A group of West Coast utilities are collaborating on long-term planning for an interstate electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for EV trucks in hopes that the move will encourage a shift toward clean energy in the transportation sector.
A new study released by the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative envisions 27 charging stations along 1,300 miles of Interstate 5, along with an additional 41 stations along adjacent highways. The initiative consists of 11 utilities and state agencies throughout California, Oregon and Washington that include Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Seattle City Light.
The initiative’s vision is similar to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)’s goal to have electric charging stations for passenger vehicles at least every 70 miles along all major highways. Funding for those stations is paid for in part by the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Alliance (EVITA), a partnership composed of Energy Northwest, Benton and Franklin public utility districts and the Tri-Cities Development Council.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Transportation New Product Development Director Will Einstein said there has been “extensive growth in passenger electric vehicles. Our plans are really driven by our customer’s choice.” The regional utility provides a $500 EV rebate program for customers and is working with WSDOT to roll out electrical charging stations for ferry routes located in its service area.
Pacific Power Transportation Electrification Senior Product Manager Eva DeCesaro told reporters during a June 17 call that “this initiative roadmap will help us navigate…significant changes around electrification.”
The new study recommends the 27 charging stations for trucks be located roughly 50 miles apart and within one mile of the interstate. Eight of those stations would be located either within Washington state or along its border with Oregon. The stations would initially be for medium-duty trucks and later expanded to include heavy-duty truck charging.
Einstein told Lens the initiative’s concept first came about several years ago during conversations with California utilities about the electrification of trucking. “There was a realization that when trucking in an electrified sense became real it was going to require a great deal of energy. It made sense for utilities to start thinking about how to approach that going forward. We know that trucking is a good opportunity for electrification.”
Southern California Edison eMobility and Building Electrification Director Katie Sloan told reporters that the infrastructure rollout will help support the EV heavy trucks as they appear on the highways but also provides incentive for companies to invest in the technology. The study estimates that by 2030 medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks will compose eight percent of all trucks on the road in West Coast states.
“(EV) vehicles are still in development, and it takes time to plan…which is why we’re starting now,” Sloan said. We’re talking about long-term transportation electrification needs.”
However, Sacramento Municipal Utility Electric Transportation Director Bill Boyce cautioned that the overall size and scale of truck charging stations will be much greater than with passenger vehicles. “It’s really more about getting large electrical service upgrade and support. Truck charging (stations) need to have mass charging for upwards of 10 trucks charging at one time. With this level of electrical load, you need more time.”
It will also place greater demand on the electrical grid as the state population increases, an issue studied in Washington state with passenger vehicles by private utilities as well as the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). However, Einstein says that with growth comes advancements in energy efficiency and building code requirements. “Energy efficiency is tempering a lot of the growth.”
Nevertheless, Einstein said trucks at these charging stations will require charging speeds relative to that of a gas station. “You can charge a Tesla Model 3 on an outlet on your wall. Your experience doing that is not the kind of experience you want to have.”
The study calls each EV truck charging station to be equipped with up to ten 350 kilowatt charging ports, for up to a 3.5 megawatt peak load. The most advanced charging ports for regular vehicles is 450 kilowatts.
“That really takes a lot more utility side work,” Boyce said. “You really need to have planning all up and down the corridor – something that wasn’t done with light-duty (vehicles) at the beginning.”
PSE New Product Development Manager Meghan Weinman told Lens that managing the energy demand throughout the day and incentivizing consumption at the right times will also be an important competent. “It’s not only the where you charge but when you charge that becomes important.”
Sloan estimates that it will cost roughly $850 million to install all the EV truck charging stations and it will be paid for through an “all-in” funding model. “Utilities overall have a duty to serve and provide the necessary infrastructure, but we do expect there will be substantial investment…from both state, federal, local government, in addition to customers and utilities.”
Einstein says one way the state could help roll out this system is through funding grants similar to those WSDOT provides for EV charging stations in rural areas. “We think that can kind of model can work.”
The initiative membership also includes the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Northwest California Power Agency, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Sempra Energy Utility, Sacramento Municipal Utility, Portland General Electric and Southern California Public Power Authority.