North Coast EV Charging Infrastructure

EVCSmapThe first phase of the installation of electric vehicle charging stations (EVCSs) for the Redwood Coast Electric Vehicle Charging Network (REVNet) is nearly complete. REVNet is a coordinated effort led by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) to jumpstart public charging infrastructure on the North Coast. Over the last year, 10 EVCSs have been installed at nine locations across Humboldt County: Trinidad, McKinleyville, Arcata, Eureka (two stations), Willow Creek, Ferndale, Fortuna, and Rio Dell.

In 2012, SERC partnered with the RCEA in the development of a Readiness Plan for the North Coast region of California. One of the key results of this work was the projected number of publically accessible EVCSs needed to support an on-road fleet comprised of 2% electric vehicles (approximately 3,000 vehicles). In 2013, SERC again partnered with RCEA in the pursuit of funding for the first installation phase of charging stations in Humboldt County, which was successfully awarded under CEC grant ARV-13-029.

A dual head 7.2kW charging station installed at The Greenway Building in Arcata.

A dual head 7.2kW charging station installed at The Greenway Building in Arcata.

This project involves many partners, with SERC coordinating the installation effort as Owner’s Engineer for RCEA. Dave Carter is managing construction, with Kristen Radecsky and Jerome Carman supporting. RCEA and SERC partnered with OurEvolution Energy & Engineering to lead the civil engineering tasks, and GHD to review electrical plans. McKeever Energy & Electric Inc., who partnered with DCI Builders for civil contracting work, won the public bid for an electrical contractor to install EVCSs at seven of the nine sites. The other two sites, McKinleyville Shopping Center (owned by Pierson Company) and St. Joseph Hospital, used their own electrical contractors, Ambrosini and Sons and Colburn Electric respectively.

RCEA is piloting a non-profit ownership model. The stations are planned to be operational in March.

Helping California Pursue Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the Transportation Sector

The State of California has set ambitious goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions:  a reduction to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), 28% of the State’s total greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to light-duty passenger vehicles. Understandably, the State has placed significant focus on reducing emissions in the transportation sector, with a key strategy being the widespread deployment of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). This includes both plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCVs), two technology areas where SERC has significant expertise.

As part of their policy analyses, CARB staff estimated that ZEV market penetration levels over the next three decades will need to reach dramatic levels in order for us to reach our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. The figure below depicts a scenario where FCVs and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) make up a whopping 87% of the light duty auto fleet in 2050, with the remainder of the fleet being composed of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), and conventional vehicles.

Target Market Penetration Levels for Passenger Vehicles

State sponsored efforts to encourage and even require the widespread deployment of ZEVs include regulations requiring auto manufactures to sell a minimum number of ZEVs in the State; consumer rebates for ZEV purchases; funding to support local planning for ZEVs and associated fueling infrastructure; and funding to support the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations.

Many of SERC’s projects over the last two decades have supported these efforts. In the early days (circa 1990), SERC developed a small fleet of FCVs and a hydrogen fueling station for SunLine Transit in Thousand Palms, CA. Later SERC provided technical support for AC Transit’s fuel cell bus program, and delivered hydrogen safety trainings for emergency first responders for FCV projects around the country. SERC designed and installed a hydrogen fueling station at Humboldt State University, which has enabled SERC to operate, test, and demonstrate a Toyota Highlander FCV for the last five years.

Participants check out EVs like this Nissan Leaf at the Upstate EV101 workshop in Redding, CA.

Participants check out EVs like this Nissan Leaf at the Upstate EV101 workshop in Redding, CA.

In the last few years, SERC has been involved in several California Energy Commission funded projects to support the deployment of ZEVs. These efforts have included Plug-In Electric Vehicle Readiness projects for the North Coast region (Humboldt, Trinity, and Del Norte counties) and the Upstate region (Shasta, Siskiyou, and Tehama counties). These two projects featured the development of plans to install EV charging stations throughout these regions. SERC’s work in these locales continues as we identify additional locations for EV charging stations and support the design and installation of many of these stations. In addition, we are working on a project to assess the opportunities and barriers associated with deployment of a wide array of alternative fuel vehicles in the North Coast region. This includes not only EVs and FCVs, but also biofuel and natural gas fueled vehicles.

SERC has also recently partnered with the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley and others to establish the Northern California Center for Alternative Transportation Fuels and Advanced Vehicle Technologies (NorthCAT).  NorthCAT will focus on education, training, demonstration, and deployment of alternative transportation fuels and advanced vehicle technologies in the Northern California region.

Watch future newsletters for updates on these projects as SERC continues to help the north state region move toward a low-carbon, sustainable transportation future.

SERC Wraps Up PEV Modeling for Delhi, India

SERC recently finished a study applying our agent-based Plug-in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (PEVI) model to the city of Delhi, India. Partnering with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL), we were able to combine our model with an advanced vehicle performance model to make recommendations for siting electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in Delhi.

