The Wikipedia ar­ti­cle on Elec­tric Car Use by Coun­try is in­ter­est­ing. Below I ex­cerpt a graph (mis­spellings: theirs) of the lead­ing electric-car ju­ris­dic­tion­s: As I write, Nor­way lead­s, at over 20%, while the US av­er­age is 1.5%. (Visit the Wikipedia link for the lat­est when­ev­er you read this.) How are all these cars go­ing to be fed? Let’s con­sid­er the fu­ture busi­ness of car-charging.

Top countries in adoption of battery electric vehicles

My own an­gle · Since I’m about to be­come an electric-car own­er, I’ve been pre-planning trip­s, both for work (i.e. to Seat­tle) and to vis­it fam­i­ly else­where in Western Canada. And I’m hav­ing a feel­ing I last had in the Nineties, as a bleeding-edge trav­el­ing In­ter­net user. Back then, when you picked your hotel, you re­al­ly cared about whether your dial-up In­ter­net would work  —  there were cer­tain 20th-century “digital” ho­tel phone sys­tems that got in the way, and then some places had pro­pri­etary plugs, and oth­ers blocked calls to the lo­cal PoP be­cause they thought you were try­ing to dodge their larce­nous long-distance charges, which you were.

As a side-effect of this, I’ve learned a lot about what kinds of charg­ers there are, and it rais­es ques­tions in my mind of how we get the ones we need, and (chiefly) who’s go­ing to pay for them.

Defin­ing terms ·

  1. A BEV is a Bat­tery Elec­tric Vehi­cle. Al­so you some­times hear PEV where P is for Plug­in.

  2. There are a bunch of ways to talk about how fast a charg­er charges your BEV, but I don’t think there’s a stan­dard acronym for my fa­vorite, how many km of range you get per hour of charg­ing. Let’s use kRh for “km of range per hour”. Amer­i­can and Bri­tish read­ers can di­vide by 1.6 and call those mRh.

  3. A Lev­el 1 (L1) charg­er means plug­ging straight in­to your home cur­ren­t, ei­ther 240 or 110 volts de­pend­ing where you are in the world. This is an un­sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly slow way to charge a BEV, a hand­ful of kRh.

  4. An L2 charg­er is what many peo­ple in­stall at home when they buy a BEV. Ways to mea­sure it in­clude kW (6 or 7), amps (30-ish), and you might get 30 or so kRh. The idea with an L2 is, you plug in your BEV while you sleep, and it’ll be charged when you want to head out in the morn­ing.

  5. An L3 charg­er is what you find in Tesla’s Su­per­charg­ers net­work, and re­cent­ly oth­er net­works such as Ioni­ty in Europe. Don’t know the Tes­la de­tail­s, but the ma­jor­i­ty of pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble ones in late 2018 run at 50kw or so, which is to say prob­a­bly bet­ter than 200 kRh.

    The Jaguar I’ve or­dered is ad­ver­tised as be­ing able to charge 80% in 40 min­utes on a 100kW charg­er (of which there are ap­prox­i­mate­ly ze­ro as I write), which my arith­metic sug­gests is like 450 kRh. Now, it’s more com­pli­cat­ed than that, be­cause it’s ac­tu­al­ly am­peres that charge your car, which is a func­tion of the up­stream source plus cir­cuits both in your charg­er and in your car. And it’s more com­pli­cat­ed than that be­cause fast charg­ers charge cars fast, but on­ly for the first 80% or so of ca­pac­i­ty, then they slow down. So the po­lite thing to do at a fast high­way charg­er is to charge up to on­ly 80%. For what it’s worth, there’s ex­cit­ed talk about high­er and high­er charg­er rat­ings, Ioni­ty claims they’ll be ship­ping 350KW charg­er­s: “Stop,drink a cof­fee, and go.”

