Dept of Energy aims for high speed EV charging network in new Grant program

Last week the US Department of Energy announced a $68 million package of “available funding for early-stage research of advanced vehicle technologies that will enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, and enhance U.S. economic growth.”  The advanced technologies in this case are about low-cobalt battery designs, and more importantly several important aspects of the EV charging conundrum.  To allow future EV owners to drive as gasoline car owners do, the charging network must support a 5 minute recharge time, in turn requiring a 400-500 kiloWatt charging rate (or more).  The DoE solicitation doesn’t quite go that far, but it’s clear from several projects on the list that the goal is a significant charging rate increase which can mean only one thing – the DoE wants future electric vehicles to support recharging similar to the experience at gasoline stations.

It’s popular nowadays to point at Trump Administration foibles, the obvious fossil-fuel-company-friendliness, and think the DoE and EPA will only act to delay or stop electric vehicle adoption.  I’ve been worried since the 2016 elections over whether that will be the result of Trump’s election.  And while there is plenty of evidence that Trump Administration officials are giving lots of support to fossil fuel interests, the Administration is also continuing to support programs advancing the state of clean energy technologies.

Last fall the DoE announced a $15 million program for: U.S. Energy Department Announces $15 Million for Batteries and Electrification to Enable Extreme Fast Charging

Extreme-fast EV charging

Let’s look at a selection of the projects in this list (see the press release below):

Electric vehicle charging station guide
  • Technologies to enable simultaneous charging of multiple plug-in electric vehicles quickly and at very high “extreme” power levels.
  • Minimize or eliminate cyber security challenges at electric vehicle charging levels above 200 kW.
  • Innovative models and technologies for multi-unit dwelling electric vehicle charging.
  • Fuel efficient platooning for improved and affordable goods movement.

The solicitation describes the problem of “Extreme Fast Charging” (XFC) and the potential negative impacts on the electricity grid.  The minimum charging rate considered is 350 kiloWatts.  A charging facility with 10-20 such charging stalls can easily be consuming an aggregate 2-3 megaWatts if all stalls are running.  Electricity grid operators have said many times that electric vehicle charging does not present a risk to the grid, at least in initial electric vehicle adoption phases.

However, think about the number of gasoline stations in your city today.  Then consider the XFC infrastructure required to support a significant switchover to electric vehicles.  Future charging facilities will probably look like todays gasoline stations, but with XFC charging equipment instead of fuel pumps.  Might not a city have several XFC facilities scattered throughout the city, just as cities today have several gasoline stations scattered here and there?  If those facilities are each consuming 2 megaWatts what is the total electricity consumption for EV charging throughout the day?

Maybe XFC recharging won’t become the dominant way to recharge an electric car.  Todays EV owners do not use fast charging like a gasoline station.  Instead the vast majority charge at home, the most convenient place to recharge.  Primarily fast charging is limited to long-distance-trip corridors.

But will future EV owners want a situation like today’s EV owners face?  There will be many future EV owners who have no EV experience and will expect a user experience similar to gasoline stations – drive in, plug in, a few minutes later drive away fully recharged.  They may not understand the value of home-based recharging.  Plus, those who live in apartment complexes have an inherent barrier to charging at home, and it may be most convenient to have XFC charging stations for use of apartment dwellers.

Electric vehicle charging station guide

I spent two years living in an apartment complex driving an EV as my sole transportation.  That experience taught me about the value of using high speed charging similarly to how gasoline stations are used.

To get this post back on track – the point is that the powers-that-be-planning-the-future expect

  • the vast majority of EV charging to be at home,
  • that 6-10 kiloWatt charging at work is quite good,
  • and therefore fast charging is for long distance travel

That line of reasoning suggests XFC charging would be limited to highway corridors and not scattered throughout a city like gasoline stations.

My personal experience as an EV-owning apartment dweller suggests it is desirable to have some XFC stations scattered like gasoline stations in cities.

