The Future is Interoperable: Creating Standardized Infrastructure for the Transportation of Tomorrow
As we learn from our experience on the front lines of the electric transportation revolution in California, we know that interoperability is the EV equivalent of President Dwight Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System -- connect all the states, jobs, communities, commerce, and the cars that follow -- enable economic growth. At CharIN, we've built an association of over 200 members -- automakers, charging station manufacturers, component suppliers, energy providers, grid operators, and many others -- inspired by interoperability and committed to creating one global standard for charging vehicles of all kinds.
"This is the moment in time when we can create interoperable infrastructure -- a single, standardized conductive plug, a 'Megawatt Charging System'..."
Investment in standardized EV infrastructure is the basic bargain the federal government can offer 50 states: the chance to chart their own electric vehicle future in return for standardization across a common charging infrastructure and platform. Take that cost of uniform charging capacity -- that burden -- off the backs of cities, states, and private companies; unleash innovation and rapid adoption of electric vehicles in municipal, public, commercial, and private use.
This is the moment in time when we can create interoperable infrastructure -- a single, standardized conductive plug, a "Megawatt Charging System" -- to keep pace with new requirements from the industry by which the rest will follow. Interoperability is how we empower long-distance EV travel, and it's absolutely key to capturing the most value from an EV network. If idle cars, trucks and fleets of buses can plug into one common network, we can vastly improve transmission in the United States and send clean power where it needs to go, when we need it.
"California is the embodiment of what can happen when technology and policy do not collide, but instead collaborate. California is the model that the entire country can look at, not with envy, but for inspiration."
Why do we believe this is so important? The story of electric vehicles from Silicon Valley to Detroit has been one of imagination and innovation that is distinctly American. From Tesla to Rivian and a myriad of start-up companies in between, makers are pushing boundaries in the electric automotive and battery design sprint which will pay dividends.
Unfortunately, the American experience is marked also by a deficit of our decentralized model. Currently, there is a proliferation of Combined Charging Systems, yet there are still some solutions that don't interoperate. Imagine having to navigate a highway for hundreds of miles in search of a gas station depending on which car you own. But we are on the road to global interoperability, preparing us for a future where school buses that sit gathering dust from 10 AM to 2 PM every day can be plugged in and send power to the grid. The same can be done with cars sitting in office garages all day. So far, we aren't doing that nationwide, except in pockets of innovation like in California.
California is the embodiment of what can happen when technology and policy do not collide, but instead collaborate. California is the model that the entire country can look at, not with envy, but for inspiration. Two years ago, at CharIN's member meeting in Oakland, we did something different to reignite collaboration. Instead of business and technology running on one track, and government running on another, we decided to bring these essential entities together. We broke down the silos. We invited the California Energy Commission (CEC) to participate.
"Today, California is leading the nation in integrating its new electric power system into its transportation system, with support and coordination from the private sector. "
The state's leadership had high ambitions to clean the air and achieve equitable clean energy deployment goals for disadvantaged communities that were disproportionately impacted by air pollution but didn't have the resources to buy brand-new electric buses and utility vehicles. Together, we identified one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of Governor Gavin Newsom and CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan's vision for California to modernize the fleet of trucks and school buses into electrified platforms. It was simply impossible to put an electric truck on the highway if it needed to stop for a lengthy recharge session before it went back on the road.
So, our marching orders were clear: we needed to start creating the technological infrastructure to make it economically viable for all California communities to go electric. We saw vehicle grid integration and smart charging as ways to maximize the savings potential during the energy transition. But all of this depended on standardization, and together, we collaborated to put California -- which as the world's fifth largest economy will need 1.2 million electric chargers over the next decade -- into the game.
"Interoperability will make it easy for charging stations to 'talk to' vehicles, the grid and the charging networks, cutting costs and saving drivers money."
What was the result? Today, California is leading the nation in integrating its new electric power system into its transportation system, with support and coordination from the private sector. Power-generating giants like Cummins have jumped in with both feet alongside upstarts like Nuvve, who are partnering with Blue Bird and Lion Electric to charge up the Golden State's electric school buses and be power sources when communities need them.
"California is committed to a zero-emission transportation future that benefits everyone, especially lower income families," Commissioner Monahan said regarding the collaborative effort. "Interoperability will make it easy for charging stations to 'talk to' vehicles, the grid and the charging networks, cutting costs and saving drivers money. CharIN members are our allies in promoting an interoperable network that would allow drivers to 'plug and charge' with standardized equipment."
"...start with one basic premise that shamelessly paraphrases 'Field of Dreams': if you can charge it, the industry will grow."
California doesn't have to be an outlier. It can be the vanguard for cities, states, and private companies throughout the country. Let entrepreneurs and innovators compete over the details and desirability of automotive designs -- the heavy-duty trucks and utility vehicles, consumer cars and trucks, sedans, and SUVs of tomorrow -- but let's start with one basic premise that shamelessly paraphrases Field of Dreams: if you can charge it, the industry will grow.
Compared to the investments unleashed after President Eisenhower declared the national imperative to support established, fossil-fuel heavy transportation -- catalytic investment that includes interoperability can propel America to lead the world in transportation for generations. This is the kind of big thinking, modern thinking, that will allow electric energy to power America's rides and roads. Now is the moment we can choose to make it possible to plug in -- together.