Mainstreaming Electric Vehicles: Recap from our Symposium

Written by Troy Tournat, Silicon Valley Clean Cities Coordinator and Breathe California of the Bay Area Health Programs Educator


This year, Prospect Silicon Valley gathered global leaders in the sustainable and clean energy movement for a day of exchanging ideas and expertise at the Innovation & Impact 2017 Symposium.

This conglomeration was held at Microsoft’s state-of-the-art campus in Mountain View, and included powerful voices in the field. Speakers expressed their vision for the expansion of all sustainable businesses through collaboration between the private and public sectors; captivated the audience with the foreseen Resource Efficiency Revolution as new young adult customers care about cleaner air, decreasing their carbon footprint, and having complete technology accessibility; and explored questions with knowledgeable panelists on how the mobility, energy, and built environment sectors are converging and leading the way towards renewable energy solutions.

Throughout the day, there were three breakout sessions. I had the pleasure of sitting in the “Mainstreaming Electric Vehicles: What Will it Take?” session, and listened as a panel of experts explored questions on the emerging technologies that will have the largest effect on electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Four panelists presented their informative research, innovative products, and ongoing efforts to bring EV services (infrastructure, SMART charging, and education) to their consumers.

Douglas Black, mechanical Engineer of LBNL researched battery efficiency and demand response, and developed an analytic that could maximize energy and EV grid storage. Phillip Kobernick, Sustainability Project Manager of County of Alameda General Services Agency, discussed his ongoing projects with Alameda County fleets and public EV SMART charging solutions. Kevin Leary, Founder and CEO of PowerHydrant, presented an innovative robotic charging system for multiple vehicles. And Satyajit Patwardhan, CEO of ConnectMyEV built a stronger charging station in anticipation that cars will begin to cover a 200+ mile range. Moderator Mike Harrigan, Senior Program Manager at ProspectSV, lead conversation and questions throughout the session. The following are some Q&A’s covered, and the main takeaways from all the panelists.  


Q: What emerging technology do you believe has the greatest effect?


  • Things that allow us to get data, and any tool to get data in operations (eg, GPS).
  • The decreased cost of lithium batteries.
  • Uptake in desire for charging stations
  • SMART charging (in California).


Q: What are the major barriers in EV adoption? What will prevent EV adoption at a mass level if these barrier are not fixed?


  • In the North East, the biggest barrier is hunting down an EV at a dealership, because the sales people don’t know the car, why it’s important, and how to sell it.
  • Millennials need infrastructure in order to buy EV’s, and the baby boomers need people to do a better job marketing these cars to them.
  • The cost of batteries right now is still high.
  • At the fleet level, fuel variability is the biggest issue we face. It can make charging 9x more expensive depending on the season.


Q: Where do you see the future of increased EV usage first? Will it be fleets, consumers, AV, etc?


  • It should be in fleets because they cause the most emissions, but they are slower moving so the spike will probably be in individual consumer markets. They have a better understanding.
  • It would be great to see EV requirements merge with car sharing companies or local law enforcement.


Q: Which will be leading in converting to EV: light duty pickup, shuttles, or semi bus?


  • Light duty trucks have a lot of potential, especially in developing countries.
  • Heavy duty delivery trucks because they travel a short distance around the city.
  • Class one light duty cars if we focus on supporting fleet managers make that transition.


Q: Where will we be in 5 years in terms of EV adoption?


  • 10% consumed, maybe earlier depending on other markets


Q: How do cities approach charging? What types of incentives should we provide?


  • Put in infrastructure for fleets first, and make it free for them to charge for a couple years.
  • Look at using 3rd party approach, creating SMART cities first and figuring out issues later.
  • Focus on multi-unit housing infrastructure needs.   


Q: Why don’t we do more to generate more power (eg. solar power on parking structures)? Can we start doing that?


  • Yes, we need to start generating megawatts in almost all parking lots.
  • We should, but it doesn’t have to be solely solar with EV. We should explore other clean energy methods to decrease the carbon footprint.


After the session concluded, there seemed to be a new energy and excitement as people exchanged contacts and continued conversations in small groups. And it became clear how important this symposium was to the movement towards a sustainable future. By gathering like-minds from various sectors, and providing a space for them to share, new approaches and connections were forged. I have confidence that with these trailblazers collaborating, the impact will move the entire world towards a sustainable future.


Written by Troy Tournat, Silicon Valley Clean Cities Coordinator and Breathe California of the Bay Area Health Programs Educator

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