J1772 extension cords

The contrast between these two possible futures will determine the total impact on the grid and the degree of mitigation technologies.

The solicitation document says:

Power levels for XFC 350 KW or higher are substantial, especially considering that multiple vehicles could be charging simultaneously at a charging station. Effectively controlling these high and variable loads that fall outside of traditional vehicle charging will require novel solutions to avoid significant negative impacts to the nation’s electric grid. Solutions may incorporate localized energy storage or electricity generation schemes, but should strive to keep both installation and operations costs low. Projects are encouraged to use a direct connection to the medium voltage distribution grid and avoid the use of step down transformers. Consideration should be given to local grid infrastructure costs as well as power quality issues that a charging station may cause.

Projects to support the development of plug-in electric vehicle charging technology that can recharge multiple vehicles rapidly at high power levels are desired. Developing these systems should allow plug-in electric vehicles to be charged much faster than current vehicle charging, enabling the greater use of electricity for transportation and encouraging the widespread use of plug-in vehicles that lower transportation costs.

This does not say anything about the expected scope of future XFC deployment.  However, it does name the most likely solution for mitigating the grid impact:

  • Localized electricity generation (wind, solar)
  • Localized energy storage

I’ve written up the design of such a system elsewhere:  Solar panel covered parking lots with charging stations underneath – EV Nirvana

The issue is the raw energy consumption required to simultaneously charge 20 cars or so at a high rate.  The solution is to have localized energy storage systems to even out electricity consumption, and to integrate local solar arrays to help limit dependency on the electricity grid.  As a side effect, owners of these facilities can earn a secondary income from offering electricity grid services.

EV Charging at Multi-Unit-Dwellings

The phrase “Multi-Unit-Dwelling” is policy-speak for apartment buildings, condominiums, and other instances of multiple housing units on one property.  The problem as I said earlier is the difficulty in correlating EV charging electricity consumption with the electricity bill of the apartment dweller.

This was the situation I lived for 2 years.  My EV (the white Kia Soul EV shown here) was parked just a few feet from the front door of our apartment.  However, immediately in front of the apartment was a fire lane.  Running an extension cord to charge my electric car was nigh-on-impossible both because the property manager absolutely forbade it, and obviously because an extension cord would be driven over repeatedly, and be a major tripping hazard.

Most apartment complexes have similar problems to this.  For some advice to EV-owning apartment dwellers: Apartment/Condo dwellers – what to do if you cannot charge at home

The solicitation has this to say:

Studies have found that the ability to charge electric vehicles (EVs) at home is important to drivers and that nearly 90% of charging needs can be met by home charging. Individuals without dedicated off-street parking lack this opportunity and need alternative primary charging solutions that are affordable. The objective of this AOI is to conduct research that will identify new software, hardware technology, or other innovative solutions to expand access to multi-unit dwelling and curbside residential EV charging infrastructure. Projects will demonstrate, validate, and collect data on innovative models and technologies such as mobile charging, pairing charging with street lighting, or residential charging hubs.

The problems here is fairly well known:

  • A large portion of the population live in MUD’s
  • This is especially true in high-population-density urban centers where apartment/condominium living is the norm
  • Those who live in MUD’s are disincentivized from owning electric vehicles (for the reasons already discussed)
  • The combination of those factors is holding back EV adoption

The solicitation envisions two interesting directions that may provide a few solutions.

Effectively sharing power between charging stations: This isn’t explicitly named, however some companies have designed charging systems to share power between charging stations.  The normal installation practice is to assign one circuit on the service panel to each charging station – resulting in wasted service panel capacity.  Typically only a fraction of the charging stations will be in use at any one time, leaving many service panel circuits going unused, and the facility owner has to pay for larger-than-necessary level of service.

Systems developed by companies like Powerflex Systems ( are smart enough to manage total power consumption across a group of charging stations.

