Plugging Your EV

UG Planning + Urban Design
5 min readNov 9, 2021

Patrick Doyle, Engineering Supervisor/ Project Manger 3

With a growing number of electric vehicles coming to a market near you, it appears battery vehicles will be the norm in 10 years — maybe sooner.

Remember the cash for clunkers program? Ok maybe you don’t. It was a 2009 government incentive of up to $4,500 to trade in your old car for a new and presumably “greener” car intended to stimulate the recently bailed out auto industry. Many credit the program with helping pull the US out of the Great Recession. The wildly popular 2009 program was oversubscribed but was a mixed success. People probably would have replaced their cars even without the program and the slow economic recovery required more systemic measures than a short-term stimulus could have ever provided. Sound familiar?

Similarly, electric vehicle purchases are receiving a $7,500 subsidy while fossil fuel taxes are going up. For example, in 2021 Missouri implemented an annual fuel tax increase of 2½ cents a gallon. In other news, Volkswagen (VW) is on the hook for $5 billion to fund green infrastructure such as electric vehicle chargers resulting from the dieselgate scandal; VW intentionally programmed diesels to activate emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing (German efficiency?). The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is currently requesting input on how to spend the first $2-million tranche (KDOT RFI VW Trust Fund). Add to this the convenience of never going to Quick Trip again, terrifying acceleration, and a spooky quiet ride, consumer self-interest might carry the day for electric vehicles.

As for the big picture, electric cars won’t save the world, but they will slow the rate of climate change, at least until fusion reactors make energy free and environmentally benign for all. Watch for my blog on fusion out in just 30 short years. Presently electricity comes from various sources depending on location. Presently, half of Wyandotte County’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) electricity is produced from renewables, largely through a windfarm in southeast Kansas and a community solar farm (BPU Solar Farm). Fossil fuels make the other half provided mostly through natural gas. When I charge my phone, I can feel green compared to my compatriots in the Evergy service area who are only 30% green power (though this is changing fast). Solar and wind generation prices are competitive now and prices are still falling compared to fossil fuels. Evergy advertises they will be carbon neutral the year my fusion blog comes out. Coincidence? You be the judge.

The images is illustrating examples of regenerative energy.

Here’s the mthy™ part of this article. In round numbers, Wyandotte County’s 200,000 residents use one gallon of fuel a day to drive 20 miles. At $3/gallon, $200 million per year goes from residents to oil producers outside the “Dotte.” Electric cars use 0.25 kWh/mile. At 10 cents/kWh that’s $36 million annually into our wholly owned non-profit utility, BPU. There’s no free lunch in this world. BPU which currently generates 600MW needs to generate 50MW of added green power to fill the demand. Coal won’t do since the point of the exercise is to reduce carbon, not shift it from cars to fossil power plants. How much more green do we need? It takes 100 wind turbines or a million solar panels to do the trick. There’s currently 1.5GW of wind power under construction in Kansas so the goal is achievable.

It’s not, however, all rosy in the short term. Apparently, there’s not enough balsa wood on Earth to fill the need for the wind turbine blades, copper is in short supply and though rare earth metals aren’t really rare, they are hard to refine. When the wind dies and the sun sets, power will predominantly come from fossil fuel. Battery storage is the long-term solution to equalizing green power supply with demand. Fortunately, every car is a battery storage device available some 20 hours a day after commutes and shopping (AAA Driving Survey 2021). BPU has the head scratching problem of figuring out how to connect 40,000 mobile batteries to the grid. Instead of manually reading meters, now automated, they will need to scurry around stringing extension cords to Teslas, Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs.

ILLUSTRATION: MCKIBILLO

One innovation is swapping charged with discharged batteries. Strategically located automated devices allow “filling up” in minutes (How it works Ample). Tesla reconfigured car washes into 7-minute battery swapping stations in 2015. The swapping process also resolves battery end of life issues of cost and disposal. What can the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City Kansas (UG) Planning + Urban Design do to help? We are going to look into a streamlined process for permitting thousands of charging outlets. Permits cost $30 plus $0.75 per $100 in work. Outlets can be Level 1, 2, or 3. A Level 1 outlet charges a car in 20 hours, a level 2 in 4 hours, and a Level 3 in 30 minutes. Level 1 is simply a standard 110v outlet. Level 2 is a 208/240v outlet which likely requires installation. When the electric panel is close to the garage, a short run of wire, breaker and 240v outlet can be simple to install.

A self-supporting outlet for outside parking with underground power will be significantly more involved. A Level 3 outlet generally requires 480v power not available from most residential power panels. Leveraging on the Small Cell process, typical details can be provided to cover most installation scenarios and advertise future developments such as VW money, contactless charging and the aforementioned battery swapping. Anticipate the charging plug decommissioning permit fee when the fusion powered DeLorean comes out in the Spring of 2050 (pending chip shortages).

References:

“Kansas Register.” Issue 36–09–09–2021 | Department of Transportation | Request for Information for Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund Allocation for Electric Vehicle Direct Current Fast-Charging Installation Program — 49431, https://sos.ks.gov/publications/Register/Volume-40/Issues/Issue%2036/09-09-21-49431.html.

“Resources.” The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU), https://www.bpu.com/Resources/SolarFarm.aspx.

“Electric Cars for Everyone.” Ample, 8 Mar. 2021, https://ample.com/how-it-works/.

--

--