e-Boost: Building Resiliency for Natural Disasters
Building Resiliency for Natural Disasters
EV Charging • Backup Power • Communications
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average outage time of the grid doubled in the last five years. Across the country, climate-change-fueled extreme weather events are causing increasingly frequent power outages and are presenting a growing threat to our nation’s energy infrastructure.
While the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will play an important role in minimizing the effects of climate change in the long term, the transition is not without its challenges. Federal and state governments have simultaneously mandated that electricity be made with renewables and that new vehicles run on electricity. But, even in scenarios where renewable energy is more prevalent, weather-driven variations in wind and solar generation mean that these cleaner technologies still rely on the grid to serve as a “backup battery.”
Experts agree that the increased demand in EV adoption will undoubtedly stress the grid. Adding one EV is the equivalent of adding a house to the electrical grid, while one DC fast charger can draw the equivalent of a whole neighborhood’s electricity needs all at once.
All these factors will affect utility rates, especially around peak demand, creating excessive demand charges for site hosts. And while there are requirements for backup power within 24 hours of an outage for fossil-based fueling stations along some evacuation routes, none exist for EV charging infrastructure.
What is needed is a resource that reduces the stress on the grid created by the projected increase in EV adoption, decreases the reliance on fuel sources that produce significant amounts of GHG emissions, can be mobile and accessible where needed, and can also provide an off-grid backup power source in the event of a natural disaster.
The Stages of a Natural Disaster
Forewarned and Forearmed?
Some disasters are forewarned, while others -- as in California’s earthquakes and wildfires -- have short-notices. These types of events make it difficult, if not impossible to charge an electric vehicle ahead of time. Wildfires and drought fueled by climate change also threaten infrastructure. Power may be cut pre-emptively when the risk of fire is high, and rolling blackouts are implemented when supply is stretched thin. In these scenarios, an off-grid power resource can prove to be invaluable.
While California has the largest concentration of EVs, 40% nationally, it is the largest power importer in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Record wildfires in 2021 throughout the West have threatened key transmission lines between states.
Evacuation distances for those escaping the affected areas may exceed the range of an electric vehicle on a single charge and charging stations could become oversubscribed with long waiting lines or worst yet, become unavailable due to outages. The evacuation could lead to traffic jams, longer travel times, draining battery life even further, and result in abandoned vehicles.
When fossil-fuel based fueling stations within 1/2 mile of a highway exit or hurricane evacuation routes, are required to be able to deploy a backup generator within 24 hours after losing power during an emergency, why shouldn’t EV charging stations have similar requirements? A mobile charging station can and should be deployed along designated routes to provide access to both EV charging and backup power requirements.
Once evacuated from a natural disaster area, communities where evacuees shelter may also not have the capacity for the increased population and their e-Vehicles in need of charging. Electrical capacity in neighboring communities may also have been affected, as in the case of the Dixie fire of2021 in California, which spread across four counties. A mobile charging station can facilitate an orderly evacuation and be frequently relocated to provide power and charging where evacuees shelter.
During the disaster itself, fire and police units, emergency medical personnel, and rescue workers rush to damaged areas to provide aid. In coastal areas, Hurricane Sandy shutdown 165 electric substations, several large powerplants, 7K transformers, and 15K electrical poles. And Sandy was not an isolated incident. Storm surge and coastal flooding are major contributors to widespread outages and have a domino effect on neighboring communities.
Under these conditions, electrical resources are prioritized for shelters and medical services over charging vehicles. Elderly people need essential medical equipment, such as respirators, and others need to refrigerate drugs like insulin.
Additionally, many of the delivery vehicles, especially last mile delivery, are being rapidly converted to EV, and during disaster response and recovery, may not be able to make the most crucial lifesaving deliverables like medicines and first aid supplies.
During recovery, bringing power back to the community is often staggered based on both priority and the repaired capacity. Short-term recovery measures are those that are intended to return the community to minimum operating standards. Vital services such as water, power, communications, transportation, are prioritized for public and private utility company crews, along with other emergency teams, who are on the job to restore essential services.
These teams could be making houses habitable so that families can move out of temporary shelters and return to their own homes.
At the community level, this part of recovery may require completing repairs to roads and bridges so traffic can start moving again, or restoring water and power to areas in need, especially to important public structures such as hospitals and major places of employment.
Communications is needed for the local government to publicly announce, across various media streams, the types of assistance available and how to access them. Connectivity to communications systems is also essential to coordinate efforts with voluntary agencies who are a central part of the effective response to and recovery from emergencies. They provide critical assistance with food, shelter, clothing, household items, medical expenses, clean-up, repairs, and rebuilding.
Communities and utilities can pour concentrated efforts into getting power restored when being supported by a short-term, off-grid, and on-demand power source.
Long term recovery are those steps taken to return to previous conditions (to the extent possible), combined with improvements that will better protect the community from future disasters. A mobile power source can provide more permanent relief during extended recovery periods.
Long-term recovery may occur over a period of months or years, depending on the severity of the emergency or disaster. It often involves extensive repair and rebuilding. It took nearly a year, 328 days to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the largest blackout in U.S. history. The disruption and destruction to the community can be so great that some businesses may never reopen or may have to relocate. Although a community may appear to be “open for business” a few weeks after an emergency or disaster, it may be years after a severe disaster before the community returns to pre-disaster conditions.
