How Grid-Connected Storage Can Help Businesses Offer Electric Car Fast Charging For Less

Electric car rapid chargers — or Level 3 (L3) charging stations — are great, replenishing the battery pack of an electric car in less time than it takes to grab a quick meal. But while they’re great for electric car owners, businesses which offer electric car rapid charging not only have to contend with the cost of installation but also any extra fees levied against them by their utility company for causing spikes in electrical grid demand every time someone plugs in.

Electric Car rapid charging is great for electric car owners, but can be expensive for commercial operators

Electric Car rapid charging is great for electric car owners, but can be expensive for commercial operators

On-site grid-connected energy storage systems can help reduce sudden power spikes to the local electrical grid and save businesses money by storing power locally when demand is low and then using it later when grid demand is high. Connected to an electric vehicle charging station, they can even make the cost of offering electric car fast charging far more palatable for companies wanting to support the green revolution.

As a Tesla Model S owner and driver, I have been aware of how useful the combination of Level 3 and desintation charging could be before I even took delivery of my car in November 2013.  In fact during my pickup weekend of the Model S, we drove the vehicle over 700 miles from the Fremont factory to the Sonoma Wine Country and back to Southern California over the course of a weekend with a mix of 110V L1, 240V L2, and Tesla Superchargers L3.

The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica now has both a CHAdeMo rapid charger and innovative energy storage system.

The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica now has both a CHAdeMo rapid charger and innovative energy storage system.

In celebration of Earth Day 2015 and to continue its leadership amongst Santa Monica’s luxury hotels, the Shore Hotel (a LEED Gold building) invited us to the unveiling of the next step in environmentally friendly hospitality.   On Monday, April 20, 2015, the hotel had a ceremony to announce the hotel’s partnership with NRG eVgo and Green Charge Networks to install a CHAdeMO Level 3 charger that is enhanced with a GreenStation™ intelligent energy storage system.  The hotel announcement was also attended by Kia Motors America, Inc., which brought a shiny blue and white Kia Soul EV to do the Level 3 charging with.

What sort of enhancement does the system do for the user?  Well, quite simply, it doesn’t do anything directly for the EV driver.  What it does do is it makes it more affordable for potential L3 sites to support the EV community by doing something called energy demand management.  One of the roadblocks to sites that are intending to sponsor L3 charging is the economic structure that utilities in the United States use have these constructs known as “demand charges”.  A demand charge is typically charged to a commercial location when it reached the highest usage of energy over a fifteen minute span in a month.  In the case of the Shore Hotel, they use Southern California Edison, and Vic Shao, the CEO of Green Charge Networks, had estimated that these charges could be $1,200 during the summer peak.  (Although we note April is actually during the off-peak period and Mr. Shao did not quote estimated off-peak charges.)

The official ribbon ceremony marked the opening of the station for the first time.

The official ribbon ceremony marked the opening of the station for the first time.

To the Shore Hotel, the use of the GreenStation™ system was provided at no cost to the property.  Green Charge Networks is compensated with 50% of the savings that the site achieves by avoiding the demand charges.  Therefore, in the example above, instead of paying the utility company $1,200 for the demand charge peak, they pay Green Charge Networks $600 to avoid the charge and use the power they purchased and stored in the batteries.  This agreement, which Green Charge Networks calls a Power Efficiency Agreement™, provides an incentive to those already willing to install charging with a lower operating cost.  So, site operators are able to get the benefits of providing L3 charging and minimize their costs.

So, how big is the system?  A typical stack from Green Charge Networks is 30 kWh of power.  At the Shore Hotel there are two stacks for a total 60 kWh. The batteries are Samsung Li-ion and they expect the batteries to last for 10 years.  (since it is an immobile battery, no mileage limits were provided. 😉 ) Since it is this Power Efficiency Agreement™ that the Shore Club entered into with Green Charge Networks, no price for the system was provided.  However, using the generally accepted $300 per kWh figure that, each rack must be about $9,000 plus the cost of the install.  So, a two stack system is about $18,000 in batteries.  That means that the 10 year Agreement that the Shore Club has with Green Charge Networks would be paid back in 30 months, based on demand charge savings for the battery pack alone.

This is how it works.

Vic Shao shows how the GreenStation™ intelligent energy storage system works

How does it work? Vic Shao was displaying the system in action as he and Steve Kosowski, Manager, Long Range Strategy, Kia Motors America, Inc. plugged in the Kia Soul EV and proceeded to use the CHAdeMO station. If you look at the chart behind Vic Shao, There is a Green chart with an Orange color overlaid on top of it. The orange overlay is the amount of power being drawn by the entire hotel (including the Level 3 charger) during the charge event that is occurring. It is this avoidance of peak that the Green Charge Networks shares in the savings with the Shore Hotel. The monitors that is installed for the building looks at the facility’s usage patterns and refills the batteries with power from the grid during periods of low usage, so that it can use the power for the periods that it is in demand.

One thing that came to my mind about the system is whether the units can double as a UPS for the building? I asked the representative about this and was told that the units only function for the peak demand shaving function and not as a building UPS. Additionally, the company has 19 installed units and over 150 sites under contract for installation.

The system could encourage more businesses to support electric car rapid charging.

The system could encourage more businesses to support electric car rapid charging.