Costs · A lot of peo­ple put in L2 charg­ers at their res­i­dences. They cost un­der a thou­sand buck­s, but you can’t in­stall one your­self, so for most peo­ple, by the time you’ve paid the elec­tri­cian and so on you’re prob­a­bly in for over a grand. I sus­pect these costs will come down, but not huge­ly; vol­ume will go up, which will help, but nobody’s pre­dict­ing big tech­nol­o­gy break­through­s. Hav­ing said that, a thou­sand bucks may be eco­nom­i­cal­ly tol­er­a­ble when you con­sid­er the trips to the fu­el pump you’re avoid­ing.

An L3 charg­er is an­oth­er sto­ry. This use­ful page at Oh­mHome sug­gests you’re look­ing at $50K and up, pos­si­bly way up. Among oth­er things, you have to run three-phase pow­er to the site, and you have pay a high­ly skilled pro­fes­sion­al to do the in­stal­la­tion be­cause at this pow­er rat­ing, mis­takes are apt to be lethal. In con­ver­sa­tions be­fore I ran across the Oh­mHome site, I’d heard typ­i­cal costs north of $100K, and some re­al­ly ex­trav­a­gant num­bers for the cost of the Su­per­charg­er sta­tion­s.

So, giv­en all that, who should build charg­er­s, and where?

Ho­tel and res­i­den­tial · I think this one’s pret­ty easy. Ho­tels and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments should try to have a num­ber of charge sta­tions cor­re­spond­ing to the lo­cal pro­por­tion of elec­tric cars. Ex­cept for, they should start with maybe twice the cur­rent val­ue, be­cause the pro­por­tion of elec­tric cars be­ing sold is way high­er than that al­ready out there. And I sus­pect that in places like ho­tel and con­do garages, the cost of in­stalling ten is way less than ten times the cost of in­stalling one. Th­ese should be L2 for charg­ing while sleep­ing; there’s no good rea­son to pay up for fast charg­er­s.

A word of warn­ing to ho­tel op­er­a­tors and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­er­s: The time is very near where I won’t con­sid­er your ho­tel or your con­do if I can’t be con­fi­dent of charg­ing while I sleep.

Em­ploy­ers · This is an in­ter­est­ing one. Lots of of­fice build­ings (in­clud­ing Amazon’s) have car charg­ers in the base­ment park­ing. But so far, near as I can tel­l, they all seem to be L2. I’m not sure I see the point; even if you could hog the charg­er all day while you work, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t get a full charge. Maybe it’s use­ful for peo­ple who have a short com­mute and don’t have a charg­er at home? And in fact most of these things are un-used when I drive by them, in Van­cou­ver and Seat­tle. There might be a case for L3 charg­ers at HQ for peo­ple like me who oc­ca­sion­al­ly drive down to Seat­tle and back in a day (I’ve done it, it suck­s) but the cur­rent L2 de­ploy­ment seems wast­ed.

Road­side at­trac­tions · Now, here’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing. When you’re do­ing an ex­tend­ed long-distance drive, you re­al­ly need fast charg­ers or you’e go­ing to be ridicu­lous­ly, laugh­ably slow­er than with a fossil-fuel car. So the place for them is by the high­way. Who’s go­ing to pay for them? Espe­cial­ly giv­en the high cost?

I orig­i­nal­ly thought that cof­fee shops would be the nat­u­ral homes for these things, add a charg­er and at­tract the crowd­s, but at $100K I don’t think the eco­nomics work. But here are a few oth­er in­ter­est­ed par­ties who might have an in­ter­est in mak­ing the in­vest­ment to put a fast charg­er near a big road:

  • Mall­s; the scale is pre­sum­ably large enough that the in­vest­ment looks more tractable, and they have an in­ter­est in keep­ing you parked for a while once you’ve ar­rived.

  • Cham­bers of com­merce; put a charg­er near the mid­dle of a small town’s road­side shop­ping street. This is a vari­a­tion on the mall the­me.

  • Car com­pa­nies, em­u­lat­ing Tesla’s strat­e­gy of us­ing a charg­ing net­work to help sell a brand of car. I’ve heard rum­bles that Volk­swa­gen is think­ing of this, and they cer­tain­ly have the scale.

