The Public Works Nerds

Electrifying Edina: Noah Silver on EV Infrastructure and Fleet Transformation in Public Works

June 11, 2024 Marc Culver, PE Season 2 Episode 12
Electrifying Edina: Noah Silver on EV Infrastructure and Fleet Transformation in Public Works
The Public Works Nerds
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The Public Works Nerds
Electrifying Edina: Noah Silver on EV Infrastructure and Fleet Transformation in Public Works
Jun 11, 2024 Season 2 Episode 12
Marc Culver, PE

In our 32nd episode we are joined by the City of Edina's Master Electrician and Supervisor Noah Silver. Noah guides us through this nerd session on Electric Vehicles and the required infrastructure to support them. 


Join us for a transformative discussion on how the City of Edina is spearheading the future of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. With insights from our esteemed guest, Noah Silver, Edina's Master Electrician and Supervisor, you'll gain exclusive knowledge on the intricate process of electrifying city fleets and public spaces. Discover the funding opportunities, including the National Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, that can enable other municipalities to follow Edina's pioneering path.

Hear the compelling story of Edina's journey from installing their first Level 2 charging station in 2018 to now managing an advanced charging network with ChargePoint hardware. Learn about the strategic decisions behind setting competitive charging rates and implementing a public charging policy that balances accessibility with efficiency. With 21 electric vehicles in the city’s fleet, including police vehicles capable of enduring 12-hour shifts, you'll get a detailed look at the practicalities and challenges of transitioning to electric mobility within public service sectors.

Finally, get a glimpse into the future of sustainable transportation in Edina, from the innovative CAS fund bridging cost gaps for EV adoption to the latest advancements in electric fire truck technology. Noah Silver, along with key stakeholders, shares their experiences with different EV models and the city's collaborative efforts to expand infrastructure. Whether you're an EV enthusiast or a municipal planner, this episode is packed with actionable insights and inspiring stories that highlight how Edina is setting a benchmark in sustainable urban transportation.

Show Notes:

News item on Edina's first EV
https://edinadocs.edinamn.gov/weblink/0/edoc/74504/CitySlick_December_2013.pdf

City of Edina's Sustainability website:
https://www.edinamn.gov/458/Sustainability 


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In our 32nd episode we are joined by the City of Edina's Master Electrician and Supervisor Noah Silver. Noah guides us through this nerd session on Electric Vehicles and the required infrastructure to support them. 


Join us for a transformative discussion on how the City of Edina is spearheading the future of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. With insights from our esteemed guest, Noah Silver, Edina's Master Electrician and Supervisor, you'll gain exclusive knowledge on the intricate process of electrifying city fleets and public spaces. Discover the funding opportunities, including the National Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, that can enable other municipalities to follow Edina's pioneering path.

Hear the compelling story of Edina's journey from installing their first Level 2 charging station in 2018 to now managing an advanced charging network with ChargePoint hardware. Learn about the strategic decisions behind setting competitive charging rates and implementing a public charging policy that balances accessibility with efficiency. With 21 electric vehicles in the city’s fleet, including police vehicles capable of enduring 12-hour shifts, you'll get a detailed look at the practicalities and challenges of transitioning to electric mobility within public service sectors.

Finally, get a glimpse into the future of sustainable transportation in Edina, from the innovative CAS fund bridging cost gaps for EV adoption to the latest advancements in electric fire truck technology. Noah Silver, along with key stakeholders, shares their experiences with different EV models and the city's collaborative efforts to expand infrastructure. Whether you're an EV enthusiast or a municipal planner, this episode is packed with actionable insights and inspiring stories that highlight how Edina is setting a benchmark in sustainable urban transportation.

