As the consumer market increasingly adopts electric vehicles (EVs), charging demand increases as well. Commercial use EVs are a market segment with their own set of charging challenges. The global commercial electric vehicle market is forecast to grow to over $800 billion by 2030, with good reason, as fleet-driven companies globally seek net zero goals. Public demand and various government incentives and regulations are helping accelerate the transition from fossil fuel fleets to electrified fleets. Innovation is driving needed clean technologies to solve the challenges associated with this transition.
One major challenge is how exactly to charge the incoming commercial electric vehicles and fleets. Unlike the consumer market, the charges needed for EV fleets – often tens to hundreds of vehicles – require many megawatts of power. A city like New York, trafficked by hundreds of thousands of light, mid and heavy-duty trucks, requires serious charging solutions even with a small percentage going electric.
The logical thought is to partner with the local utility to install the charging wattage needed to service company fleets. But building such infrastructure can take two to five years or more. From reasons associated with planning, permitting and allocation of resources, utility companies lack the capacity to meet the immediate need. Coordinating with utilities and providing charging dependability are front and center demands for fleet operators.
With this as a backdrop, the energy veterans and thought leaders who formed Power Edison and its sister company, EV Edison, are innovating quickly to solve these challenges. Their solution, which is already receiving high demand, is mobile utility-scale energy storage, a mobile battery technology that brings the charge to fleets and circumvents the lag time and infrastructure cost of massive charging stations.
Dr. Shihab Kuran, co-founder and executive chairman, explains the problem and solution this way, “A fleet operator calls the utility and says, ‘I’ve got a fleet that I need to electrify. I need electricity.’ Utilities can’t just bring power the next day. It might take a year, might take two, might take five. We have engineered and devised a whole portfolio of mobile utility-scale energy storage solutions including EV chargers, switchgear, transformers and batteries. Standing up an EV charging hub, even if the infrastructure doesn’t exist or the infrastructure needs several years to show up. The ability to shuttle mobile charging on a truck or a barge or rail to that location from some nearby location. Providing the bridge for infrastructure, for the problem that exists in the industry today.”
Offering what the company refers to as “mobile dynamic power infrastructure” has multiple benefits outside of simply meeting the immediate charging needs. An example in New York or New Jersey, where the company is based, is the cost of real estate. Oftentimes, fleets are parked on leased property. Creating charging solutions on these properties comes with its own set of logistical and legal challenges. Putting permanent infrastructure on land might not be the most efficient use of that land. Lastly, for many companies, investing in long-term infrastructure does not allow for agility and flexibility in the market.
EV Edison has multiple projects underway to bring the charge directly to the fleet and solve the infrastructure gap. It includes how batteries are moved to fleets in size and capacity that can meet charging needs. In New York, for example, investment is being allocated to the construction of barges that move batteries on the less crowded “blue highways” or waterways. The company reports wide demand across an array of fleets sizes. In just about any industry where fleets are transitioning to electrification, there is a need – from airports, to entertainment, to schools, to last-mile vehicles and more.
In the spring of 2022, EV Edison brought on David Daly as president. A previous high-level executive from New Jersey’s largest utility, PSE&G, Daly left at the end of 2021 after 35 years as a leader in the utility. Daly points out, “EV Edison’s innovative solutions are advancing the electrification of the transportation sector and the clean energy revolution, with a strong focus on workforce development and environmental justice.” Daly’s deep knowledge of utility operations and energy supply and demand infrastructure gives the company an edge in navigating and implementing charging solutions.
The other opportunity being provided by EV Edison is a large-scale charging hub. This has provided a huge benefit to drayage fleets in particular. Dr. Kuran explains, “We joint ventured with a partner [that] owns 130 acres about 10 minutes from the largest seaport on the East Coast to build the U.S.’ largest EV charging hub, working with the local utility to bring up to 200 megawatts of power. The reason EV Edison is taking on this project is there are a massive number of trucks, including medium and heavy-duty vehicles and many drayage trucks. As fleets electrify, Kearny Point is a perfect, secure location for overnight charging.”
There is an additional impact over time: This area has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country. Providing electric fleet charging solutions here has a positive side impact of reducing the need for fossil fuel fleets, positively impacting air quality, and reducing noise pollution in underserved communities.
“Mobile batteries on water, on the rail or on trucks have a lot of applications,” says Dr. Shihab Kuran. “We need to take those electrons where they’re needed. EV charging infrastructure became a major driver for the need of those batteries, so we created a sister company called EV Edison to handle the sales and marketing, and contracting and development, of such projects.”
Kevin Drolet is a fractional CMO working to promote renewable energy innovators. He has over 20 years of marketing leadership and is passionate about companies like EV Edison that are solving the big problems related to the renewable energy transition.