Battery Electric Vehicles and DC Fast Charging Infrastructure: Needs and Feasibility in Nebraska

A key factor to increase market penetration of battery electric vehicles (EVs) and support the electrification of transportation at scale is to increase the number and output capabilities of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVSE) deployed in public spaces; in other words, an adequate public charging infrastructure is needed to effectively extend EVs’ battery ranges when it is away from home charging access. Currently, there are three types of EVSE stations: Level 1 (110 V) for home charging, Level 2 (240 V) for workplace and commercial charging, and Level 3 (480 V) DC fast charging for commercial and highway travel. Direct current (DC) fast charging can recharge a dead battery to 80% of its full capacity in 30 minutes or less. In contrast, Level 2 charging can take between four and six hours, depending on the size of the vehicle’s onboard charger and Level 1 takes 8-12 hours. As technology advances to make EVs more convenient, as technology such as DC fast charging becomes more available, and as production costs continue to decrease, the improved economic and environmental benefits will make it more practical for consumers to purchase electric vehicles. As of August 2014, a total of 11,712 battery electric vehicles (171 EVs and 11,541 hybrid EVs) were registered in Nebraska. Following national-level trends, this number is expected to grow in Nebraska; the market share of electrified vehicle sales is expected to reach eight percent nationwide by 2020. Nationwide, 123,049 EVs were sold in 2014, accounting for four percent of the market share. The proposed project will build on the current work of the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA), which formed in 2014 in order to execute a Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) grant. This $403,000 grant has demonstrated the economic and air quality benefits of EVs, and to a smaller extent, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles through the provision of municipal EVs and CNGs and Level 2 EVSE stations in the nine Nebraska communities that originally formed the alliance: South Sioux City, Wayne, Bellevue, Nebraska City, Seward, Holdrege, Lexington, Gothenburg, and Central City. While our research team has developed an understanding of the properties and benefits involved in Level 2 EVSE charging, we now need to investigate the elements that make DC fast charging economically and environmentally beneficial and determine the best locations for these systems. Level 2 charging is a decidedly different experience for the EV owner than DC fast charging that takes a fraction of the time. Of available electronic charging technology, DC fast charging most closely approximates the gasoline refueling experience and Nebraskans buying EVs will increasingly expect public access to a refueling infrastructure that can deliver any of the charging technologies on the market. We presently have 29 Level 2 chargers in Nebraska with plans for more, but there are currently no DC fast chargers. In order for Nebraskans to realize the full benefit of EVs, the refueling infrastructure for EVs must be as robust and ubiquitous as that in existence for gasoline-powered vehicles.