Show Notes:

News item on Edina's first EV
https://edinadocs.edinamn.gov/weblink/0/edoc/74504/CitySlick_December_2013.pdf

City of Edina's Sustainability website:
https://www.edinamn.gov/458/Sustainability 


Marc Culver:

Welcome to the Public Works Nerds Podcast. Hey, nerds, just a couple of quick notes before we start this great episode here about EV charging. We're going to talk a lot about how Edina has implemented chargers throughout their city facilities and such and helped even install some chargers out in the public space and then use that infrastructure to support the electrification of a good chunk of their fleet. And it's really giving Dyn a lot of credit for being leaders again in this area and really pushing the limits on electrifying the fleet and even getting their police officers to like it, which is great. But I want to just also mention that there are a lot of funding opportunities out there for these chargers. I think most of you that are in the know have heard of the NEVI program, the National Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure program, where the federal government has got literally billions of dollars out there to invest in getting chargers out on these alternative fuel corridors out there. And Minnesota, iowa, all the states out there and the territories that Bolton-Mank is involved in have active solicitations out there for grant funds and we'd be happy to help you work on those. But there's also other programs congestion management funds and such that we can help you point towards applications and such, to try to get some funds for you to get some chargers out at your facilities. So I just wanted to add that. Note that if you're thinking about this and you need some help, maybe need some funding, you know, reach out and we'll help you get there, even if it's outside of our territory. We'll help you find somebody that can help you do that as well. So thanks and enjoy this episode. Welcome to the Public Works Nerds podcast, a Public Works podcast of the nerds, by the nerds and for the nerds. I'm your host, M arc Culver. As always, thanks for joining us. Today we're going to talk about electric vehicles. As our agencies adapt to the demands of climate change, climate action plans and other efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, more and more of us are looking at shifting some of our fleet to electric vehicles, but if you've started down this path, you know it's not as simple as just buying some electric vehicles. Today we are joined by the City of Edina's Master Electrician and Supervisor, noah Silver. Noah is helping Edina adapt their infrastructure to support the addition of fully electric vehicles into their fleet. We're going to talk about what that means, some of the challenges are associated with that and some of the positives of moving to electric vehicles. Welcome, noah.

Marc Culver:

Hi thanks for having me, Thanks for joining us. It was kind of short notice on this, but I really appreciate you joining us. It was a great idea. I went to a Public Works nerd veteran, Ross Bittner, first and asked him if he wanted to join us, and he handed it off to the city engineer, Chad Milner. And then he said well, really you should have Noah on. So here's Noah.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, and I got to just quick say you know, Ross was on here prior. You know our engineering services manager and he is totally a public works nerd and I am going to try, really hard, to try and even follow that lead in from the city of Edina. So yes, he is.

Marc Culver:

If you look up public works or in the dictionary, it is a picture of Ross Banner. His picture is right there. Yes, and he actually gave me a. He like came up with a definition for a public works nerd that I need to. I need to work into an episode at some point. So that's a good reminder of that. And Chad, mr Milner, one of these days I'm going to get you on one of these podcasts too. But thanks, thanks again for joining us and on the short notice.

Marc Culver:

All right, so you're a master electrician with a government agency. What does that mean and what do you do as a master electrician for the city of Edina?

Noah Silver:

Yeah, sure. Well, first of all, you know I'm surrounded by all these PEs. You know PEs everywhere, and now you got the Votech kid in here, so you know I'm just going to throw that out there. But yeah, so as a master electrician for the city of Edina, we have in-house electricians and HVAC techs. So with state licensing, you know an employer needs a master electrician to supervise over that electrical work and the licensed electricians. So that's a really big key part of it right there. And so with the city of Edina, it was a little surprise to me some of the things coming in because I came from the private sector. I was with a commercial and industrial contractor for about 12 years prior to the city of Edina, and I would say it's more the learning. It took a while to learn the nuances of how government works and just the pieces that are in place to get things done, with the accountability piece being that you are working for the public. So that was I would say that was the biggest adjustment for me.

Bolton & Menk:

Yeah.

Marc Culver:

So like from a week-to-week basis, like what kind of projects you're working on and what kind of things are you doing? Sure.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, so we are in the facilities division of engineering and as the supervisor of electrical HVAC it's just that it's electrical HVAC and plumbing, so it's, I like to say, coordinating the chaos, if you will. So, first off, day to day, right, just the demands, the needs, the things that pop up, service type calls. All that is brought in internally through a ticket system and filtered out to depending on what type of request it is and who typically handles that. And so my job is to, you know, monitor that and make sure things don't fall through the cracks. And then, obviously, the field staff providing them the support they need to be able to do that work and do it efficiently and accurately.

