recognizes that the rollout of EVs has to be done thoughtfully. One of the law’s provisions is that the rollout must be done equitably across all populations. Renters, apartment dwellers, and low-income neighborhoods are least likely to have the luxury of in-home chargers. That’s why commercial charging stations need to be made available to all.

The authors of IIJA wisely recognized this reality. They further recognized that careful planning and documentation of the grants must account for equity. This reality is explicitly stated in Division J, title VIII, Highway Infrastructure Program heading, paragraph (2), subsection 6 of the Act:

“Mapping and analysis activities to evaluate, in an area in the United States designated by the eligible entity, the locations of current and future electric vehicle owners, to forecast commuting and travel patterns of electric vehicles and the quantity of electricity required to serve electric vehicle charging stations, to estimate the concentrations of electric vehicle charging stations…” This section continues to describe the mapping of travel analysis and concentration of the vehicles in considerable detail.

GIS provides the data and analytics to do just what is described. In addition, GIS provides the tools to perform sophisticated equity analysis. GIS combines the power of network management (for grid demands and infrastructure planning) with tools needed to assure equitable placement of charging stations.

IIJA Cures Range Anxiety

This major project will effectively eliminate range anxiety – putting EVs on the same reliable range footing as gas-powered vehicles. Charging stations will be as common as today’s corner gas station/convenience stores.

This is a good news (and little bad news) story for utilities. Utilities will undoubtedly be challenged to plan for the substantial impact on the grid. Some estimates suggest that replacing gas power vehicles with EVs would double the electric demand. That could be bad news if utilities continue to rely on coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, but good news we they accelerate the shift to wind, solar and geothermal energy and demand-side efficiency. The even better news is that this new source of demand and revenue breathes much life into electric utilities. Homes and businesses will continue to lower their electricity consumption by adopting solar and increasingly energy efficient heating/cooling systems, lighting, electronics, and appliances. In addition, with new thinking around neighborhood geothermal systems proposed by organizations such as HEET, air conditioning demands should shrink over the same period that EV demand increases.

In all these cases, modeling the grid and smart placement of the technology will require careful planning. GIS is poised to provide both. So, the next time I take a road trip with my electric car, I can have the confidence that the fueling stations will be just around the corner.

For more information on how GIS supports electric utility planning, click here.

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Discussions
Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Jun 9, 2022

Thanks Bill. The problem I see is, EV "Range Anxiety" is partly psychological, given numerous studies, e.g. in the UK (where I am) 95% of car journeys are less than 25 miles (RAC figures), easily within the range of EVs. So we also perhaps need to have media messaging to convince people that actually, in practical terms, EVs have sufficient range for most purposes.

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Jun 29, 2022

You are correct, in that EVs are sufficient for most purposes. However, they cannot compare to gas cars when it comes to occasional long journeys. This has always been the rub. Even with a lot of commercial level 2 chargers out there, the time to charge would be too long for a long journey. We are going to need a lot of commercial fast chargers for EV to be truly accepted, even if people only drive short distances.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jul 8, 2022

Julian - I am wondering if the EC "Range Anxiety" is a bigger issue in the states where things are more spread out. Also for people who live within a major city - this is probably a non-factor but for those who live in the suburbs, I can imagine it is a bigger issue.  

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jun 29, 2022

Bill, there are over 24,000 DCFC in the USA, according to the ChargeHub database. That’s on top of nearly 96,000 level 2 chargers.

Also, based on primary research that I conducted for Natural Ressources Canada, the top problem that EV drivers have with public EV charging is charging anxiety (an infrastructure issue: “Will I be able to charge when I get to a charging station or will there be a problem such as a broken charger, blocked access, a long waiting line or an ICE vehicle in the stall? How long will it take to charge?”) rather than range anxiety (a vehicle issue: “Will I have enough charge in the battery to get where I want to go?”). Interestingly, non-EV drivers see range anxiety as more concerning, although, they do not drive an EV!

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Jun 29, 2022

You are absolutely right. Given that there are 275 million gas cars registered in the US, 20,000 fast chargers is way too few. When we get to the point where an EV can fuel up in about the same time as a gas car and drive the same distance, and be priced the same as gas cars, will we see the migration to EVs take off, like in the 1920s when gas cars replaced horse-drawn wagons? That only happened when gas stations became commonplace. As soon as people feel that they can charge their EV wherever they are will people feel comfortable.

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jun 29, 2022

Bill, are you an EV driver yourself?

I f so, you most likely charge it with a level 2 (240 V) charger most of the time. Based on energy supplied, roughly 70% of charging occurs at home, with level 2 charging accounting for about 80% of home charging (the rest is 120 V). The rest is mostly in public, and some charging is at a workplace. Most public charging is level 2, and workplace charging is all level 2 as well. 

