Colorado Co-op cuts the country in the electric vehicle revolution

In some previous articles, I have shared the story of Freewire’s Boost DC fast chargers. Normally these chargers require a pretty heavy three-phase power source to charge cars, but they’re critical to BEV adoption because they help people get past half the range of their EVs (because you also have to tuck at home) over reasonable time scales . It’s a real struggle not to have them in an area, so they’re needed outside of major metropolitan areas.

There is a problem, however. In many rural areas, the type of energy needed to install a DCFC station simply isn’t there. There may be a relatively weak wire leading to a small town, rest area, or other location where a charger would be useful for EV drivers (and potential future EV drivers). This leads to only being able to have a level 2 load if the station owner is willing to pay for tens of kilometers of new, more powerful transmission lines in the region.

Most people would assume at this point that EV drivers can probably get away with not having a station there, since many models now have over 200 miles of range (in theory), and they would not be willing to pay for what it would cost to charge at such a station. Thus, the station is never installed.

This is becoming a problem for rural electric vehicle owners for several reasons. First, you don’t always get the EV’s rated range due to terrain, temperature, or something as simple as forgetting to plug the thing in. Add to that the fact that a driver might do more errands than usual in rural areas. , and just need a few more miles to do that last thing and get home. Nobody wants to have to drive dozens of miles to get a charge when that’s about the charge they would need anyway. Drivers of rural electric vehicles need a station, even if only for occasional backup use in unusual circumstances.

Fortunately, the Highline Electric Association, a rural electric cooperative in Colorado, came up with a solution that I’ve already suggested here: Freewire’s DCFC stations with built-in battery storage.

“The FreeWire DC fast charger is one of the first of its kind in Colorado in that it can use existing single-phase conductors, in combination with battery storage technology, to charge vehicles comparable to charging times systems currently available in the market today,” said Dennis Herman, general manager of the Highline Electric Association. “This represents a breakthrough in efforts to provide reasonable recharge times with the distribution systems we have in rural areas.”

The FreeWire charger can use up to 27 kilowatts (kW) of electricity from a single-phase conductor to charge the 160 kWh battery. With a charging capacity of 150 kW, EV drivers can normally reach an 80% state of charge in 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of their battery. But because this technology is built into the battery itself, it opens up opportunities for more charging stations in rural areas, where charging times would otherwise be much longer.

The ability to charge two automobiles at once from a single source, in addition to the reduced electrical power required, makes the use of in-battery storage technology a time saver for consumers.

HEA and FreeWire have implemented this charging technology at Wagon Wheel Conoco, located just off busy US Interstate 76 near Julesburg, Colorado. . HEA hopes to use this data to expand its stations to other locations in rural areas that currently lack easy access. The electric cooperative’s service territory wants easier access to renewable energy resources.

This is a promising recipe for rapid charging of electric vehicles in rural areas

Some versions of this concept have already been implemented, but there are some key distinctions. Tesla and Electrify America both use Tesla battery storage in many places to achieve the same goal, although it requires complicated wiring, a separate location to store the batteries, and a lot of labor time. All of this could easily be solved with a standalone box from FreeWire that can be installed in just hours, instead of waiting months for a complex installation to have its wiring inspected and approved.

Another important aspect is that it is not necessary for a three-phase supply (but if it is, you can use it). This greatly facilitates the installation of the charging station. These can reduce the amount of wiring and new services needed to connect to the power company without adding demand charges to a company’s energy bill. When you put the different parts together, it’s easy to see why this system is so much cheaper to install than larger ones. It also provides 100-200 kW of charging power when a driver is parking.

Another advantage is that the station can be moved easily. It doesn’t require a multi-million dollar wiring and infrastructure project hidden under the sidewalk or behind walls. Everything is contained in one box, so you only have to move it to another place with electricity if you need it.

All of this responds much better to rural needs than other systems that had an urban installation in mind at the time of design.

States must take this into account in their infrastructure bills

Another thing I’ve noticed is that many states’ plans to use infrastructure bill funding to install charging stations are unaware of the existence of this type of technology. In some cases, they are asking for waivers to skip installing stations on certain stretches of roads because there is no electricity there right now, or very little.

Instead, state DOTs need to think about what Freewire offers. By installing it in a small town with limited power, or installing them in the middle of nowhere with a modest house-sized solar panel, they could provide fast charging in remote areas without breaking the bank. . Yes, these stations would be very limited in the number of cars they can charge daily, but their higher price than other chargers would limit their use to those who need it most.

Hopefully this latest installation leads to more awareness of the potential of this technology, and we’re starting to see it used more often. It’s a great way to quickly expand rural charging infrastructure without having to wait years for the power grid to be upgraded.

What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image provided by Freewire.

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