Calgary researchers find Level 1 charging meets over 80 per cent of EV drivers’ needs
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EV Charging
Jul 9, 2024
Mehanaz Yakub

Nearly a third of EV drivers in Calgary can fulfill their charging needs with just Level 1 home charging and over half with only “occasional” fast charger use

A study from the University of Calgary finds Level 1 charging with community level access to fast charging for occasional use is able to support at least 80 per cent of EV drivers’ charging needs.

Nearly a third of EV drivers can fulfill their charging needs using just Level 1 home charging and another 53 per cent by supplementing with “occasional” fast charger use

A new University of Calgary study finds plugging into a standard 120-volt Level 1 charger meets the daily charging needs of 29 per cent of electric vehicle drivers.

The study, published last month, analyzed real-world driving and charging data from 129 battery electric vehicles in Calgary over a 13-month period, from December 2021 to December 2022. The data was supplied by ENMAX through a pilot project the utility ran.

“There seems to be this kind of implicit understanding, or implicit assumption, that in order to operate an EV you need to have access to Level 2 charging,” says Sara Hastings-Simon, lead author of the study and associate professor in the University of Calgary’s department of earth, energy and environment, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“If someone is considering an EV purchase, they should consider whether Level 2 charging makes sense for them, rather than assuming they need it or deciding they can’t have an EV because they can’t install a Level 2 charger.”

According to Hastings-Simon’s research, that might not be the case.

The findings reveal that 29 per cent of drivers could fully meet their charging requirements using only Level 1 charging. When supplemented by only “occasional” DC fast charging sessions — three or fewer per year — another 53 per cent of drivers’ needs could met by Level 1 chargers.

The remaining 18 per cent of vehicles require 12 or more supplementary DC fast charges to meet their needs with Level 1 chargers.

Challenging Level 2 charging norm

The motivation behind the study was to investigate whether Level 1 chargers offset Level 2 home charging, which is more complicated to access.

The study highlights barriers to installing Level 2 charging at residential homes, including the potential need for costly panel and service upgrades in some single-family homes and upgrades to local distribution grids.

“When we think about the potential impact of adding a bunch of EVs to the distribution grid, it would make sense to think about this from a system perspective. So local distribution utilities are also thinking about, ‘are there customers that they could encourage to use Level 1 charging?’,” Hastings-Simon says.

For vehicles requiring more than overnight Level 1 charging, the study proposes two solutions.

The first is increasing access to Level 1 charging outside the home such as in public parking lots, offices and hotels because, “providing access to daytime [Level 1] charging increases the percentage of vehicles that require no supplementary Level 3 charges from 29 per cent to 38 per cent,” reads the report.

Additionally, the study says the availability of DC fast chargers for neighbourhood charging, along with expanding public charging networks, reduces the need for dwelling-by-dwelling Level 2 home charging.

While deploying public DC fast chargers requires additional infrastructure, it reduces the need for grid upgrades and addresses unequal access to home-based Level 2 charging, says the report.

“Even if you are in that group where Level 1 charging would be sufficient, to know that you have that safety margin of a Level 3 nearby, you don’t feel that you have to build in that resiliency in your home. I think it is also quite important,” adds Hastings-Simon.

Infrastructure recommendations

“There are some drivers that do require Level 2 charging. It’s not that we don’t need them at all,” explains Hastings-Simon, “but that we could be a little bit more choosy about it.”

Looking beyond the individual, policymakers, utilities and EV charging networks need to think more strategically about where to deploy Level 1 chargers in public parking lots.

Educational campaigns and incentives are also important in helping potential EV owners understand the viability of relying on Level 1 charging based on their specific driving patterns.

For individuals, being “choosy” requires the knowledge to make informed decisions.

“We need to make sure that consumers are educated on the potential opportunities and giving them the tools,” says Hastings-Simon.

“We’re thinking about how do we build a little tool where someone can input some information about their specific situation to get a sense of what might be a fit.”

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