When it comes to charging an electric vehicle (EV) fleet, it’s a bit of a “Tale of Two Cities” situation. You remember, that’s the one that starts with the famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
In some respects, it is the best of times: we’ve never seen the commitment to EVs like we see now. Investments to develop more fast-charging stations across the country are pouring in from federal and state governments and agencies, from automakers, and from VCs. Precedence Research forecasts the market for EV charging stations will reach $417B by 2030, and that’s by growing at a rate of 30% per year from where we are now with a $35B market.
We see intent and funding at all levels, and we’re undoubtedly heading in the right direction to create the needed infrastructure to help move us away from fossil fuel dependency.
Working Through Infrastructure Challenges
What’s concerning, though, is the very act of building infrastructure for sustainable solutions might very well negate their altruistic purpose.
Infrastructure is responsible for more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a difficult pill to swallow when your vision is a world made better through EV solutions.
It’s imperative that we as an industry reevaluate how we’re building our infrastructure – not simply what the infrastructure hopes to achieve. Currently, if a fleet operation needs a charging station, they’ll spend anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 per station to install permanent infrastructure. That cost doesn’t include the thousands of additional dollars required to run and bury wiring under the parking lot, or the untold cost of time, as this process can take anywhere from 12-36 months.
Electrification is happening now, as evidenced at ACT Expo and other recent events where a number of new electric commercial vehicles entered the market. While charging infrastructure is not at the same place as vehicle development and market entry, it will be soon.
Understanding Sustainable Solutions
It’s on us as an industry to create sustainable infrastructure, designed from the start to maximize positive impacts on the economy, society and the environment, especially as electrification continues to scale. But what choices are there?
Potential solutions available to electrified fleets primarily consist of networks of public charging stations, as well as fleet depot solutions and dedicated charging hubs. There are also solar companies and solar carport providers which serve commercial fleets, pilot programs for future roadways that will charge vehicles as they drive, and ideas to add charging functionality to existing infrastructure such as lamp posts.
Looking beyond existing business models, at Shyft we created a potential solution called the Power Cube, designed for flexible, mobile and temporary EV charging. Our hope is that by rethinking the lifecycle of infrastructure – leveraging a portable, flexible microgrid that requires no digging or trenching for a permanent underground connection – we will leave a softer carbon footprint.
In essence, it is clean, responsible energy when and where you need it. When it’s no longer needed or there is a desire to move the charging station to a different location, it simply gets picked up and moved. This portability also creates possibilities for adaptability, too.
Consider the case of a natural disaster, where grid power may be knocked out across a large geographic area and power is absolutely required for rescue and damage-control operations. Or military applications, where portable charging pods can provide a charge to drones, ground vehicles and communications equipment. Use cases become endless – and potential for good expands exponentially.
We know it’s absolutely critical for the transportation industry to take action and reduce its carbon footprint – which is why creating a better, more sustainable, and inclusive future is a fundamental value of the Shyft Group. Doubling down and investing R&D support in truly sustainable innovation is one way can truly create the best of times with a smart, responsible, sustainable approach to fueling the EV promise and delivering a more sustainable, purpose-driven future.
About the Author: Eric Fisher is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Shyft Innovations, the Shyft R&D arm responsible for Blue Arc EV Solutions.