Tag Archives: electric vehicle charging

Empowering Tomorrow: Considerations for Resilient Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Amidst Natural Disasters

In the pursuit of sustainable transportation, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a transformative force, providing a cleaner alternative to traditional combustion-engine vehicles. As the global transition towards widespread EV adoption gains momentum, local governments must consider a critical aspect often overlooked in the electrification revolution – the resilience and reliability of the infrastructure needed to support the use of these vehicles during and after natural disasters.

The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) partnered with the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments to promote the development of plans that enhance the resilience of electric vehicle infrastructure in the Upper Coastal Plains region of North Carolina. Part of the initiative was a webinar series designed to disseminate essential information pertaining to electric vehicle infrastructure and its resilience in the face of natural disasters. Tailored to the specifics of Eastern North Carolina, these webinars served as a valuable resource for the region and can help set the stage for similar efforts outside the region.

Reliability, Resilience and Redundancy

The webinar “Electric Vehicles and Resilience During Natural Disasters”, was held on October 31, 2023 and the full webinar recording can be viewed on NCCETC’s Youtube Channel here. The webinar was hosted by Heather Brutz, Director of the Clean Transportation program at NCCETC, and featured presentations from Alexander Yoshizumi from the Applied Data Research Institute, Isaac Panzarella from NCCETC, and Ron Townley from the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments.

In the wake of increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, the vulnerability of EV charging infrastructure poses a significant challenge. It is essential for stakeholders across industries to collaboratively design and implement solutions that guarantee the continued functionality of EV infrastructure during adverse weather conditions.

Heather Brutz emphasized key vulnerabilities, such as electrical outages and flooding, during the discussion on planning for resiliency. She underscored the importance of reliability and redundancy, stating, “Resilience implies many different things…it can come from having reliable chargers that operate under adverse conditions and it can also come from having redundancy in chargers.” This strategic approach involves deploying backup power, positioning chargers on higher ground to prevent flooding damage, and designing chargers to withstand minor flooding without compromising essential electrical components.

Alexander Yoshizumi, Executive Director of Applied Data Research Institute, introduced the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Resilience Model (AFIRM), an agent-based network model of traffic flow. This model serves as a crucial tool for regional and transportation planners, as well as electric utilities, offering a comprehensive framework for simulating various scenarios of EV infrastructure under different evacuation conditions.

Recognizing the prolonged refueling times of EVs compared to conventional fuel vehicles, especially in emergency scenarios, Yoshizumi reiterated the need for proactive planning. AFIRM is strategically crafted to anticipate and address the challenges associated with the growing adoption of electric vehicles and the future of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

Illustrating some of the parameters the model takes into account, Yoshizumi said, “We break parameters into vehicle agents, the nodes which include interchanges and EVSE, the lines which are the roads themselves, and then the traffic flow itself gets parameterized.” By considering these chosen parameters, the model provides a comprehensive framework for simulating various scenarios of EV infrastructure under different evacuation conditions.

This intricate modeling allows for a nuanced exploration of potential outcomes and facilitates the identification of best practices and improvement opportunities in the design and siting of electric vehicle charging equipment, particularly in emergency scenarios. Through simulations that encompass diverse possibilities of EV infrastructure performance during evacuations, the AFIRM model aims to offer valuable insights in shaping the future of electric mobility in the face of evolving challenges and worsening natural disasters.

Yoshizumi concluded with a look forward to the next steps for AFIRM. “We are currently building out the network model for US-64 and parameterizing rules for the network and then we’re going to use that to identify under what adoption levels and evacuation conditions capacity becomes an issue as well as identify the locations where adding plugs maximizes resilience,” said Yoshizumi.

Isaac Panzarella discussed three main areas of focus in making charging infrastructure more resilient: utility grid resilience measures, charging equipment, and microgrids. At the grid level, measures such as hardening distribution by undergrounding, vegetation management and elevating substations above flooding are handled at the utility level.