If you want to know, here are the light-duty passenger EV charging use cases:

 

  1. Home Charging.
    1. Detached homes with their own parking spaces (with access to electricity).
    2. Multi-tenant buildings (using the shared electrical infrastructure).
  2. Public Charging.
    1. At a destination (when parked for hours).
      1. Commercial or public sites (such as restaurants and transit stations).
      2. Curbside (using public on-street parking spaces).
    2. On the go charging (when stopping for minutes).
      1. Community charging (for commuting in a city, such has at a convenience store).
      2. Corridor charging (along highways for intercity travel, such as at a rest area).
  3. Workplace Charging (while employees are at work).

At this moment, the largest impediment to EVs are supply issues: you have to wait over a year to get a new one, and that's the best case scenario where you are in a ZEV state or province. 

The next biggest impediment in public charging near homes where you can't easily install a level 2 charger. Those are use cases 1.b , 2.a.ii and 2.b.i above. This is especially important in cities and lower income communities.

Corridor charging still needs to be addressed, but it's behind the above issues.  

Source: Utility Business Case to Support Light Duty EV Charging, IEEE WP. (I'm the author.)

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Jul 1, 2022

Hi Benoit. I'm really pleased you took the time to comment on the blog. Please provide the link to your white paper on this subject. I've love to study it. First, I do not own an EV. I did sell my gas cars, so I am shopping for replacements. 

A couple of points:

1) We are very early in the transition from gas vehicles to EVs. Slightly less than 2 million EVs.

2) We have 275 million light duty vehicles registered in the US today. 

3) What is true today will not be true as the number of EVs increase and the gas cars decrease. The electrical infrastructure to support everyone at home to charge their cars will not be adequate, particularly at the low voltage level. 

4) People are used to fueling their gas cars in 10 minutes. For this transition to really work, people will want this same convenience.

So I agree with you. The situation today is as you describe it. Looking ahead a decade or so, the scale will likely change the landscape. 

There still is a lot of work to be done on the EV technology, particularly with the batteries. For example, a 100kW-hr EV battery weighs about 1200 lbs. That's a lot of weight to carry around compared to a the 60 or so pounds of a full gas tank.  Ultimately the supply chain issues will be worked out as car builders transition off building gas cars.

However, there is still a lot to work on. Thanks again for your comments.

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jul 2, 2022
Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jul 2, 2022

Here’s also a link to a public NRCan report where I analyse 2 million charging sessions and did a natural language analysis of thousands of comments left by EV drivers: 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-analyzed-2-million-ev-charging-session...

 

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jul 2, 2022

Two further comments:

- "The electrical infrastructure to support everyone at home to charge their cars will not be adequate, particularly at the low voltage level." Some specific places (such as neighborhoods with underground low voltage distribution with 100 A service entrances) are more difficult to electrify than others. However, EV charging is less concerning than heat electrification. EV charging can easily be moved off-peak; furthermore, even 120 V charging overnight is sufficient for most people. However, heat electrification, which tend to be more coordinated and difficult to move, can quickly overwhelmed the grid. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ev-charging-puts-downward-pressure-electr... and https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/managing-residential-light-duty-ev-chargi...

Benoit Marcoux's picture
Benoit Marcoux on Jul 2, 2022

"People are used to fueling their gas cars in 10 minutes. For this transition to really work, people will want this same convenience."

That's true for non-EV drivers. EV drivers much like the convenience of charging at home or at the workplace. EV drivers do not mind having to stand beside their car sweating, freezing or being rained on, all while holding a filfty handle. Even while charging at public sites, you just plug it in and walk away doing something pleasant or useful. 

Roger Levy's picture
Roger Levy on Jun 29, 2022

Sorry Bill, you forgot to include the second and third components of range anxiety (1) will the charging station actually be in working condition and available even if the driver finds a charging station, and (2) just how long will the driver need to wait to achieve sufficient charge to complete their journey?  Next it might be nice if you would address the efficacy of (1) government funded and/or mandated charging stations, and (2) what is an equitable way for EV owners to pay for the roadways given they do not pay gas taxes, finally how do you suggest the added costs to upgrade the utility distribution systems to accommodate the increased volume of EVs?

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Jun 29, 2022

Your points are well taken. With only 20,000 fast chargers in the US serving a potential population of 275 cars (the population of gas cars), and a current population of almost 2 million EVs, there are not enough fast chargers. Until the number of chargers increases will people fully not worry about non-operating plugs or rude gas car drivers taking up stalls. As the number of gas pumps decreases and fast chargers increase, the situation will likely reverse. Today there are enough gas stations that when we find a non-operating gas pump, we know there will be another pump or gas station across the street. As soon as EV chargers are common, this problem will go away. 2) Gas Taxes - once the population of EVs passes the population of gas cars, there will be an EV tax imposed at the plug for sure. Someone has to pay for the roads. 3) Great question about the electric infrastructure to support EVs - This will be handled the same way as has happened in the past for all utility capital improvements - through the state's public utility commission rate-making process. Utilities will need to make the case for rate relief if the increased revenues do not offset their increased costs. , 

Bill Meehan's picture
Thank Bill for the Post!
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