California EV deal could pave way for a "Strategic Electric Reserve" and grid security

The Golden State has ordered 52 solar-powered electric vehicle charging units that can support first responders during emergencies, power state fleets and more.

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Image: GettyImages/deepblue4you

Electric vehicles are an increasingly popular choice among drivers, although the recharging infrastructure to support these automobiles still presents logistical challenges for refreshes on the go. On Thursday, Beam Global, an electric vehicle charging technologies company, announced a California Department of General Services (DGS) order for more than 50 of the company's solar-powered EV charging systems. The company said the deal could pave the way for an electric energy reserve similar to the petroleum stockpile amassed and stored by the U.S. government.

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"We believe that this, the largest single order in our history, is indicative of an increased emphasis on rapidly deployed and grid independent EV charging infrastructure by all branches of government," said Desmond Wheatley, Beam Global CEO in a press release. "The U.S. has a Strategic Petroleum Reserve but there is no Strategic Electricity Reserve."

EV "emergency preparedness"

Overall, the order calls for 52 Beam Global EV ARC charging stations. In a press release about the announcement, Beam describes its EV recharging products as both "transportable" and "off-grid," noting that this equipment requires "no construction, permitting or electrical work, providing fleet vehicles with access to clean, resilient EV charging." Additionally, these stations are "flood-proof" up to 9.5 feet and rated for winds up to 120 mph, per the release.

"The EV ARC systems also serve as emergency preparedness sustainable generators for fleet operators and first responders as they continue to operate during grid failures and provide power in locations without access to the utility grid," the release said.

A grant from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) with the DGS Office of Sustainability's Transportation Unit executing the order "will bolster the state's off grid and resilient EV charging infrastructure for government-owned fleets," according to the release, adding that these systems will be used to deliver emergency power and offer year-round charging for the state's EV fleets.

"Each EV ARC deployed contributes to our nation's energy security and in combination, provide the beginnings of a Strategic Electric Reserve. We are observing that this vital capability is becoming increasingly recognized in purchasing decisions and we applaud DGS and OES for taking this leadership position in securing the fuel of the future for California," Wheatley said in a press release.

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Beam Global EV ARC charging systems.

Image: Beam Global

Strategic Petroleum Reserve and grid vulnerabilities

The U.S. Office of Fossil Energy describes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as the "world's largest supply of emergency crude oil," explaining that it was created primarily to "reduce the impact of disruptions in supplies of petroleum products and to carry out obligations of the United States under the international energy program." Stored in "huge underground salt caverns" across four sites, the SPR touts a 714 million-barrel "authorized storage capacity," according to the office, adding that the reserve's "sheer size" makes the SPR "a significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool in foreign policy."

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Over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted fragilities in the interconnected global supply chains with shortages ranging from foodstuffs to semiconductor chips. The recent Colonial pipeline cyberattack that led to production disruptions and gas shortages also highlighted U.S. infrastructure vulnerabilities.

"California has just made the largest order in our history because the state understands the need for rapidly deployed, highly scalable technology solutions like ours which provide a hedge against lengthy traditional construction/electrical projects and centralize vulnerabilities caused by weather, terrorism or nefarious state actors," Wheatley said via email.

"Driving on sunshine with our products provides the beginnings of a Strategic Electricity Reserve to replace the Strategic Petroleum Reserve we already have to ensure that we do not run out of diesel or gasoline."

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