At the local level, the government and the private sector can implement measures to make infrastructure more resilient regardless of a distribution grid outage. “There are a number of resilient EV charging equipment technologies that have come out in the last 10 years or so, and more are coming out or under development as people innovate,” Panzarella said.

The integration of technologies such as energy storage systems, solar energy and alternate fuel sources can extend the function of charging stations during natural disasters when connection to the electrical grid may be disrupted. Mobile charging station solutions can take the form of large battery storage systems as well as engine generators or fuel cells that can be moved and connected to critical infrastructure nodes to provide capacity while the grid is inoperable.

Microgrids are a more robust solution that can be applied in larger EV charging applications, such as the Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot in Montgomery County, Maryland. Here, 4.3 megawatts (MW) of battery storage is coupled with 2 MW of solar photovoltaics and 2 MW of backup generators to help ensure that the public bus system that many people rely on keeps running during extended grid outages.  During normal, blue sky conditions, much of the electric bus charging comes from renewable solar energy, resulting in a 62% reduction of carbon emissions.

Federal Funding Sources for EVSE Resilience

The second session in the webinar series, hosted on November 13, 2023, featured “Federal Funding Sources for EVSE Resilience” and is also available to stream on the NCCETC’s Youtube Channel here. This insightful session, featuring Heather Brutz, Ron Townley, and Isaac Panzarella, delved into crucial federal funding opportunities that underpin the development of resilient EV infrastructure.

Legislators on federal, state and local levels have enacted a variety of direct financial incentives for EVs and EV infrastructure to provide market certainty and facilitate the accelerated deployment of clean transportation technologies.

Heather Brutz highlighted key provisions under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, emphasizing the plethora of tax credits it introduced. Brutz said, “There are tax credits for vehicles, fueling infrastructure, and alternative fuels – and it also expanded the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit.”

For government fleets, Brutz highlighted the Commercial Clean Vehicle tax credit since business and tax-exempt organizations can qualify for the credit. “You can get up to $7,500 for vehicles that weigh less than 14,000 pounds and up to $40,000 for vehicles that weigh more than 14,000 pounds with this tax credit,” Brutz explained. The tax credit can be used for the purchase of qualified plug-in EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that meet the manufacturing requirements outlined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) extended and modified the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit, which can be used to cover up to 30% of the cost of qualified vehicle refueling and recharging property installed in a home or business, not to exceed $100,000. Beginning in 2023, however, qualifying property has been limited to installments placed in service within low-income communities or non-urban census tracts.

Furthermore, Brutz detailed amendments to the federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC), introducing prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements for larger systems to qualify for the full tax credit. Projects under 1 megawatt (MW) can receive the full 30% tax credit if construction begins before January 1, 2025. Projects over 1 MW, commencing construction before the same date, can secure a base tax credit of 6%, extendable to 30% contingent upon compliance with new labor standards.

Project eligibility extends to additional credit amounts through various bonus credits under the ITC. Projects meeting specific criteria, such as Domestic Content Bonus and Energy Community Bonus, unlock additional financial incentives.

The Low-Income Communities Bonus Credit Program offers an increased tax credit of 10% for solar and wind projects under 5 MW built in qualifying communities, as defined by the New Markets Tax Credit or on Indian Land. Projects in low-income residential buildings or low-income economic benefit projects can receive an increased tax credit of 20%.

As part of the IRA, the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program allocates funds to states, local governments, territories and tribes for developing and implementing climate impact mitigation plans. Notably, the program awards $1 million to the 67 most populous areas in the U.S., including the Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte area in North Carolina. The NC Department of Environmental Quality is administering CPRG funds for the state and anticipates receiving a $3 million award for planning activities.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) of 2021, with its $108 billion authorization for federal public transportation programs, introduces an array of extended and new grant programs. BIL authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer $5 billion over 5 years in rebates, grants and contracts, aiming to replace a significant portion of the country’s school buses with environmentally friendly and zero emission models to mitigate the adverse emissions from older buses through the Clean School Bus program.