Curbside charging: If this could work, it would be an interesting approach.  One aspect is that the conversion to LED streetlights leaves some electricity capacity in the wiring for streetlights, that could possibly be used for EV charging without having to change anything in the streetlight power circuits.  See  LED Street light conversion could free up electricity for electric car charging

Residential charging hubs: This may mean local fast charging facilities at the neighborhood level.  Or if not fast charging, perhaps medium speed charging.  One might have a neighborhood charging facility, you drive your car to that facility to leave it for several hours.  So long as it is close enough for a short walk, most EV owners will be satisfied hiking back and forth to charge their car.

Cyber-security challenges

The last few years USA Cyber-security officials have sent an increasing number of warnings about cyber-attacks on infrastructure, including electrical infrastructure.  The security of EV charging networks will be of utmost importance.

The recent CharIN meeting did not delve much into this issue.  There is work underway in the solar industry about Cybersecurity related to solar inverters, energy storage, and related equipment.

The solicitation document says:

While plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) can improve national energy security and lower operating costs by utilizing electricity from the electric grid instead of petroleum, they also present a new cybersecurity vulnerability to the U.S. transportation sector and the electricity grid. Replenishing the charge in EV battery packs requires connection to the electricity grid, with either conductive or inductive charging equipment. Vulnerability is created by the need for data sharing between the EV, the recharging or Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), and the electric grid. Although much work has been done by government and industry to address cybersecurity issues associated with conventional and autonomous vehicles, little has been done to address cybersecurity issues associated with charging EVs. With charging power levels that will reach 350 KW or higher in the next few years, the potential for negative grid impacts resulting from compromised EV charging will become even more critical.

The objective of this AOI is to research, develop, and test technologies and approaches that identify, minimize, or eliminate critical cybersecurity vulnerabilities resulting from the transition of EV charging to power levels above 200kW. These vulnerabilities result from the need for increased levels of data sharing from the vehicle to the charging station and to the electricity grid and not only present a threat to the EV in the U.S. transportation sector, but also to the network of stations required to recharge them and to the operation and resilience of the U.S. electricity grid.

The cybersecurity tools and technologies developed in awarded projects must address cybersecurity for both EVs and eXtreme Fast Charging (XFC) equipment capable of charge power levels above 200kW. Solutions that also address cybersecurity for the electricity grid and charging network operators are encouraged.

Having been involved with the SunSpec-driven renewable energy cybersecurity meetings, let me say that most of the best practices are already known.  At one level there isn’t much special about an EV charging station from a cybersecurity perspective.  Charging stations are often connected through the Internet to centralized control systems owned by the charging network provider.  By being on the Internet, this infrastructure is subject to attack from miscreants.  But so too is other internet-connected equipment like gasoline pumps or soda machines.

At the recent CharIN meeting, representatives of the California Energy Commission presented a preferred architecture for smart EV charging — which includes some aspects of solutions to cybersecurity issues.  Namely, connectivity for smart EV charging facilities is to be:

  • OCPP protocol for communication to charging network
  • IEEE 2030.5 (a.k.a. SEP2) for communication with distributed energy resource management systems
  • IEC 15118 for communication between charging station and car

The IEEE 2030.5 protocol was developed primarily for California’s goals for distributed energy management.  The plan is for each “distributed energy resource” (DER), whether it be a solar array, energy storage unit, EV charging station, pool pump, etc, be connected to the Internet and subject to requests to increase/decrease energy consumption or other actions related to firming up grid stability.  IEEE 2030.5 requires connections be made over the Internet, and therefore leaving these systems open to cyber-attacks.

The protocol uses several important cybersecurity best practices, including:

  • NSA-grade encryption of all communications
  • Authentication of devices using encrypted certificates — with utility grid operators having lists of known approved devices

There are plenty more known cybersecurity best practices in use over the Internet.  The SunSpec Cybersecurity group is documenting how those practices can be applied to DER communications.  The goal is getting those best practices inserted into appropriate international standards for this sort of equipment.

