Plugged In Blog

A Patented Way to Electrify Gas Stations?

03.02.22

Lost in the wonkiness of a patent filing is the vision behind it and its potential to substantially reshape our collective future. So when you hear Joule Case was granted US Patent #20210111582A1 for “Modularized ESS And Power Distribution System” it may reassure you that we are battery nerds 🤓 of the highest order and ahead of the curve in how we think about our industry. Both are true, but here is some additional perspective around what this patent makes possible.

First, electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise - both from an awareness level in the sheer amount of money dropped on Super Bowl ads and from current and future production commitments from every notable automaker plus a few new players.

That’s great, the less emissions the better, but our grids are not prepared. Even with 7.5 billion of government funds to accelerate the buildout of new chargers, we are not prepared.

When you think about EVs, it’s important to recognize the three different levels of charging. The lower the number is, the slower the charge. Level 1 is your standard wall socket in your garage where an hour of charge will roughly give you a few miles of range. Level 2 chargers are more common in public and commercial spaces, such as offices and hotels. These can charge at a rate between 5x to 15x faster than a level 1. Level 3 is the closest approximation we would have to refilling your car completely at the gas station: 15 minutes to an hour to fully charge a vehicle. A level 3 charger can equate to more miles in a minute than a level 1 can provide in an hour.

Keep in mind all of this is overly simplified and variables from temperatures to vehicle to battery type and more will impact how long it takes to fully charge a vehicle.

So, level 3 chargers are both the Holy Grail for EV owners and far less available. Traditional gas stations are the most likely to have these available, which means grid power … and a lot of it. Level 3 ranges from 400-Volt to 900-Volt and requires direct current (DC) whereas levels 1 and 2 are alternating current (AC) like most outlets you use every day. Chargers that are level 3 also cost tens of thousands of dollars. Add in whatever electricity rates you’re paying the local utility, at retail rates, and that’s a lot of investment with a long road before a return.

Unless you produce your own electricity and can store the excess for when it is needed…

Some of you may have seen our trailer-sized battery up close at Treefort or in images like the one above. This is the scale and size of battery our patent addresses directly. Today, if we want to move that battery a few feet, even at 1 mile-per-hour, we’re required to have a licensed driver with a hazardous materials certification. Additionally, it can only be transported at a 34% charge or lower. Imagine starting a road trip with a third of a tank or hosting that Super Bowl with just a third of your fridge filled with adult beverages. We can’t show up to power an event with the need to recharge before we get started either.

Our patent gives us the flexibility to add a power control system (aka power cabinet as defined in the patent) to the battery, which provides more functionality such as a DC-AC inverter, frequency regulation and many other elements. That change means Joule Case would no longer require a specialized driver to move our large-scale batteries around. And that’s where the opportunities start to grow exponentially.

Let’s circle back to the gas station with level 3 chargers. If they loaded the canopy over their fuel pumps with solar, that would likely cover the energy needs of the convenience store. Add panels to the store itself and you’d get closer to being able to power some of the level 3 charger demand, but not all, especially given the increasing amount of EVs soon to be on the road. Energy storage would be needed regardless, and because Joule Case is now able to make storage more mobile, we can supply numerous locations with the storage they need, when they need it, at a profit-friendly rate.

The end result – each store can generate and store the bulk of the energy they need to support all vehicles. No utility, no retail rates, more profit margin plus a competitive edge over other stations reliant on a power source beyond their control. Plus, guess who bears the cost burden of additional utility grid investments destined to be overloaded as EV adoption grows?

The future of the fuel station is on the horizon, and our patent brings that day closer to reality. Where we go from here could transform how electric vehicle fleets operate. The live event space we’ve already nudged toward emissions-free could get to 100% reduction with a trailer-sized battery delivery or two. Any energy need that could be better met with Joule Case’s flexible, portable and scalable approach is now ready to be transformed for the better.


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