Solar powered EV charging stations could end range anxiety

Could agrivoltaic systems have the potential to meet energy requirements of electric vehicles (EVs)? They very well could be. That seems to be the takeaway of a study conducted by a team of researchers from Oregon State University.

The researchers, Casey L. Steadman and Chad W. Higgins, investigated the possibility of utilizing agricultural land to generate solar energy to power electric vehicles on Oregon’s highways.

They discovered that installing agrivoltaic systems near highways can be beneficial in rural areas where electric charging stations are scarce and most needed, according to a study recently published in Scientific Reports.

Solar-powered charging stations

With global warming continuing at an unprecedented rate, the threat posed by the fast changing environment to human life as we know it has only grown. According to an April IPCC report, the time is “now or never,” which is why the fight to protect the Earth’s biosphere and climate is being waged on multiple fronts.

Naturally, shifting away from fossil fuels and electrifying the transportation industry is vital; but, range anxiety, or the fear of not being able to reach the next charging point, has proven to be a significant barrier to individuals embracing EVs. To address this issue, the researchers investigated how agrivoltaic technology may be utilized to improve EV charging infrastructure and minimize range anxiety.

The Oregon State researchers imagined a scenario with the highest traffic demand and the lowest photovoltaic generation in their analysis. The study identified 231 rural highway access sites with enough land area to support EV charging stations with electricity provided by agrivoltaic installations, and the results indicated that agrivoltaics may play a role in charging station infrastructure development.

Overall, it was seen that 12,000 acres (18.75 square miles) of land would be required to meet the conservative estimate of EV charging station demand at 86 percent of highway access locations in Oregon.

The researchers examined previous research from Croatia, which found that people have less range anxiety when charging stations are less than 3.1 miles apart. According to previous study, gas stations are typically 2.5 to 18 miles apart. In their scenario, the Oregon State team utilized this range as a starting point.

The results

The team estimated that the potential for carbon reduction through agrivoltaic-powered EV charging stations is about 3.1 million tons, or the equivalent of 673,915 vehicles removed from the road each year, if their approach were fully implemented.

Overall, the researchers demonstrated that supplying rural EV charging stations with agrivoltaics adjacent to the highway is viable, requiring only 3 percent of total land supply to power 86 percent of rural highway access sites throughout the state.

This is incredibly important as rural areas frequently lack the grid infrastructure to support charging stations. According to the study, agrivoltaics could enable a shift in energy output to the point of use.

Abstract:

Electrification of the transportation industry is necessary; however, range anxiety has proven to be a major hindrance to individuals adopting electric vehicles (EVs). Agrivoltaic systems (AVS) can facilitate the transition to EVs by powering EV charging stations along major rural roadways, increasing their density and mitigating range anxiety. Here we conduct case study analyses of future EV power needs for Oregon, USA, and identify 174 kha of AVS viable agricultural land outside urban boundaries that is south facing and does not have prohibitive attributes (designated wetland, forested land, or otherwise protected lands). 86% highway access points have sufficient available land to supply EV charging stations with AVS. These AVS installations would occupy less than 3% (5 kha) of the identified available land area. Installing EV charging stations at these 86% highway access points would yield 231 EV charging stations with a median range of 5.9 km (3.6 mi), a distance comparable to driver expectations, suggesting that this approach would serve to mitigate range anxiety. AVS powered rural charging stations in Oregon could support the equivalent of 673,915 electric vehicles yr−1, reducing carbon emissions due to vehicle use in OR by 3.1 mil MTCO2 yr−1, or 21%.

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