Courtesy of Tesla
The touchscreen is an asset management system.

Tech-Savvy Consumers: EVs Provide Knowledge

July 1, 2024
Driving visualization mode is much like a digital substation showing congestion points along its connected power network.

Last week the trusty Wolfmobile needed maintenance, so a visit to the dealership was in order. After turning in my wheels, the service manager called me a ride. Instead of the old-school curtesy van, they use digital ridesharing apps. Within five minutes my ride silently stopped in front of me. It’s one of those spooky things about EVs (electric vehicles), they’re quiet. My rideshare was a sparkling Tesla model 3.

I haven’t been in a Tesla before, and I was going to make the most of my opportunity. The stars aligned for me because my driver was a tech-nerd and was just as nerdy as I am. It was a case of two techies reaching critical mass. He was totally sold on his Tesla and his depth of technical knowledge about the EV was amazing. After a quick introduction and explanation of T&D World, I got an amazing tour of the cockpit’s touchscreen system.

Last month’s “Charging Ahead” article touched on GETs (grid enhancing technologies) and getting the most out of the power grid’s assets. As I looked around the Tesla’s control system, I got the same feeling as I have had in a digital substation’s control building. This EV was getting the most out of its assets. Take the driving visualization mode; it eliminates blind spots among other things. It’s much like a digital substation showing congestion points along its connected power network.

Cultural Shift

As we discussed the EV’s features I found my new friend not only had a vast technological understanding of his EV, he was one of those informed consumers we talk about when we discuss the behind-the-meter technology adoptions. In addition to investing in an EV, he had rooftop solar plus storage at home, which made it possible for him to lower his monthly electricity bills. It also provided renewable electricity for his EV that reduced both his carbon footprint and the EV’s fuel bill to zero dollars each month. This was a tech-savvy consumer.

He was also attuned to his EV’s battery technology and its limitations. His battery provided a range of a little over 300 miles (480 km). The EV’s charger took hours to recharge the battery, but he did that overnight, so no problem, still... He was very interested in Toyota’s progress with their latest solid-state battery technology. Early reports indicated it will have a range of around 750 miles (1,200 km), with an ultra-fast 10 minutes recharging time.

Toyota is planning to introduce this solid-state battery around 2027, which fits his planned schedule for trading in his EV for a new one. We stayed with battery technologies for a little longer, and talked about developments with nanoelectrofuel batteries (see Charging Ahead May 2024 for details) and their unique recharging abilities, which led us to discussing road trip recharging.

Technology Solves Problems

I was surprised that he wasn’t really concerned about finding chargers out on the road. With all the horror stories about road trips in EVs, it seemed logical this would be a major issue for an EV owner, but it wasn’t. Once again, data management technology was in the process of making this a non-issue. When we stopped at a traffic light, a couple of voice commands brought up a trip-map on the touchscreen showing our present location and the best route to Los Angeles.

Along with the routing, there was an abundance of useful information like all the EV chargers along the way, the status of how many were at each location and how many were open for charging at that time. It also identified which ones were superchargers with faster charging times. It provided this information for driving around town too – talk about user-friendly!

I know there are many apps with this type of information like Google Maps or EVgo, etc. They all, however, require extra steps on the part of the driver. Having this information at the driver’s fingertips, with no distractions, is a huge plus for the motorist. One thing that has been pointed out continuously with consumer technologies is that consumers are more prone to opting for the user-friendly approach.

At that point we had reached my destination and my rideshare dropped me off. It was really fun getting a viewpoint of some behind-the-meter technologies from the customer who operated them. It touched all the hot topics on the power grid from renewables to EVs to storage. The customer continues moving forward, and we need to be doing likewise!


About the Author

Gene Wolf

Gene Wolf has been designing and building substations and other high technology facilities for over 32 years. He received his BSEE from Wichita State University. He received his MSEE from New Mexico State University. He is a registered professional engineer in the states of California and New Mexico. He started his career as a substation engineer for Kansas Gas and Electric, retired as the Principal Engineer of Stations for Public Service Company of New Mexico recently, and founded Lone Wolf Engineering, LLC an engineering consulting company.  

Gene is widely recognized as a technical leader in the electric power industry. Gene is a fellow of the IEEE. He is the former Chairman of the IEEE PES T&D Committee. He has held the position of the Chairman of the HVDC & FACTS Subcommittee and membership in many T&D working groups. Gene is also active in renewable energy. He sponsored the formation of the “Integration of Renewable Energy into the Transmission & Distribution Grids” subcommittee and the “Intelligent Grid Transmission and Distribution” subcommittee within the Transmission and Distribution committee.

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