Recently the City of Los Angeles made the switch to LED bulbs in nearly all of its 4,500 miles of roadway. A huge undertaking that cost $57 million but has seen a major drop in energy usage saving the city 60,000 metric tons of CO2 each year. Not to mention the over $9 million saved every year as a result.
The program is a huge win for the city and green living enthusiasts everywhere, but all is not well in the city of angels.
The program also left many of the cities power plants with excess capacity and the city decided to put it to good use by installing some much-needed EV charging stations. While this good news, those savings only generate 100 stations of which only three have been installed. Its certainly a good start but the massive problem here is those energy savings should have easily built out thousands of stations. In fact using a smart EV charging system the city could have lined the streets with charging stations.
Its not so difficult to understand why only a mere 100 stations were earmarked for installs. Public charging companies have made it their business to keep consumers, utility companies and even cities in the dark about how EV charging should work. Simply put, they leave out key information that makes their solutions obsolete and downright wasteful. So how can Los Angeles up the ante and line their streets with charging stations? Simple, add intelligence.
Smart systems have already started running some major utilities in the US, but nearly all the charging stations that are currently installed lack basic power management. Missing this single piece blocks off power, so all available power is reserved exclusively for that one station regardless if its in use. Intelligent systems know, first and foremost when a station is in use and if its not to divert the power elsewhere.
Going one step further and building a true machine learning algorithm that not only knows drivers charging habits but can successfully predict when the station won't be in use allows the system as a whole to use power to its maximum efficiency. By installing these "dumb" public network charging stations LA has backed itself into a corner, they did get 100 stations but they left thousands more on the table.
Looking For Charging In All The Wrong Places
The other problem with this proposal is it gets the placement all wrong. While lining the streets would be nice, its actually not needed right now. The biggest places EV chargers need to be is anywhere vehicles are parked three or more hours at a time. The reasoning is actually rather simple. Current technology simply cannot charge an EV very fast, providing roughly 20 miles of range for every hour spent charging. While most people only drive ~40 miles/day those cars will have to consistently find a charging station every single day for two hours.
Putting charging stations along streets is, quite frankly, stupid. Vehicles typically only stay in those spaces for a few hours at a time due to maximum time limits, and very few use them every single day. Its far more convenient for drivers to have charging stations installed where their car will sit for quite some time. Places like home garages and office parking structures are ideal. Further, in a dedicated parking structure, more stations can be installed as there is usually a lot more power infrastructure readily available.
LA made a great move by making the switch to LED bulbs, but really dropped the ball when it comes to EV charging. All is not lost though, as stated only three chargers have been installed so there is still time to make sure the right solution is installed.