The assistance provided at the state and federal level will prioritize restoring critical services and rebuilding, and not necessarily EV charging infrastructure -- fires will melt charging hoses, earthquakes may disable wiring, renewable energy from solar roofs may have been damaged.
Many service businesses and construction businesses have already started to adopt EV vehicles and equipment. Additionally, farming communities are also converting to EV farm equipment. After a natural disaster, these businesses in these communities may be left with no EV charging resources to salvage their business and worst yet, the crops.
The Role of e-Boost Before, During and After a Natural Disaster
During extreme weather, blackouts, or brownouts, e-Boost can provide an emergency charging independent of the grid, running on “green” propane, and provide the back-up power that keeps communities and essential services running.
e-Boost provides the resiliency that communities and utilities need by delivering the power for continuity in operations, and the EV charging needed during evacuations. In the event of a major disaster, the single most important infrastructure priority is getting power restored, e-Boost allows communities to focus on the highest priorities for disaster recovery in affected areas.
Avoiding CO Poisoning During Severe Weather Events
Currently, many households in rural areas are forced to rely on portable gas-powered generators to provide electricity. And, during severe weather events, and lingering power outages these types of generators can be the deadliest parts of a storm or fire. If used indoors, these generators can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning within minutes. Tragically, carbon monoxide poisonings often spike after severe weather events.
Our propane-based generators area safer and a more equitable alternative to diesel or gas-powered generators. And due to their inherent mobility, and power capabilities, they do not require to be brought indoors. A single unit can be capable of supporting the energy needs of a small community during emergencies.
Propane is Green Today
Today, e-Boost is powered by propane because of its robustness in availability, storability, and transportability. Propane has a wide distribution network, easily found in the most remote locations, is safe to transport, and does not degrade over time, making it the ideal choice fore-Boost. e-Boost is automatically refueled along any delivery route by local propane suppliers.
Propane’s storage flexibility means sensitive habitats can remain undisturbed, eliminating the need for pipelines or high-voltage power line installations. It does not contaminate the soil or groundwater because it’s non-toxic and non-poisonous.
Typically, electricity must be generated by a primary energy source, and in the US, natural gas and coal are electricity’s largest primary energy sources. Once generated, electricity must be transmitted through power lines, where electrons encounter resistance and lose energy. Getting one unit of electricity to where it is utilized can take up to three units of source energy. In contrast, propane has a source-site ratio of 1.01, and is delivered on-site rather than transmitted or piped, so virtually no energy is lost in the transfer.
Propane is one of the cleanest fuels available, offering the lowest in carbon emissions per million BTUs according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Propane produces 43% fewer GHG emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the U.S. grid.
Propane’s environmentally friendly benefits don’t end there. Propane also offers a pathway to net-zero emissions with the commercial-scale production of renewable liquid petroleum gas (rLPG) which lowers its carbon intensity to 19% (the national average for the U.S. grid is 139%, and 31% in California where the grid operates on more renewable energy). In October 2020, U-Haul, the largest retailer of propane in the U.S., teamed with national distributor Suburban® Propane Partners to make renewable propane available. U-Haul absorbed the additional premium to make the product available at no additional charge.
In April 2022, Suburban Propane, with 700 locations across 41 states, announced the commercial launch of propane+ rDME. This innovative new product is the first commercially available blend of either traditional, or renewable propane, and rDME. Renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) is a fuel additive that further reduces propane’s carbon intensity to 0%.
Both rLPG and rDME are derived from bio-feedstock that helps to reduce landfill waste, lowers your carbon footprint, and mitigates the negative impact of transportation emissions on the environment.
Moreover, the use of rLPG and rDME requires no changes to e-Boost.
Why e-Boost, Why Now?
While high-speed EV charging is at the heart of Pioneer eMobility and its e-Boost line of products, we don't stop there. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is accelerating EV adoption, but gaps are anticipated that will result in various inequities. Low-income households are often at greater risk even before disasters, living in more vulnerable areas and less safe housing. On Capitol Hill, it was noted that these communities have less access to emergency preparedness, evacuation assistance, transportation, safe shelter, medical attention, childcare, and lack liquid savings to fund their recovery.
The geography of grid-tied EV infrastructure makes their use during and following a natural disaster somewhat impractical. This is especially the case in low income and remote communities that may have inadequate electrical infrastructure, and who historically receive a smaller percentage of assistance.
In its current trajectory, EV charging has been aligned with the grid infrastructure, which cluster around cities and dense populations.
Grid-Tied Power Can Take Up to Two Years
Moreover, any grid-tied power where service is inadequate, can often take up to two years, and with so many other essential services vying for recovery funds, they may be cost-prohibitive.
Other gaps include the lack of regulations requiring charging stations to include backup generators within 24 hours of an emergency, as well as the unanticipated idling in traffic jams that decrease range and can lead to abandoned vehicles, which in the case of an EV is “brick mode”, essentially requiring flatbed truck-towing services.
e-Boost can overcome these gaps through a quick, easily deployed, and affordable mobile solution that helps accelerate the broader trends towards a cleaner environment. It can provide EV charging, on-demand power, and connectivity to areas where electrical infrastructure is lacking in urban, suburban, semi-rural, and rural areas, before, during and after natural disasters
e-Boost units are serviced by Pioneer’s Critical Power Group, which has been servicing power generation assets for three decades with a nationwide network.
e-Boost is a product of Pioneer eMobility, a division of Pioneer Power Solutions, experienced providers of off-grid resiliency solutions such as distributed power and back-up power generation assets available throughout the U.S.
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