  • Govern­ments, in­ter­est­ed in try­ing to meet their carbon-load re­duc­tion tar­get­s.

  • Elec­tric util­i­ties, try­ing to con­vince lots of peo­ple to buy elec­tric cars. Since the vast ma­jor­i­ty of elec­tric cars spend their time shut­tling peo­ple back and forth to their place of work, the util­i­ty prob­a­bly doesn’t need to charge enough to re­coup the in­vest­men­t. In oth­er word­s, the charg­ers serve a psy­cho­log­i­cal func­tion, re­as­sur­ing peo­ple that if they have the urge to drive across a cou­ple of time zones to vis­it the fam­i­ly for Thanks­giv­ing, that’ll be no prob­lem.

The fu­ture · One way or an­oth­er, I bet there are go­ing to be plen­ty of charg­ers out there. Just like to­day I don’t have to wor­ry much about whether the ho­tel I’m go­ing to has In­ter­net.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Chris R (Nov 04 2018, at 21:52)

I think you missed one option: rest stops. Those would be excellent options, too. Physically configured for it, even. The US interstates have them everywhere, and Canadian highways too. They're constants, everywhere.


From: Peter Eller (Nov 04 2018, at 22:50)

I hope the jag you are getting is an E-type Zero



From: Ivan Sagalaev (Nov 04 2018, at 23:28)

> A word of warn­ing to ho­tel op­er­a­tors and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­er­s: The time is very near where I won’t con­sid­er your ho­tel or your con­do if I can’t be con­fi­dent of charg­ing while I sleep.

Exactly how I chose the hotel for my trip to lake Chelan this year.


From: hawkse (Nov 05 2018, at 03:35)

L2 should be enough at workplaces. You would need to have a very long commute for needing a full charge every day.

No-one expects their petrol powered car to be fully fuelled for every single ride.

It's an interesting point though since the electric car definitely is a change in mindset. It's not 'refuel when the fuel runs low' but rather 'top up as soon as you get a chance'.

Much how we treat our phones and other electronic gizmos nowadays.


From: Rob Jordan (Nov 05 2018, at 04:45)

Tim, interesting discussion but there's something I'm missing. You don't discuss who pays for the electricity. I'm not sure if there's an unspoken assumption that charging stations at hotels, condos, coffee shops, malls dispense electricity for free? I might feel aggrieved as a cyclist or public transport user if my hotel charges / groceries are being inflated to subsidise EV drivers. OK, maybe it's a fringe concern, but if EVs scale up as expected, the transfer of fuel cost burden from directly-incurred by drivers, to public utility, is significant.

We are already seeing conflicts in the UK where pavement (read sidewalk) and cycleway space is being taken from pedestrians and zero-carbon cyclists to provide charging stations for EVs. Which - though a great step forward from fossil fuel guzzlers - are still contributing to congestion and de-humanisation of cities.


From: Martin (Nov 05 2018, at 05:10)

I own a Nissan Leaf for 2 years.

- My battery is smaller than your future car, but my commute is fine. Every day you start with a full tank.

- Your text assumes you need a full charge. All you need is enough to get you home. As such, a L2 is good enough for work. At most I charge half a day at work to fully fill in my (small) battery.

- On the road, you *need* L3 chargers and there is not enough yet. This is where the travel planning counts.

The real "killer" for me is the winter. -10C in Montreal removes 30-40% of my range.


From: Patrick Gibson (Nov 05 2018, at 09:38)

I'm not sure what it's like for other electric vehicles, but my Tesla Model 3 gets about 35km/hour range charging at most L2 chargers commonly found in mall parking lots, community centres, and libraries. If I was plugged in all day long at work at an L2 charger, I'd have to have arrived with a critically low battery to not get a completely full charge by the time I have to leave.


From: Ted (Nov 05 2018, at 12:28)

Suppose, worst case, that a million vehicle owners in the Metro Vancouver area all decide to use an L3 charger at the same time, 7am say. That's 10^6 x 5x10^4 = 5 x 10^10 watts = 50 Gigawatts ~= 50 medium-sized fossil fuel power plants. How will the utilities meet that kind of demand peak, using currently available technology ?