One program established by BIL was the National Electric Vehicle infrastructure Program (NEVI), which provides nearly $5 billion from July 2022-June 2027 to help states create a network of 500,000 publicly accessible EV charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors. Additionally, the Carbon Reduction Program was created to provide funds for projects designed to reduce transportation-related emissions defined as carbon dioxide emissions from on-road highway sources.

Complementary to state managed programs under NEVI, the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Discretionary Grant Program seeks to strategically deploy publicly accessible EV charging stations and other alternative fuel infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors.

BIL continued the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program which provides a flexible funding source to state and local government transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. State CMAQ funds are further allocated to the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) program, administered by NCCETC, to provide annual funding for clean transportation technologies in eligible countries across North Carolina.

On both federal and state levels, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act is another annual funding opportunity allocated to projects for the establishment of diesel emissions reduction programs for diesel vehicles, engines and equipment including school buses, transit buses, medium- or heavy-duty trucks, marine engines, locomotives and non-road engines, equipment, or vehicles.

To help customers navigate the variety of direct financial incentives available for EVs and EV fueling infrastructure, NCCETC previously published the guidance document Electric Vehicles & Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Incentives in North Carolina. This comprehensive document outlines incentives available through federal, state, regional and electric utility funded programs.

Initiatives and strategic planning such as AFIRM coupled with funding sources to support the implementation of clean transportation technologies are paving the way for a resilient and reliable future for electric vehicle infrastructure. By addressing vulnerabilities, embracing innovative models like AFIRM, and capitalizing on federal funding opportunities, stakeholders can contribute to the safety of drivers in emergencies and inspire confidence and investment in the robust deployment of EV infrastructure and ensure EVs remain a sustainable and resilient mode of transportation.

Walker Auto Parts Drives into the Future: A Success Story of Electrifying a Fleet

The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) partnered with Walker Auto and Truck to embark on a transformative journey to electrify their fleet. North Carolina-based Walker Auto and Truck, a family-run auto parts company with a rich 50-year history, has not only embraced its legacy but is also steering into the future with an innovative and eco-friendly approach.

In 2021, NCCETC provided information to Walker Auto and Truck to help them navigate funding opportunities. Walker and Auto Truck then submitted a grant application to secure funding to incorporate its first fully-electric vehicle – a Chevy Volt into the company fleet. The company installed Level 2 chargers for overnight charging, with public charging stations added to one of their stores in Wilmington, NC. 

The shift to electric vehicles (EVs) has been a financial boon, with owner Nat Walker noting, “The offset in fuel costs we experienced is astounding. Our goal is to migrate over to an electric and hybrid fleet.”

The positive outcomes of this shift are evident: a two-year pilot with the Chevy Bolt demonstrated remarkable performance, covering an average of 280 miles per week and offsetting gasoline costs significantly. Now, Walker Auto and Truck is not only changing the face of fleet replacements by considering plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, but they are also actively engaging and encouraging others who are considering the transition to EVs. The company has participated in several events organized by NCCETC, showcasing their EV success story and contributing to the broader discourse on sustainable business practices and clean transportation.

Walker offered this advice to other businesses considering a shift to EVs in their fleet, “Don’t be afraid or panic.” Walker emphasized the importance of thorough investigation, testing and strategic planning. 

Constantly seeking incentive funding at various levels of government has enabled Walker Auto and Truck to offset costs and expand their business strategies. Using a proactive approach to secure funding demonstrates the potential for other organizations to align sustainability with their economic growth.

Additionally, Walker Auto and Truck found that ensuring anyone operating the EVs receives training is a key practice to help employees familiarize themselves with the vehicle’s features. Monitoring battery charge in an EV to prevent it from dropping below 20% is imperative to keep the vehicle running smoothly and avoid any charging issues. 

Riding the success of the new addition to their fleet, Walker Auto and Truck have expanded the scope of their business by venturing into consulting services. Under the new venture, EV Walker Charging Solutions, the company provides consulting services for the installation of charging stations in single and multi-family residential areas. 

