The shift from internal combustion engines to electric drivetrains will have significant long-term impacts on the transportation sector. More immediately, five emerging trends are shaping the electrification landscape in 2022.
1. Increased investment in public charging is expected to accelerate EV interest.
The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earmarks $7.5 billion for transportation electrification — enough to jump-start construction of the 500,000 public charging stations that President Biden has pledged to install by 2030. This would represent a tenfold increase over the nation’s existing public EV charging station inventory, according to the Department of Energy, which would be expected to help fuel consumer confidence in going electric. Look for increased investment in fast charging stations at rest stops and travel plazas along highway corridors. Their success will depend on increased coordination among site hosts, charging companies, local utilities and state departments of transportation.
2. New EV models will have wider market appeal.
While early EV models appealed primarily to tech-savvy early adopters, the introduction of Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Rivian’s R1T, GM’s Silverado EV, and other consumer models is expanding the market to a broader, middle-class demographic. These electric trucks have onboard power systems that will appeal to consumers who want to power their construction tools or home with their vehicle during a power outage.
However, the learning curve associated with adopting new technologies and fueling patterns remains a hurdle for average consumers. Ongoing cross-industry collaboration is needed to make charging more convenient and easier to navigate.
3. Growth in EV adoption will add more stress to the grid.
EVs introduce unpredictable and transient point loads on a grid whose resiliency is already challenged by growth in renewables and aging infrastructure. While smart meters, distributed energy resources (DER) like solar and battery storage, and advanced communication systems can help manage increases in peak demand, more innovation is needed to protect against circuit and equipment overload and system imbalances when consumers plug in their EVs each night.
Scheduled charging software that coordinates and manages optimal charging at a distribution circuit level can help. Consumer campaigns that teach EV best practices also will be key to any solution. Still, as EV use grows, existing distribution infrastructure will require upgrades to accommodate larger loads. Utility customers are already inquiring about selling excess DER power to the grid — a question that will become more common as customers consider vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications. In some cases, new rate structures may be needed to enable the adoption of these technologies. Flat or no-demand charges, more accurate peak/off-peak times, and other time-of-use policies may be necessary to help balance grid supply and demand.
4. New power delivery solutions will increase charging power and speed.
Medium- and heavy-duty EVs — including box trucks, delivery vans, school and transit buses, and long-haul semitrucks — require more power than light-duty vehicles. With more commercial fleets looking to electrify their operations, some power delivery innovations will begin commercial deployment in 2022. Each offers specific advantages, from increasing maximum charging speeds to providing efficiencies at scale for large deployments. For fleet applications that might require dozens of individual DC fast charging cabinets, for example, containerized solutions that use centralized DC distribution are an emerging option. These containers can house multiple megawatts of DC rectifiers, reducing the number of foundations needed as well as the site’s footprint.
Some technologies may seem far-fetched, but the industry is moving quickly. Just five years ago, the average consumer fast charger was 50 kW. Today, it’s 150 kW and growing. These advances, along with bigger and better battery technology, support increases in EV charging ranges and will help the U.S. meet growing demand.
5. The transition to EVs will fundamentally change fleet operations.
Fleets of school buses, delivery vans, rental cars and other vehicles undergo a transformation when shifting from traditional fueling to electric charging methods. With gas station fueling becoming obsolete, fleet owners will need charging infrastructure tailored to their specific use cases.
Consider, for example, transit systems with buses that operate 16 to 20 hours per day, giving operators only a short window when batteries can be charged using high-power DC fast chargers. School buses, on the other hand, operate intermittently and sit idle for extended periods of time. They can charge at a much lower rate. School bus fleets are a strong contender for V2G applications for this reason. No matter the use case, energy management will grow more critical as fleets transition to electric. Many complex inputs will need to be considered to prepare the fleet for the next day’s operations, while also minimizing peak demand on the electrical service.
When making decisions about charging infrastructure, it’s essential to understand the different levels, plug types and charging needs. Learn more about the distinctions.