From: David Magda (Nov 06 2018, at 17:22)

While not a high-Level charger (5kW; 16A), having ubiquitous chargers may be as much of a good idea if you don't have to worry about location:



From: Boltonic (Nov 06 2018, at 19:33)

Regarding fast chargers, there are a variety of kinds of varying levels of capability. For example, the Bosch 25kW DC Fast Charger needs only single phase power input and 165A circuit. On the one hand, it's not a very fast fast charger, but on the other, it's 3.5 times faster than a typical Level 2 charger and costs less than US$10,000.

In the USA, the major companies installing fast chargers are ones that arose out of settlements, EVgo came out of a settlement with utility company Dynergy for their role in the California power crisis of 2001, and Electrify America came from Dieselgate. Electrify America will have 150 kW and 350 kW chargers along the US side of your route to Seattle (Bellingham, Everett and numerous Seattle locations) — expect them all to be open before June 2019.

Regarding Level 2 at work, these help people who can't plug in at home or who drive a plug-in hybrid, which will have very limited range. For these drivers plugging in at work can easily recover the battery used in getting to work, for most people in less than an hour, and even the longest commute in less than three.

If you charge at home and have a decent sized battery, there is obviously no need to charge at work unless it is free.


From: Michael (Nov 07 2018, at 00:01)

My colleague Christian and I kept talking about having a trailer that would have a small gas-powered (or propane) generator on it. It would generate power for the vehicle.

You'd therefore convert your BEV into a hybrid, only for the trips where you need the extra range.


From: Doug K (Nov 13 2018, at 10:02)

Like Rob I have wondered how charging at a station works, in terms of paying for the electricity. It seems trivial to set up a credit card payment in the charging station, every gas pump has this already.

To me an EV doesn't make sense until the electric grid is mostly powered by renewables. It's not clear that burning coal in a power station to generate electricity, instead of gas (petroleum) in the car, is a net gain. An EV with solar panels and storage battery at home seems ideal, but that runs into a lot of money.

The Union of Concerned Scientists developed the measure MPG(ghg) which is the miles per gallon equivalent in greenhouse gases. See link from my name.

So an EV getting 40 MPG(ghg) generates emissions equivalent to a gas car at 40mpg.

For coal-fired electricity, a gas car getting better than 30 MPG outperforms an EV in terms of ghg. That's why I have a Honda Fit and not an EV. For oil-fired, 32. For natural gas, 54, or what a hybrid gets.

There isn't a clear benefit to EVs until the electricity is all renewable, solar, wind etc.

Hydro has its own set of problems but at least in terms of greenhouse gases it is good. See


From: Doug K (Nov 13 2018, at 10:17)

"using a charging network to help sell a brand of car. I’ve heard rumbles that Volkswagen is thinking of this"

Not thinking of it - they were required to fund EV infrastructure, as part of the Dieselgate settlement - see link from my name. Electrify America is the VW subsidiary, committed to $2 billion of infrastructure spending.

There's that damned government regulation again, taking away our freedoms, and making life better for everybody. oh wait.


From: Jarek (Nov 14 2018, at 13:11)

"Suppose, worst case, that a million vehicle owners in the Metro Vancouver area all decide to use an L3 charger at the same time, 7am say. That's 10^6 x 5x10^4 = 5 x 10^10 watts = 50 Gigawatts ~= 50 medium-sized fossil fuel power plants. How will the utilities meet that kind of demand peak, using currently available technology ?"

They won't. Nor will they have to. If L3 chargers get popular, they will have demand-management pricing on them (50 kW requires separate wiring, so separate billing won't be surprising), so it'll get increasingly more expensive at peak times, and it'll encourage people to charge at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. This is fine. The real world doesn't scale, and for the most part gets by fine. Just imagine the line-ups if everyone tried to fill-up their fossil fuel car on the same day at 7 a.m. The water system couldn't deal if everyone repeatedly flushed their toilet for an hour, either.


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