When looking to the future, Walker anticipates growing demand from the public and service departments at Walker Auto and Truck for EV maintenance and parts as vehicles exceed the life of their warranties and as incentives for EVs extend to include previously-owned vehicles. 

The success story of Walker Auto and Truck’s journey towards electrifying their fleets serves as a testament to the possibilities for traditional business to embrace sustainable practices and technologies. Learn more about electric vehicles and if this option could be right for your fleet at www.cleantransportation.org.

NC Cooperative Demonstration of Vehicle-to-Grid Smart Charger Concludes with Positive Results

As electric vehicles (EVs) build market share across the United States, it will be increasingly important to balance the rising demand for charging services at times when the grid has excess capacity, reducing the total costs for grid services instead of increasing them. Bidirectional charging through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology has the capability to deploy demand-response actions to ease concerns, however, and add resilience benefits while decarbonizing emergency generation.

Findings from a two-year demonstration of a V2G technology in North Carolina show the positive economic potential for using bidirectional charging technologies to feed energy stored in electric vehicle batteries back to charging sites, especially when the grid is experiencing high demand. The NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) along with Advanced Energy, Enpira, Clean Energy Works, and the Environmental Defense Fund observed this powerful demonstration of a bidirectional charger and software platform from Fermata Energy.

Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s (REC) headquarters in the rural town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, served as the test site for Fermata Energy’s FE-15 bidirectional charger along with the cooperative’s two Nissan LEAF Plus cars. The Nissan LEAF has led the way in the fully electric passenger vehicle market that is capable of vehicle-to-grid technologies in the United States. The market has since grown with the vehicle-to-building capable F-150 Lightning, the Hyundai IONIQ, and the Kia EV6 expanding the development of V2X technologies.

NCCETC Clean Transportation Specialist, John Bonitz said, “We’re honored to be involved in pilot programs like this demonstration at Roanoke Electric Cooperative that can help make fleet electrification more economically viable by proving the value of integrating V2B and V2G technology to shave peaks, improve grid optimization and increase resilience — all while helping the cooperative and its members save money.”

Quantifying the potential value streams from bidirectional charging allows utilities to begin considering incentive payments and other EV program options for customers and members. By demonstrating significant positive value, this study encourages utilities in similar market conditions to help customers overcome the financial barriers to purchasing an EV, particularly in low- and moderate-income areas where these costs may restrict EV adoption. Roanoke is also considering a demand response program to incentivize EV growth and use the storage capacity to reduce peak demand and other charges while at the same time helping to make the transition to EVs more affordable for customers.

A bidirectional EV can receive energy (charge) from electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) such as the FE-15 and provide energy to an external load (discharge) when it is paired with a similarly capable EVSE. “Bidirectional chargers, simply put, can unlock new value streams by enabling energy to go into the car’s batteries or, when needed, can discharge energy back into the grid, a building, a house, or any electrical load,” explained John Bonitz. EV owners can use bidirectional charging to save money with their local electric utility, thus reducing the total cost of ownership of the vehicle.

With only vehicle-to-building use cases, REC demonstrated monthly gross savings that exceed the monthly lease cost for its EVs. Use of the bidirectional EVs as mobile battery storage reduced behind-the-meter electricity costs through three use cases: peak load reduction and load following, backup generator support while the building was islanded from the grid, and coincident peak demand reduction.

Peak load reduction shrinks the cooperative’s building’s monthly demand from the electrical grid, which can generally decrease the facility’s electric bill; load following adjusts the power output from an EV’s batteries as the building’s load increases and decreases; and coincident peak demand is when the cooperative’s peak coincides with the overall grid-system’s peak, thus helping both the electric cooperative, the local region and its customers by minimizing pollution generating sources while reducing electric service costs for all member-owners.