Recommended EV chargers at 1% fleet penetration (~10,000 drivers). Level 1 chargers (blue) make up nearly half of the cost, with Level 2 (purple) and DC Fast (orange) chargers accounting for about 30% and 20% of the cost, respectively.

Recommended placement of EV chargers at 1% fleet penetration (~10,000 drivers). Level 1 chargers are in blue, Level 2 chargers are in purple, and DC Fast chargers are in orange. For this scenario, it was assumed that half of all drivers had access to home charging.

While we have used the PEV model previously for northern California, applying the model to Delhi brought new challenges. We had to abandon many of the assumptions underlying our earlier California models – for example, we could no longer assume that every driver had access to a charger at home.

It comes as no surprise that the results of our Delhi study differed from our California studies. Whereas the California results favor medium- to high-power Level 2 and DC Fast chargers, the Delhi results heavily favor Level 1 chargers, which charge at half the rate as Level 2 chargers. Our base scenario recommendations are shown below. These include 1,671 chargers at a price of $1.6 M; of these, 1,550 were Level 1 chargers, representing approximately half of the overall cost. The map of Delhi shows the distribution of different power chargers throughout the city.

In addition to the above recommendations, our analysis revealed several key lessons to help with future planning:

  • Access to home charging alone is not enough to get drivers everywhere they need to go.
  • Battery-swapping stations, despite their refill speed, are too expensive to be a cost-effective solution for Delhi.
  • Heavy congestion makes EVs impractical for many drivers, particularly when air-conditioning is used in the vehicle.

With India’s National Electric Mobility Mission Plan targeting 400,000 EVs nationwide by 2020, the next five years promise many lessons for supporting drivers through strategic siting of chargers.

SERC Continues Electric Vehicle Planning Work in Two New Regions

Earlier this year we reported on our plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) readiness planning work for Humboldt County. Building on this effort, SERC is now engaged in similar studies for New Delhi, India as well as the Upstate Region of California (covering the counties of Siskiyou, Shasta, and Tehama).

In partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, SERC will be adapting our agent-based PEV model to simulate vehicle adoption and the need for public charging infrastructure in New Delhi, India. Among the many new challenges presented by this opportunity are capturing the impact of congestion on electric vehicle performance and simulating battery-swapping as an alternative to conventional charging. Like the Humboldt project, the Upstate Region readiness effort will involve a range of activities intended to prepare the region for the ongoing roll-out of plug-in electric vehicles. These tasks include adapting the infrastructure deployment model to evaluate the Upstate Region, streamlining permitting in the region, increasing public awareness about PEVs, and evaluating the challenges and opportunities associated with PEV adoption.

SERC Completes Siting Analysis for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure on the North Coast

Over half of Humboldt County’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Nationwide, the transportation sector contributes 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Plug-in electric vehicle (PEVs) present a compelling opportunity for communities to dramatically reduce these emissions along with air pollutants responsible for a wide range of adverse health impacts.

To support the successful introduction of PEVs to the North Coast, SERC is serving as the technical lead on the North Coast Plug-in Electric Vehicle Readiness Study. Funded by the California Energy Commission, this work is being done in partnership with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and local engineering firm GHD.

One of the key questions we have addressed is how to deploy PEV chargers throughout the region in a cost-effective manner. This is a complex question. Where will PEV drivers live? Where will they drive? How long will they spend at their destinations? How will drivers adapt when they need a charge but no station is available?

Our approach to answering these questions was to develop an “agent-based” simulation model of PEV drivers in Humboldt County. Individual PEV drivers (or agents) are simulated as they conduct their daily travel throughout the county and interact with a hypothetical charging network. Drivers begin a day with a vehicle, an itinerary of trips, and a set of rules for how to behave. An example of a rule would be that drivers seek out a charger if their battery doesn’t have sufficient energy to make their next trip. Another example would be that some drivers elect to charge their vehicle even if it’s not necessary.

The simulation evolves over the course of the day as drivers follow their rule sets, interact with the charger network, and respond to changing circumstances. At the end of a simulation run, we can summarize the day’s events in a multitude of ways. Where, when, and how often did drivers charge? How many drivers experienced inconvenience of some kind (e.g., experienced a delay while waiting for a charger)? By repeatedly running the simulation with different charger locations, we can use the model to evaluate the impact of any hypothetical infrastructure scenario on driver inconvenience.

For a given penetration of PEVs into Humboldt County, we used optimization to find the infrastructure scenario that provided the greatest benefit to drivers for the least cost. The map of Eureka below provides an example of the recommended infrastructure for 2% penetration of PEVs, or roughly 3000 vehicles. Maps of the whole county can be downloaded at

The recommended PEV charging infrastructure for the City of Eureka for 2% penetration of PEVs, or roughly 3000 vehicles. The estimated cost of this scenario is $130k.