That sounds great for them, but as an EV driver, why should I care?  As inexpensively as power could cost, the demand charges can add up.  If EV drivers care about being able to charge in many locations, EV drivers should understand that those that sponsor these sites have to be able to do so with positive economic effect to the business that is sponsoring such a site. Those that offer charging to users at little or no cost, expect some sort of return for their generosity. The demand shaping that these onsite battery units can do helps site sponsors operate their business and offer EV charging while minimizing costs to their own businesses.

It is commendable that the Shore Hotel is taking a leadership role in providing the convenience of a CHAdeMO L3 station at its location (regardless of the relatively new installation, this location has no CCS). It seems counter-intuitive to provide L3 to its own guests, but since it offers the service, why not? In fact, an overnight stay like a hotel is ideal for the use of L1 charging, however, the Shore Hotel doesn’t provide or allow for L1 charging of guests.

An official presentation took place to explain how the system operated.

An official presentation took place to explain how the system operated.

I reached out to the hotel representatives to ask if the NRG eVgo charging was gratis for hotel guests and customers of the hotel’s restaurant or other facilities and was told that the cost to charge at the location for any user, whether a guest of the hotel or someone in transit is the same as other public NRG eVgo sites. The NRG eVgo website lists a schedule of different charging options that changes depending on what area of the United States a particular user is accessing their network. The a la carte program on the eVgo Los Angeles menu listed a $4.95 account set up fee, a $4.95 fee per DC charge session with a $0.20 per minute fee while charging. What this also means is that participants in Nissan’s No Charge to Charge program (for two years program) the charger is gratis by using their own charge card to initiate a session.

Offering CHAdeMO charging is great, although we note Level 1 charging isn't offered -- and level 3 charging requires an NRG EvGo membership.

Offering CHAdeMO charging is great, although we note Level 1 charging isn’t offered — and level 3 charging requires an NRG EvGo membership.

However, for a hotel that hopes to cater to eco-tourists, the hotel does not make it easy for out of area guests to use the charger. The charger at this location is located underground and is  challenged from receiving a mobile signal from either Virgin Mobile (which is a Sprint company) nor T-Mobile USA.   A non subscriber or someone who does not possess a card from NRG eVgo would need to call 1 877. 494.3833, have their credit or debit card available to give to the customer service agent, once approved the station will be activated for them to charge.  This process is challenged by the inability to get a mobile signal in at least two of the four mobile telephone carriers in the country.  The hotel could assist potential users by installing a landline at the location.  The valet desk is across from the charger, so I am unsure whether they will allow users to make a call from their location.  So, potential users be warned, you will need to have easy access to NRG eVgo as this reporter was unable to get a telephone signal at the location to initiate a non subscriber session.

You'll need a card too: the charging station is in an area with poor cellphone coverage.

You’ll need a card too: the charging station is in an area with poor cellphone coverage.

Aside from this location, access to public charging throughout Southern California makes it ideal to visit in an electric vehicle. Other than the very EV friendly city of Santa Monica, where the Shore Hotel is located, other places like Disneyland and the Getty Center and Villa have ready access to EV charging. The Shore Hotel is a very tasteful and modern boutique hotel located across the street from the world famous Santa Monica Beach and Pier as well as around the corner from the Third Street Promenade. It is a great location for your next Green vacation. In fact, it is hundreds of feet away from a Transport Evolved famous Charging Mecca, Santa Monica Parking Lot 6.

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  • Michael Gill

    Great idea. Brilliant to enable L3 charging without needing a huge draw from the grid.nnI do wonder if Elon’s battery storage announcement next week will also have a similar feature …

    • Dennis Pascual

      Based on what I’ve read and heard from Solar City beta testers, their packs act like UPS for the house during a power outage situation, something that the Green Charge Networks system doesn’t do… Now, an in home system runs at 10kWh of batteries, so that’s 1/3 a standard one from GCN, but the total draw from a commercial installation is exponentially bigger than most houses.

      • Bryan

        Li-ion batteries are far too expensive for uses in residential storage applications without a massive incentive from the government to help pay for these batteries.

        • Joe Viocoe

          We’ll see in a few days when Tesla makes their announcement. (if they announce price)nnnBut so far, $300 /kwh is not bad, and well within the reach of many homeowners.

  • Bryan

    Solve this issue by installing an off grid EV solar charging system equipped with new Hyper X 2 double sided solar panels with up to 22.2% efficiency and its game over for the utilities. nnThe new 300 Watt, 60 cell solar panels that are used in these EV solar charging systems offers a better PTC to STC ratio “Real World” performance according to the California Energy Commission’s performance rating listings than over 119 of SunPower’s solar panel models.nnTheir incredibly high 94.3% PTC to STC performance ratio places then in the top 1/4 percent of all solar modules that are currently available on today’s market. They also offer a heat resistant -0.28%/degree C temperature coefficient for better performance in warm/hot climates. And a bone chilling minus 60 degree C extreme cold temperature rating. And when it comes to your home’s curb appeal, nothing even comes close to the aesthetics of Hyper X 2’s panel’s glass on glass, see through, frameless construction.nnThis new lower cost, ultra high performance, double sided, 1/4 inch thin solar panel technology has got the utility companies shaking in their boots.