The EV charging market would do well to study what the SunSpec Cybersecurity group is doing in this area.

Bottom line – the DoE is in support of more high speed EV charging

This is the only conclusion we can reach from this press release.  Several of the action items are directly related to high speed EV charging, as we’ve just discussed.

Many of the others may also be associated with high speed EV charging.  These other items have to do with ultra-efficient moving of goods and people around cities.  The highest efficiency is with electric vehicles.

The envisioned future is of autonomous vehicles using “platooning” (driving in extremely close proximity) to minimize road space consumption by trucks, using big data machine learning algorithms to schedule the vehicle travel to optimize traffic patterns.  Not explicitly stated is the high likelihood that such vehicles will be electrically driven.

The future fleets of autonomous robotaxi’s may be what will recharge at neighborhood-level recharging stations.  And it may be that robotaxi fleet owners will want extreme-fast-charging in order to keep their vehicles on the road for more hours of the day.


Press Release copied from:

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Announces $68.5 Million for Advanced Vehicle Technologies Research

MAY 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced up to $68.5 million in available funding for early-stage research of advanced vehicle technologies that will enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, and enhance U.S. economic growth.

“Transportation is fundamental to the American way of life,” said Secretary Perry. “Investing in early-stage research of advanced transportation technologies can give families and businesses greater choice in how they meet their mobility needs while reducing energy costs and making our transportation more efficient and reliable.”

Funded through the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, projects selected through this Vehicle Technologies Office funding opportunity will address priorities in advanced batteries and electrification, including cyber security related to electric vehicle charging; materials for both lighter weight vehicle structures and advanced powertrains; technology integration and energy-efficient mobility systems; and engines and fuels, including technologies for off-road applications as well as the co-optimization of engines and fuels.

Topic areas for this funding opportunity include the following:

Topic 1:  Batteries and Electrification (up to $27 million)

  • Low cobalt active cathode materials for next-generation electric vehicle batteries; cobalt is a costly critical material with supply constraints. Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance, the Department of the Army will provide $1.8 million to support projects in this area.
  • Technologies to enable simultaneous charging of multiple plug-in electric vehicles quickly and at very high “extreme” power levels.
  • Minimize or eliminate cyber security challenges at electric vehicle charging levels above 200 kW.

Topic 2:  Materials (up to $6 million)

  • Predictive modeling of oxidation/corrosion in multi-material joints.
  • Oxidation modeling of materials/alloys in high temperature combustion environments.

Topic 3.  Technology Integration (up to $20 million)

Technology Integration brings together key stakeholders in partnerships that can provide data, modeling, and proof-of-concept to inform early-stage research priorities and increase overall transportation system efficiency. Including:

  • High performance computing for transportation system optimization.
  • First/last mile solutions for people and/or goods movement.
  • System-level data for more energy-efficient, affordable mobility.
  • Fuel efficient platooning for improved and affordable goods movement.
  • Innovative models and technologies for multi-unit dwelling electric vehicle charging.
  • Open topic – innovative approaches to increase overall transportation system efficiency.

Topic 4.  Engines/Fuels: Off-road Applications (up to $3.5 million)

  • Significantly improve the energy efficiency of commercial off-road vehicles for use in construction, agriculture, and mining.

Topic 5.  Co-optimization of engines and fuels (up to $12 million)

The Co-Optima initiative, a joint effort between the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office, supports research of fuel and engine innovations that work together to maximize vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. Including:

  • Research multi-mode combustion regimes with co-optimized fuels.
  • Research bio-based blendstock pathways for advanced medium- and heavy-duty diesel engines.

Concept papers for this funding opportunity are due May 29, 2018, and full applications will be due July 13, 2018. For more information and application requirements, please visit the EERE Exchange website or

More information about DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office can be found HERE.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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