Smart charging and discharging solutions with V2X can be programmed to meet the fleet operator’s needs. V2G systems can schedule responses to system-wide peak demand events in advance, so a fleet manager can choose to reserve the vehicle for the grid (or building) at that time while leaving the vehicle plugged in. After the bidirectional event, the V2G system allows scheduled recharging to be programmed to meet fleet needs while providing transparency on the monetary value the vehicle can provide at different times for grid operations. Alternatively, the fleet manager or vehicle operator can choose a program to prioritize the readiness of the vehicle for transportation first, and grid-support services second.

Fermata Energy’s FE-15 can provide 15 kilowatts (kW) of power to the car and back to the site served by the grid. REC schedules dispatch of the onboard battery in response to predicted peaks, which usually last two to three hours. Using only one of REC’s Nissan LEAFs, the bidirectional charging system has been able to reduce the cooperative’s load and lower system-wide peak demand charges in 11 out of 22 months – every time the peak window was successfully predicted and communicated by the energy suppliers.

In addition to system-wide peak demand response, bidirectional charging can be used for demand charge management for building peak load reduction and load following. Despite having relatively modest demand charges of $9.50/kW, Fermata Energy’s software and charger strategically dispatched the Nissan LEAF battery to reduce REC’s headquarters’ building demand charges, resulting in savings in 16 out of 24 months.

“The combined value streams produced gross savings for REC of more than $3,200 per year, per charger – that’s greater than the lease cost of the EV,” Bonitz said. “The value of this single unit hints at the broader potential for much greater savings when multiplied by many units, serving multiple EVs or even integrated across an entire fleet of EVs.” He further clarified these savings would be in addition to the lower operating costs and fuel savings that have long been demonstrated by electric fleet vehicles.

Both public and private fleets in the United States are looking into viable strategies to transition away from internal-combustion engine vehicles and replace them with EVs. V2G technology can ensure that EVs are charged and ready for driving, secure on-time departure, and reduce total costs of ownership by generating additional revenue for owners.

Vehicle-to-building (V2B) technology could also keep the power on for critical services, such as hospitals and shelters, during extreme weather conditions and other emergency outages, reducing or even eliminating the cumulative number of hours these essential systems have to use backup diesel generators.

The Electrification Coalition’s new guide, “V2X Implementation Guide and Mutual Aid Agreement Template for Using Vehicle-to-Everything-Enabled Electric School Buses as Mobile Power Units to Enhance Resilience During Emergencies” describes the potential to use V2X-enabled electric school buses (ESBs) as alternative emergency backup power sources during outages. The adoption of ESBs is rising as school districts and fleet operators become aware of the significant benefits: clear air for student passengers, savings on bus fuel and maintenance costs, and reduced carbon emissions. ESBs are also gaining attention for their potential to enhance critical electric infrastructure resilience and reliability. Click here to learn more about this resource and how utilizing ESBs to power critical facilities in emergencies can enhance infrastructure resilience, save lives, and strengthen our energy and national security.

On a residential scale, EV owners could use vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology to power their homes during lengthy blackouts. With a bidirectional charging system, homeowners could pull power from their vehicle’s batteries to keep fridges, lights, and heating and cooling systems on in their homes.

Bonitz said, “We’re honored to be involved in pilot programs like this demonstration at Roanoke Electric Cooperative that can help make fleet electrification more economically viable by proving the value of integrating V2G technology to shave peaks, improve grid optimization and increase resilience – all while helping the cooperative and its members save money.”

Quantifying the potential value streams from bidirectional charging allows utilities to begin considering incentive payments and other EV program options for customers and members. By demonstrating significant positive value, this study encourages utilities in similar market conditions to help customers overcome the financial barriers to purchasing an EV, particularly in low- and moderate-income areas where higher EV costs slow their adoption. As the pilot program continues at Roanoke Electric, management is considering a demand response program to expand numbers of EVs by using these bidirectional value streams to help make the transition to EVs more affordable for their member-owners.

NCCETC and Advanced Energy are now sharing these lessons learned with interested parties across NC and beyond.  Other cooperative utilities are intrigued to learn of ways that these EV charging infrastructure investments can help pay for themselves while reducing overall costs for their member-owners.

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