The demand for electric vehicle infrastructure is growing nationwide. But meeting that demand will require more than just equipment to deploy and funding to install it. We’ll need qualified contractors and electricians to do the actual work.
We met up with an organization that is powering Chicago’s EV charging future and setting an example for cities across the country.
Illinois is going all-in on promoting electric vehicles, with a goal to increase EV registrations from 37,000 currently, to over a million electric vehicles on the road in Illinois by 2030. To help achieve this goal, the state is providing a $4,000 rebate for select EV’s on top of existing federal incentives, along with a rebate of up to 80% for the cost of installing a charging station. Federal funding is expected to add 500,000 new chargers nationwide over the next few years.
In addition, a 2020 Chicago city ordinance requires all new residential buildings with five or more units, and commercial properties with 30 or more parking spaces, to have 20 percent of onsite parking be electric vehicle ready.
With thousands of charging outlets to be installed over the next decade, where now you typically see clusters of two to four chargers in a store parking lot, there might be dozens of units lined up in the not-so-distant future. That creates a daunting task for electrical contractors, who will need a larger skilled workforce to install them all.
Powering Chicago is the entity that bridges the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, with the Electrical Contractors Association, through classroom and on-the-job training and community outreach.
ELBERT WALTERS III: The contractors serve as management, so they do the hiring of electricians and managing electricians on the jobsites. The relationship is that powering Chicago and the IBEW Local 134, the labor portion, actually provides the manpower-- the qualified workforce.
JOHN DAVIS: The IBEW/NECA Technical Institute, in the Chicago suburb of Alsip, is already one of the most forward-thinking and well-regarded electrical training centers in the country, with a history going back more than 100 years. And there is no shortage of applicants testing for admission to the union’s 5-year paid apprenticeship training program.
GENE KENT: Our current enrollment of apprentices in the entire apprenticeship is about 1300. Right now, in school, we have about 200 apprentices every quarter, come through for their quarterly education.
JOHN DAVIS: In 2015, In-Tech debuted this renewable energy training field: a fully-functional microgrid with a wind turbine, solar arrays, a bi-directional 100-kilowatt power inverter and a battery energy storage system. These are active training aids for the students that also harness and use renewable energy within the school building.
GENE KENT: What we like to do is make sure that our apprentices are taught foundational knowledge. And then we build knowledge of the industry throughout their entire apprenticeship, so that when those new cutting-edge things come into play, they only have to learn the very end-user component.
JOHN DAVIS: Reaching beyond the in-tech campus, this demonstration trailer travels to area schools and events, serving as a mobile classroom and EV ambassador. At the recent Chicago Auto Show, thousands of show visitors stepped up to ask the experts about adding EV charging equipment to their own homes or businesses.
Powering Chicago has also produced this downloadable e-book, full of information on how to plan, install and maintain electric vehicle service equipment. Car dealerships are among the many types of businesses expanding their EV charger inventories, anticipating the influx of new electrified models soon to be hitting their showrooms and service areas.
GINA DOLLEY: The typical layout is that there’s several in service, three to four, in service. Um, one in the back for delivery of the vehicles, and then eventually you’re going to see them coming out front for customer-facing, customer use.
I only see it growing from this point on. Right now, it’s-- I’m doing one to two a month. I think it’s going to be more. I have a feeling that we’re going to open up an EV division, and I just have guys dedicated to the installation for these units.
JOHN DAVIS: The winds of change are a’ coming, and forward thinking, like that shown here in the Windy City, is what it will take to keep us all charged up for the road ahead.
H2 the Rescue
How Hydrogen Can Help First Responders
Mounting an effective response to natural disasters or emergency situations often comes down to having the right vehicles and equipment on standby. This week we look at a prototype rescue truck that relies on clean power technology to let first responders hit the ground running.
Efficient use of time and resources in the first hours after a hurricane, flood, fire, or winter storm, especially in remote areas, is critical for setting up a successful recovery operation.
H2@Rescue is a hydrogen fuel cell/battery hybrid truck that can mobilize to disaster sites within a 180-mile range, and then provide power, heating and cooling, and even create water on-site for up to 72 hours before refueling.
The project is a collaboration between several federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the Army Corps of Engineers and private sector partners. We caught up with the team at Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab, where functionality testing was underway.
NICHOLAS JOSEFIK: “The H2@Rescue gives us an opportunity to bring an emergency vehicle into a situation where there is no power or water, and get some eyes on the situation. We can immediately have a command center, we can immediately be producing power– 25 kilowatts worth of power– and we can be generating water on site that could be used.”
H2@Rescue is a Class 7 heavy duty truck weighing approximately 33,000 pounds.The box body is climate controlled and can act as a mobile command center or warming/cooling shelter during an emergency. The truck carries 176 kilograms of hydrogen onboard, in high-pressure tanks. Hydrogen fuel has an energy density about three times that of gas or diesel, and the electric drivetrain used in this truck is more efficient than a similar internal combustion engine.
Conversion of the Kenworth chassis from diesel to hydrogen power was spearheaded by Accelera by Cummins, a new subsidiary of the traditionally diesel-driven engine maker, that will focus on zero-emissions power solutions for the future.
PRATEEK VAISH: “It has a fuel cell, which produces 90 kilowatts at max. There’s a high-voltage battery, which is 155 kilowatt-hours, and there is a traction motor, which is 250. So, in a nutshell, how this vehicle operates is: The fuel cell charges the battery, and the battery provides power to the traction– traction motor. But if the battery is low on charge, the fuel cell can also provide power to the traction motor.”
The transport and fueling infrastructure for hydrogen still lags behind conventional fuels in terms of cost and number of locations due to the need for pressurized tanks and other factors, but that gap could be closed in the future, since hydrogen can be produced and stored locally, potentially right at a fueling site.
Accelera is already a global leader in fuel cell applications with more than 2,000 fuel cells and 600 electrolyzers – the machines that separate hydrogen from water — already in use.
Lessons learned here will help them develop zero-emission power solutions for other vocational vehicles, like electric utility trucks, transit buses, delivery vehicles and long-haul trucks.
PRATEEK VAISH: “And we’re doing a lot of work towards destination zero, which is we’re trying to decarbonize the whole Cummins portfolio by 2050, so this is a great step in that direction.”
H2@Rescue passed the NREL testing with flying colors, proving that hydrogen power can fulfill the critical needs of first responders in these extraordinary situations, and showing one pathway to a zero-emission future for vehicles of all sizes.