New EV trucks could utterly transform charging needs

New EV trucks could utterly transform charging needs
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While the final form the U.S. infrastructure bill will take is unclear, one point of clarity is the need for EV charging infrastructure. Democrats are working to pass portions of Biden's plan, including the $547 billion highway bill, which includes $4 billion for EV charging stations. But will that be enough to cope with the imminent EV boom?

Ford expects 40 percent of its sales to be EV's by 2030. After its first week on the market, the new Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck, the electric version of America's best-selling vehicle, racked up 70,000 orders and counting.

Compelling electric passenger cars have been on the market for some time, including Tesla’s lineup, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf, and Porsche’s Taycan. But none has the potential to shake up the burgeoning EV market like the Ford F-150 Lightning.

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The F-150 has a history that can be traced back to the introduction of Ford's original Model T. For over a century, these workhorses guzzled gasoline and fueled the nation’s growing economy. When Ford revealed the fully electric version of it, it flipped the idea of an electric vehicle being a “compromise” on its head.  Its features include:

  • An extra 14 cubic foot trunk where the gasoline engine used to be.
  • 563 horsepower (with the extended battery)
  • 10,000 pounds towing capacity (with extended battery + towing package)
  • It does 0 - 60 in 4.4 seconds
  • A range of 230 and 300 miles (with standard and extended battery, respectively)
  • Pricing starting at $39,974

The latter could be the proverbial nail in the coffin for gasoline’s reign. After factoring in federal and state incentives, the F-150 Lightning will most likely be thousands of dollars cheaper than its entry-level gasoline stablemates.

If you want a gasoline version of the truck, you must now consider whether it’s worth the extra cost.

Price parity has been a long-sought-after tipping point in the transition from gasoline to EVs, and it appears that moment has arrived. In fact, Ford estimates that the ‘Pro’ version of the truck, intended for contractors and commercial fleets, will cost 40 percent less in maintenance costs over eight years as compared to its gas-fueled counterparts.

Significantly, it’s also a battery on wheels. The 21 plugs that pepper the body and cabin provide up to 9.6 kW of power for laptops or table construction equipment. It’s the first EV in the U.S. that can power a home in the case of blackouts — something that rivals including Tesla have been reluctant to do. In a time when Americans are experiencing more weather-related blackouts, home resiliency is top-of-mind for many homeowners.

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But could a stampede to the F-150 Lightning and other EVs finally break the back of the grid?

Charging infrastructure will certainly need to be bolstered. The U.S. currently has 86,000 existing public chargers (DC or Level 2). President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE’s infrastructure bill earmarked $174 billion to build 500,000 new EV chargers by 2030. That would go a long way towards alleviating that constraint, but it's not clear yet how much of that funding will end up in the compromise bill.

At the residential level, we need to reduce the approximately $2,000 it costs to install a charger for single-family homes, and streamline the onerous process of adding one to apartment complexes. This is particularly important now that EV costs are reaching affordable levels.

Researchers estimate that if every person in the U.S. switched to an EV, the total electricity demand of the U.S. would increase 25 percent. Without more intelligent timing and flexible load control, this enormous surge in demand will likely require the construction of new transmission lines and generation capability.

New energy infrastructure must embody the idea that "timing is everything" when it comes to charging behaviors, and our infrastructure plans should recognize we can minimize the social, environmental, and economic costs by operating this new fleet of EV chargers as a flexible and distributed virtual power plant.

EV charging and supply challenges are formidable, but eminently solvable. The U.S. could really be poised to take our last sips of gasoline before entering a new era of fully electrified transport.

Curtis Tongue is Chief Strategy Officer of OhmConnect, California’s leading clean energy program, which helps California residents reduce their energy use when the electrical grid is under stress, and recently won FastCo's World Changing Ideas award."