Schatz Lab Leads Countywide Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Siting Study

For electric vehicles to take off on the North Coast, Humboldt County would need about 43 charging stations from Orick to Garberville.

Those are the findings of a new electric vehicle infrastructure siting study conducted by engineers and student researchers at Humboldt State’s Schatz Energy Research Center, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) and local engineering firm GHD.

Funded by the California Energy Commission, the report is a part of a broader multi-year study by RCEA, Schatz and GHD to prepare Humboldt County for the broad scale adoption of electric vehicles.

“We’ve taken an innovative approach to determine where charging infrastructure will be most needed in Humboldt County. And we had a very high level of student participation in the project,” said Schatz engineer Colin Sheppard, who worked closely with five students to complete the analysis.

To conduct the study, researchers developed an “agent-based” simulation model. Agent-based models are frequently used by researchers to determine the effects of individual actions on an entire system.

In this case, researchers selected possible charging station locations throughout the county and simulated the daily transportation habits of 3,000 drivers. Motorists differed based on their place of residence and daily driving and charging habits.

At the end of each simulation, researchers assessed the results. They looked at when, where and how often drivers charged their vehicles and how often motorists were inconvenienced—such as waiting in line at a charging station or having to drive out of their way to access a charger.

After running the simulation multiple times, researchers were able to determine the most efficient and cost-effective locations for 43 charging stations throughout the county. A map of the charging stations, which should accommodate about 3,000 drivers, can be found here.

“Our guidelines will help planners and local communities make effective choices that keep costs low while providing the greatest benefit to electric vehicle owners,” Sheppard said.

The county’s existing public charging locations include one in downtown Arcata, one off Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata, three in Eureka, and one in Redway, as well as a handful of less formal 240 volt outlets available throughout the county.

Over half of Humboldt County’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Nationwide, transportation contributes to 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Since electric vehicles rely on battery power—as opposed to gasoline—they present a compelling opportunity for communities to reduce their emissions, especially as the electric grid gets greener, Sheppard said.

For the full text of the report, click here.