Fitting out “back office support” for EVs

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A malicious cyber attack on electric vehicle infrastructure could potentially result in brownouts or stranded vehicles, and any failure in smart charging systems could strike a huge blow to utilities as well as consumer confidence in the reliability and viability of electric vehicles as a preferred mode of transportation.” –Bob Lockhart, senior analyst, Pike Research

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As anyone in the transportation business knows, it’s a lot easier to talk about making a wholesale shift to alternate forms of vehicle propulsion – such as natural gas, propane, and electricity – than it is to actually do it.

For starters, alternatively-fueled vehicles simply cost more than their gasoline- and diesel-powered brethren – costs that take a long time to recoup – and they almost always come with more limited range.

But perhaps the biggest bugaboo, in the estimation of many experts, centers on the refueling infrastructure issue – an issue with far more ticklish twists and turns than many might expect.

Let’s take electric vehicles (EVs) for example. From the perspective of Pike Research, a firm that’s been analyzing the EV market for some time now, one of the most pressing challenges is related to securing financial transactions and end-to-end power delivery via the EV recharging infrastructure, which is only now – with many fits and starts – coming into being across the country.

Pike’s experts believe that power utilities will need to make significant investments in cyber security systems over the next several years to forestall efforts to “steal” electricity to power EVs, much less bill for such “refueling” correctly. The firm forecasts that the EV cyber security market will increase from just $26 million in 2011 to $144 million by 2015, with a cumulative investment of $432 million during that period.

“The technology architecture associated with electric vehicle (EV) charging is continuing to evolve as utilities and other key players in the industry ecosystem identify business requirements and risks associated with adding significant new demands on the electrical grid,” noted Bob Lockhart, a senior analyst with Pike.

“The IT [information technology] and communications infrastructure supporting EV recharging equipment will need to be resilient and secure in order to mitigate risks associated with financial transactions and the threat of hacking that is posed by the addition of these new endpoints,” he added.

Lockhart also points out that, in addition to their benefits for smart charging, EV cyber security systems will also serve to strengthen customer information management systems and enable new forms of data analytics that will be advantageous for utilities and end-users alike. Yet he also cautions that this market is, in his words, “hamstrung in the near term by the lack of security standards and binding regulation or legislation related to these issues.”

Then you’ve got to look at the actual recharging “interface” between the nation’s electrical power generation system and EVs, as design standards for such equipment is only now being formulated.

Jack Pokrzywa, director of global ground vehicle standards with SAE International and Mary Reidy, chair of the IEEE P2030.1 working group, represent but two of the organizations trying to hammer out some standards in this area and have only been trying to tackle this issue for six months now.

Pokrzywa recently noted that SAE International, leveraging technology standardized by IEEE, plans to

establish a standard in the first quarter of 2012 regarding “integrated couplers” that would allow electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs/PHEVs) to be charged from either a conventional, 15-amp AC wall outlet or a DC connector of up to 90 kilowatts

The SAE J1772 Electric Vehicle and Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Conducive Charge Coupler standard—agreed to in 2009 and officially published by SAE International in January 2010—is the world's first industry-consensus standard to provide critical guidelines for safety, charging control and connectors used to charge EVs/PHEVs, and Pokrzywa noted that automakers including Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota have adopted it.

“This standard is planned to enable both AC and DC Level 1 and faster, Level 2 charging all via a single vehicle inlet for the first time,” he said. “Manufacturers would be able to leverage one coupler in EVs/PHEVs for all markets, regardless of the differences in electrical systems and charging locations from country to country. Integrating the different types of charging functionality would also greatly enhance the convenience of operating such a vehicle.”

SAE J1772 goes further still, by uniquely defining communications between an EV/PHEV and off-board charger and the Smart Grid via what’s known as Power Line Communications (PLC) technology for enabling vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communications without requiring changes such as the addition of another pin to the coupler architecture.

Another example of the “back office” needs for the EV market is the ongoing work being done on the IEEE P2030.1 Guide for Electric-Sourced Transportation Infrastructure standards project, said Reidy.

Work is being carried out by four task forces—vehicle technology (including charging systems), electric grid (from generation to consumer), roadmap (including privacy and roaming) and communication/cyber security—and then integrated within the full working group for broader discussion and input, she noted.

“The Smart Grid effort is different in the sweep of technologies, industries and markets that it touches. For manufacturers, utilities, governments and consumers are to realize the Smart Grid's benefits as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, the global standards community must operate cooperatively to logically integrate the work across technology spaces,” Reidy added.

In the past, SDOs of “standards-development organizations” tended to work chronologically, one after another, almost in a vacuum from one another, she pointed out. But now, if an SDO missed a development in a related industry while working on its own standard for the Smart Grid, that SDO could be sending its stakeholders in the wrong direction—or in the right direction but much more slowly than is necessary.

“There are so many tentacles and the velocity of development is so great, that the Smart Grid demands a new, more coordinated mode,” Reidy stressed.

These are but some examples of the many, many complicated issues that need to be sorted out and solved into order to make EVs a productive alternative to their gasoline- and diesel-powered opposites.

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