Noah Silver:

And then, in addition to that, it's also there's a lot of project base right. So it's working with basically every department in the city looking at projects, whether it's a piece of HVAC equipment that's being replaced, or maybe it's a remodel, or maybe it's a brand new building that we're building, anywhere along that spectrum. It's assisting with technical specifications, working with the engineering firms. I'm almost kind of sometimes like a systems analyst, helping bridge that gap of what does the city want or need out of this project and then helping relay that to the engineering firms and or the contractors to help get it done. Great, yeah, great. So how long have you been with the city?

Noah Silver:

Just a little over nine years now, okay, and prior to Edina yeah, so I don't know how far back you want me to go, so let's go. I originally was in school for law enforcement because I think this will be fun and plus it'll give some ammo to the folks that know me that'll be listening. So I was a Paul Blart out at the Mall of America.

Bolton & Menk:

So I was a Paul.

Noah Silver:

Blart out at the Mall of America, were you.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, yeah, were you on the Segway?

Bolton & Menk:

No, everybody asked that they didn't have them then.

Noah Silver:

So no, no, segway. Yes, I did sometimes have ice cream while I was walking the halls, no, but anyways. So I started out working there while I was going to school for law enforcement and working there for a little over four years I decided, yeah, this isn't my thing. But listening to my father's advice, trade, you know, you should consider trade. So I went to Anoka Hennepin Tech and went through their construction electrician program and then after that I joined the IBEW it's the Electrical Workers Union Apprenticeship Program and went through that and so I started my electrical career in 1996, the latter half of it, so just about 28 years now I've been in this industry. So that's kind of where it started and how I got. So again after my apprenticeship I was at a local Twin Cities area here, a commercial industrial contractor, where I dabbled in various roles, from a foreman running work to ultimately going into service work and becoming a service foreman prior to coming to the city of Edina. So what?

Marc Culver:

what uh influenced you to apply for the city of vagina position.

Noah Silver:

Well, the niche that I had fallen into in the private sector was I took care of about nine different cities here in the metro area of their electrical needs. So I had been doing a lot with everything from sewer and water type just maintenance and repairs and upgrades of systems and controls, helping maintain that stuff to the city buildings, you name it. And so I ended up doing that for about 10 years of the 12 years I was there and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed just meeting the different folks in the city and working on such a varied type of electrical work, kind of across the board like that. And so when the City of Edina opportunity became available through all these connections I had with the city, someone made me aware of it and I thought I really got to give that a shot and I'm really glad I did.

Noah Silver:

I really do enjoy it here at the city.

Marc Culver:

Good, good. Who do you actually report to? Just out of curiosity.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, so I report to the facility manager. Okay, and that's Derek Otten, at the City of Edina. And then again, we are a division of engineering, so we do fall under the director of engineering, all right.

Marc Culver:

Yep, well, good, so let's shift focus to electric vehicles. So you've been with the city for nine years, you said right, so I think that predates the movement to electrifying the fleet. Yes, it does. So when did you get involved with that? Like, when did you first hear about this thought about all right, we're going to bring some electric vehicles in, and what was your initial thought of that and just kind of the progression?

Noah Silver:

Yeah. So for me, when I came in, they had, just a little before I started, purchased one Nissan Leaf, the city we had.

Marc Culver:

And that's a fully electric, or is that a hybrid?

Noah Silver:

Yes, it's a battery electric. Yes, and it had your just what you would call a dumb charging station, right, just a very simple charging station in the public works garage, and that was existing when I arrived Public Works Garage. And that was existing when I arrived. It was in 2018, where we were doing a large addition and remodel of our north parking ramp in the 50th and France District. That was the very first kind of start and station of looking at our EV charging infrastructure, expansion and fleet, so we really started dabbling in it as a city I would say I'll call it more seriously starting in 2018. And we installed that first station in the north parking ramp. What was that first station?

Marc Culver:

It's a level two station, okay 240 volts and 30 amps each port. So and that was. Was that just for city vehicles, then, or was that a public?

