Green Charge Networks - Saving EV Drivers and Nailing Energy Spikes

Sunday, April 22, 2012 7 comments
Each time I have a conversation about EVs with a newbie, I ALWAYS get the question:...

What happens when you run out of "fuel" on the highway?

After I explain that my Nissan Leaf will tell me when I'm low on fuel (multiple times) and guide me to the nearest charging station, people are impressed with the final answer: In the very near future, I can call AAA and they will drive a truck out to give me a 10 minute charge that gives me about 10 miles of range.  There are 6 currently deployed...and one is in Tampa, just 80 miles away from me.

The idea of AAA offering this type of roadside assistance is brilliant and fits in perfectly with their existing roadside services.  AAA is actually trying three different types of systems to charge electric vehicles:
    1. Lithium ion battery pack. 
    2. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) driven generator. 
    3. Generator powered by truck's engine. 
Since using a Lithium Battery Pack to charge an electric vehicle is a new idea, AAA worked with Green Charge Networks to create a custom solution that fit into AAA's existing service trucks.

Green Charge Networks (GCN)


Creating a mobile EV Charging solution was a logical next step for GCN, as they had been making mobile energy storage solutions for utilities that enable EV charging at any location, such as sporting or music events.

GCN was founded in 2007 by Ron Prosser, who had a long and very successful career with Boeing and Rockwell (see GCN's website).  The bi-coastal company (CA-NY) is now run by Ryan Prosser, Ron's son.

The company was one of the first to use Lithium Batteries for Energy Storage...with the intent of charging the system off-peak (when there is a surplus of cheaper energy) and discharging the batteries when there is quick demand for electricity (a demand spike), such as when a big motor, A/C, or refrigeration systems starts up.  The idea is to use stored energy to flatten out these demand spikes so that they don't affect the electric utility company's infrastructure.

What's wrong with demand spikes?

Electric Utilities have a mission to provide electricity 24x7...without fail.  To do this, they must size transformers and wires so that they can deliver enough electricity across their service area without overloading.  While utilities charge for fuel usage and generation, most utilities charge commercial electricity customers a "demand" charge which is based on highest amount of kW usage in a time period...in most cases this is a 15 minute time period). 

This demand charge is to offset the infrastructure needed to get the maximum power to your building.  This means if a business normally uses 70 kW...but uses 200 kW for 5 minutes when A/C systems are turned on in the morning, the business pays a demand charge on the 200 kW.  Demand charges vary, but in Florida they are $5/kW...so in this instance an extra 200kW x $5 = $1,000 would be added to your bill.  If your building didn't have this demand spike...you could save $650 a month...and that's the business case for GCN's GreenStation product.

GreenStation - A Utility-Focused Product

The GreenStation has a battery pack sized for the energy need (68 kWh typical) and control hardware/software, which can profile, detect, and act on demand spikes while recharging off-peak.

They also have a mobile version of the Greenstation with a 68kW battery pack to provide energy management to buildings or charging electric cars at any location, such as sporting or music events....the mobile version could give 15 Leafs a 20 mile charge.

The GreenStation was developed with ConEdison of New York, which is also GCN's first customer.  GreenStations have also been deployed at 7-Eleven, and AVIS Rent a Car at La Guardia Airport to fast charge their fleet of Nissan Leafs.

Morphing the product for mobile charging on a AAA Service Truck

When AAA was looking for a mobile charging solution, GCN worked with AAA to create a ruggedized and compact version of their utility product.  Making it ruggedized posed the biggest challenge, as it had to perform in all weather environments and handle getting bounced around in a truck all day.   Their EVRoadside product has a 260 Amp onboard system with a removable lithium battery of a minimum of 3 kWh and can charge electric vehicles at a Level 3 (CHADeMO) or Level 2 (J1772).  The EVRoadside can be recharged using 220/40A, 110/15A, or with a supplemental alternator installed in the truck

At this point, AAA has two of GCN's pilot trucks on the road with several more about to be deployed.  The company is hiring and has doubled revenue last year.  GCN is charging ahead...

How to get your Charging Station on Nissan Leaf's GPS Map

Saturday, April 21, 2012 10 comments

Nissan Leaf GPS display showing charging stations
denoted by a blue 120v Plug.
Do you have a publicly available, non-networked Electric Vehicle charging station?

Would you like Nissan Leaf drivers to see your charger on their GPS map so they can charge at your location?

The short answer is to click on this link and submit your charger's location to NAVTEQ.

Keep reading for the long answer and the how-to...

Residential EVSE Review: Schneider EV2430WS

Monday, April 9, 2012 7 comments
When it came down to buying an EVSE for my Nissan Leaf, I did my research on residential EV Chargers and ended up choosing a Schneider Model EV2430WS.  Here's what I think of the product after using it for 4 months...

Quality

Perfect Performance: The EV2430WS has charged my Leaf flawlessly since it was installed.  I basically charge once a day, so that's 120 times I've used it with 0 defects.  Having a reliable charging station is very important to an EV driver...because if my car isn't charged when I expect it to be, I won't be a happy guy.

Good Materials: The shell of the unit is durable plastic that's easy to clean.  The display is bright and buttons are easy to press.  The cord is thick, but flexible...and finally the plug is solid 

Design/Ease of Use

Like most residential EV Chargers, the EV2430WS is simple to use: you simply plug it into your car when you want to charge and pull it out when you're finished.  It's that easy - you don't need to press any buttons on the EVSE ever.

Given that many there are many standards governing the operation of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), they should all nearly work the same.  Since the Schneider EV2439WS is UL Approved and is J1772 Compatible, it's safety and basic functionality are basically guaranteed.

Favorite Feature: Perhaps the best feature of the EV2430WS is the user interface.  In one simple display, it allows you to see how many hours your car has been charging, shows you warning lights, allows you to delay the start of charging, and allows you to manually stop the charging process.

Each segment of the lighted circle around the display represents one hour of charge.  As you can see in the picture, the Leaf has been charging for 3 hours.

For cord management, the EV2439WS includes a simple powdercoated rack to store the cord. 

Features

  • Integral ground fault interrupter set at 5mA that meets the UL definition for people protection
  • Automatic recovery and restart after ground fault interrupt or main power loss
  • Ground monitor
  • Option to have advanced metering functionality to collect and monitor energy and demand profile data

Specifications