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EV/AV Report: November 2, 2020

Toronto, Ontario ⁠— In this week’s EV/AV Report, J.D. Power reports improved consumer behaviours toward electric vehicles, Tesla announces a plan to step up service for its EV owners and an international task force makes way with Megawatt charging capabilities for semi-trucks.

Electric upswing

According to a recently unveiled report by J.D. Power, consumer opinions of future mobility technologies such as electric and autonomous vehicle has not changed much since the beginning of 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on consumer confidence in several other sectors.

Canadians are more open to new technologies than Americans are, though the difference is minor. From the first to the third quarter of 2020, Canadians’ interest in battery-electric vehicles increased from 57 points to 58 points (on a 100-point scale). For American respondents, interest dropped from 55 to 54 points.

For self-driving vehicles, Canadians remained steady at 36 points, while American interest went from 35 points to 34 points.

The report also included key findings on electric vehicles. For example, more than two-thirds of respondents have never even been in an electric vehicle. Of those inexperienced consumers, 51 percent of Canadians, and 62 percent of Americans, have “very low to no likelihood” of buying or leasing one.

As well, 22 percent of Canadians and 31 percent of Americans admit they know nothing about electric vehicles.

Stepping up service

Tesla is reportedly adding one service shop per week to its portfolio in 2021, according to reports from Electrek.

A person familiar with Tesla’s upcoming plans shared that the company informed staff that a huge service center expansion is coming to better equip the electric automaker to deal with its growing fleet of vehicles. 

While Tesla credits its “in-house” situation and direct sales and service model, this is one case where it may cause a bit of a struggle. Traditional automakers rely on franchised dealerships to handle service and repair. However, Tesla must work on its own to expand its network. The situation is supposed to lead to a more streamlined and tolerable experience, but if there aren’t enough service centers and they’re overcrowded, the opposite could prove true.

Tesla’s vehicle deliveries have grown nearly 50 percent year-over-year over the past 12 months. According to Electrek, during the same time period, service center growth was 12 percent and mobile fleet expansion ramped up by 8 percent. Tesla has added 20 new service centers over the past few months, but reports say its plans going forward are much bigger.

Make room for Megawatt

An international task force says its recent event has yielded promising results with testing of connector prototypes that could overhaul the long-haul trucking industry.

In September, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) joined the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN) in bringing together vehicle and electric equipment manufacturers to test prototypes for a new charging system: the Megawatt Charging System (MCS). The test focused primarily on the fit and thermal performance of vehicle inlets and megawatt charger connectors.

“MCS is a lynchpin to enable longer-distance electric trucks, higher utilization of electric trucks in all applications,” says Kocher. “It would mean that electric trucks could be utilized to their full capability, enabling farther distances, more freight moved, more hours of operation, and positive total cost of ownership.”

The problem the consortium set out to solve is, on paper, simple: deliver fast charging to large vehicles that travel long distances and make it compatible with all trucks. 

In ICE trucks fuelling happens during mandated driver breaks and occurs reasonably quickly. Prior to the development of the Megawatt Charging System, charging a mid- to heavy-duty truck battery took too long, rendering it either impractical or not competitive with ICEs or hydrogen fuel cell technology.

“This is a really exciting development. A real breakthrough,” says James Carter, a principal consultant at Vision Mobility. “Typically these things would need eight or 10 hours of charging even at very high power charging at 350kW. The aim of this group was to figure out how to do ultra high-power charging so that you could charge a very large semi within half an hour.”

“Many companies are already investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on design, development, and prototypes for MCS,” said Rustam Kocher, charging infrastructure lead, Daimler Trucks North America and chairperson of the Megawatt Charging System task force. “Bringing them all together for common testing events like the NREL event is tremendously valuable to build knowledge and experience with the design.”

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