Noah Silver:

at first, again, the city started dabbling in it. They wanted to get a station in that ramp project and so it was primarily for public to just kind of start showcasing and and and getting people to think about and talk about EVs. Uh, but obviously then after that we started shifting towards no, this is, we're going to use our fleet and the needs of our fleet to roll it out. So that's, I would say, the one outlier primarily out of our entire inventory that we currently have.

Marc Culver:

Okay, what do you? Is that a? Is that a charge? Point charger. Yeah, we ultimately decided to utilize the charge point hardware and platform yes, Okay, Any reason why or were you involved in Any?

Noah Silver:

reason why, or were you involved in that? Yes, I was involved in that as well. We tried another platform I'll leave the name out because I think it's the right thing to do but it just wasn't working for us. We just felt that the ChargePoint platform provided what we needed to help us juggle fleet and public and be able to kind of interchange the two and have some flexibility there, because in the beginning I don't know that. We fully knew exactly what direction it was going to completely go Right, fully knew exactly how what direction it was going to completely go right. You know, you're just starting out and you have your theories and then, as time goes on and it's not like from 2018 to now, evs haven't changed, right, we've got a ton to talk about about that right, just the charger so yeah, cable and connector.

Bolton & Menk:

What's the technology going to?

Noah Silver:

be, and where are we going, and how our batteries and the you know, on and on and on and on. So that's the one big benefit to a platform like that is you truly do have some flexibility.

Marc Culver:

Yeah.

Noah Silver:

Good.

Marc Culver:

So, and just to kind of touch on that a little bit more, I know enough about this to be dangerous, but I know there's a lot to be thought about, to consider as far as setting rates, you know, and figuring out how much are you being charged for that energy and then demand charges and this, that and the other. So were you involved in some of that as far as figuring out how much to actually charge the public?

Noah Silver:

for the use of this. Well, I'll say it this way yes and no, because with the Public Utility Commission, my understanding is we can't charge for power and I'm not well-versed in that, so it's definitely something that legal. You need to look into what we decided and when I say we, I should probably point this out it would be the sustainability manager. Myself and the director of engineering kind of, are where these little kind of organized thoughts start and when we look to expand, and then obviously several other players within the city, depending on what departments involved with the fleet get in it. But, with that being said, early on we were looking at it more as we don't direct, we don't charge the public to use them directly. We don't charge the public to use them directly.

Noah Silver:

What we wanted to do is again promote EVs and promote going towards electric vehicles, anyways. So with that, we allow two hours and 15 minutes. We put a buffer in there where it's free, oh, wow, yeah, and then after that it's $6 an hour and that's just to get people to move on and self-police it, because the signs do say two hours is the time limit. Now, obviously, our fleet, it's unlimited and we find that it works really well, because the $6 was picked, because we figured for a long time. Financially it just won't make sense for people to plug in and stay there for that amount of time, to plug in and stay there for that amount of time. So again, the fee is more to self-police the stations and get people to properly rotate through. And as far as charging for it, again I don't believe we actually can charge for energy use.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, I think that depends on what funds you use to purchase the chargers, yeah, but yeah, I mean, that's obviously a consideration, as agencies are looking to fund these chargers and that is what limitations are on that. So how many chargers does the city of Edina have out there for public use now?

Noah Silver:

Ooh, so well. We have a total of 38 ports, okay, and out of those, I would say, about roughly half of them are accessible to the public.

Marc Culver:

Got it. Have you installed any fast?

Noah Silver:

chargers yet Not yet. Okay, we have in our CIP to put a 200 kilowatt hour DC fast charging station down at our public works, kind of by our fuel dispensing area, because we're getting to that point with our fleet. But again, that's close. We're just securing the other half of the funding for it.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, so yeah, and I think we're going to jump back and forth between some of the technical aspects of these chargers that you're putting in and some of the challenges in that, and talk about the fleet, but let's move back to the fleet side. So you said you started with the Nissan Leaf in 2018 or prior to that. It was a little prior, a little before that yeah, so tell us about how your electric fleet has expanded since then.