The recommended PEV charging infrastructure for the City of Eureka for 2% penetration of PEVs, or roughly 3000 vehicles. The estimated cost of this scenario is $130k.

We also developed some general conclusions about the optimal siting of PEV chargers in Humboldt, which are likely transferable to other rural communities:

  • Overall, relatively few chargers are needed to support a large number of PEV drivers.  Approximately 45 public chargers were sufficient to support about 3000 drivers in the 2% penetration scenario. Drivers will be able to accomplish most of their travel needs (~90%) just by charging at home.
  • Chargers tend to be sited in and around population centers and major regional corridors.
  • Level 2 chargers (which can charge a Nissan Leaf in ~5-6 hours) provide a more cost-effective means of supporting PEV drivers than DC fast chargers (which can charge a Leaf in less than 1 hour). This is primarily because DC fast chargers are about 10 times more expensive to install and only charge batteries to 80% of full capacity.
  • Exact siting of chargers is flexible. Chargers can be sited in one zone or a neighboring one and the overall impact on PEV drivers will be about the same as long as the total need for chargers in that region is satisfied.

Our deployment guidelines wouldn’t be complete without an estimate for when the infrastructure should be in place. To answer this question, we looked at the historic adoption of the Toyota Prius and other hybrids in Humboldt. If we assume that drivers will adopt PEVs at the same rate as hybrids, then we would expect that 1% of the light duty vehicles in Humboldt will be PEVs by approximately 2018 and 2% by 2025. In other words, there’s little time to spare in rolling out PEV chargers.

Fortunately, the North Coast PEV Readiness team is already working on a near-term implementation plan. Critical to this plan is identifying specific sites where the first wave of PEV chargers might be installed. This process involves soliciting input and feedback from a variety of municipalities and local stakeholders to ensure that the final sites reflect the needs and priorities of the whole community. If you’d like more information, or want to participate in this process, contact the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

A Message from the Director

I am honored to write my first newsletter column as Director of the Schatz Energy Research Center. The faculty, staff, and students who work at SERC are a talented and dedicated group of people, and it is a privilege to work with such a fantastic team.

As I start in this new role, I am conscious of the large shoes I am attempting to fill. Peter Lehman has directed SERC boldly and effectively since it was founded in 1989. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate closely with Peter over the years to come as he continues to play a leading role in his position as Founding Director.

Under the leadership of Peter and long time Co-Director Charles Chamberlin, SERC has built a reputation for taking on innovative and challenging renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that make a difference for the environment and society, carefully measuring and analyzing energy system performance, and building things that work. It was, in fact, these characteristics that attracted me to SERC, first as an Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) master’s student back in 1992 and later—after completing a PhD in Energy and Resources at UC Berkeley—as a faculty member in the ERE department in 2005. These traits are now deeply embedded into the culture of who we are at SERC, and we will, of course, strive to build on them.

Since becoming a Co-Director at SERC in 2007, I have worked with Peter, Charles, and the broader team to develop three key themes at the Center. First, we have worked to increase student involvement in SERC projects. Second, we have taken on interdisciplinary projects that combine technical rigor with policy and social science analysis. And third, we have diversified our portfolio of projects; for example, we now have a robust set of international efforts that complement our local, state, and nationally oriented projects. These will continue to be high priority themes going forward.

The lead story in this issue exemplifies the marriage between SERC’s longstanding core capabilities and the emerging themes we have been working to add. The GridShare project involves the application of smart grid concepts to improve the quality of electrical service from a village scale renewable energy mini-grid in Bhutan. Successful implementation involved collaboration with international partners and an interdisciplinary approach that spanned technical, socio-economic, and educational activities. The project was also a student-led effort that provided significant opportunities for learning and professional development for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Closer to home, in this issue we also report on an analysis of infrastructure needs for plug-in electric vehicle infrastructure for Humboldt County; the release of RePowering Humboldt, a strategic plan for scaling up renewable energy use over the next two decades here in Humboldt County; and progress on the HSU hydrogen fueling station upgrade. It is exciting to be involved in this diverse and meaningful set of projects. I look forward to many more in the years to come.

North Coast Electric Vehicle Planning Study

As part of a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) planning study for our North Coast community, SERC engineers have been busy developing a simulation model of PEV drivers and their experiences traveling through the county in electric vehicles. The model will allow us to investigate the demand for public charging stations and make recommendations for prioritizing which sites are the most critical to supporting the widespread adoption of PEVs in Humboldt County. We are working in collaboration with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and GHD (formerly Winzler and Kelly) on this study funded by the California Energy Commission.

Meanwhile, there is recent good news for electric vehicle owners in the county. Ourevolution Energy & Engineering will receive funding from the California Energy Commission to install electric vehicle charging stations in Eureka and Arcata. The two stations, which could be installed by the beginning of 2013, will feature ChargePoint equipment by Coulomb Technologies. This project will increase the number of modern charging stations in Humboldt County from one to three and increase the total number of public stations from three to five.