Noah Silver:

Oh, my, yeah, I just looked today, actually, because I was like I'm pretty sure our fleet operations supervisor just acquired a couple other and we're at 21 uh vehicles. Wow, yeah, uh, and all of them are battery electric, except for four of them. Four of them are our plug-in hybrids, okay, so, uh, yeah, we've really expanded. Uh, it started out with a couple of vehicles and now we're, we're really, uh, I guess, trucking along, uh, what, what the city has decided is a half ton pickup trucks and down is where we're looking, as we replace vehicles, to go battery electric and by default, yeah, and if and if, uh, by chance, there isn't that option available, then it's looking for a plug-in hybrid and then, obviously, the next tier is just a hybrid and it's only if you exhaust all that that then we look at an actual internal combustion engine or an ICE vehicle.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, yeah. So the four plug-in hybrids that you have what are they and do you know why you have those plug-in hybrids?

Noah Silver:

Yeah, so the Mitsubishi Outlanders, that's three of the four Good vehicles. Yeah, and then the fourth one is Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Bolton & Menk:

Oh really, yes yeah.

Noah Silver:

So the minivan that was to replace the minivan that our IT department has, you know, in order to get around the city with doing their desktop support type stuff with equipment, and so they really wanted another minivan and at the time, you know, based on their needs, working with our fleet operations supervisor and our sustainability manager, that's what made sense. Good, you know. So that we do that too. When we look at vehicle replacements, the stakeholders that are actually going to be using the vehicle in that department, it's really important that they have input in it, because if you want to have this be successful, you really need to have everybody have their input and really be comfortable with the decision so that they're supportive of it. And it's what really helps move our fleet forward, because you do get some folks that are maybe a little apprehensive of going battery electric. So, yeah, really good thing to do. And then the Mitsubishi Outlanders those two of them went to our liquor operations.

Marc Culver:

They're used as delivery vehicles. Okay, that makes sense that you'd want something that you'd have kind of a backup range on.

Noah Silver:

Correct Short range. They're doing deliveries, they can plug in overnight for long periods of time, they can run virtually battery electric a majority of the time, and also when they were purchased it was earlier on when you just didn't really have a lot of options for a vehicle like that as well. So that was the main reason, I would say, why we had them, and same with the third one which went to engineering for engineering, tech for out in the field, for site inspections and whatnot, whatnot. And again, it was, I believe, mostly because at the time it was more in the beginning, before we had Ford and everybody else starting to build the vehicles.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, when I was at Roseville we had a similar situation. We were replacing a vehicle that our utility superintendent used and you know I really was was eager to dive into some sort of electrification at some level.

Marc Culver:

And so we kind of looked at it and I was actually surprised at how cost competitive the Mitsubishi was and this was probably 2019, 2020, I think that sounds about right. But we didn't want to go full electric, partly because of the cost, partly because of the type of vehicle that was available, partly also because of some range anxiety issues because he was driving to conferences or something like that occasionally using that vehicle. So it was a really good choice for us, but it was, yeah, I enjoyed. I got to drive that every once in a while and and I enjoyed, uh, checking out all the the stats on it and everything but um, but good vehicle.

Marc Culver:

So you mentioned you have 21 vehicles so you don't have to go through each one of them, but just maybe talk about some of the other sure types of vehicles you have in that so we have quite a few.

Noah Silver:

We have a good bulk of ford lightnings okay, that's, that's awesome yeah, and where we're using those.

Noah Silver:

I believe we have eight of them actually, wow. So three of them, uh, I think that most people find really interesting are in the police department. Yeah, they're fully decked out, fully marked squad cars and they're used on 12-hour shifts, uh, for patrolling the streets of edina and so far the police officers are really liking them. They complain about the turning radius, but it's a pickup truck, yeah, but, uh, they've been running them through their paces. And for city use with a lot of stop and go. Um, they're going through a 12 hour shift with those ford uh lightnings without a problem and they don't have to recharge them at all during their shift.

Marc Culver:

Wow yeah, so what is the range on those for? Uh, I know you know it varies, but roughly you're just under 300 miles.

Noah Silver:

It's about 280 or 90 miles, I believe, under, uh, good conditions. I'll call it optimum, uh, and in the winter they even the very first lightning I got. They left it outside unplugged overnight in the sub-zero, because, you know, if you have some fleet vehicles and you might have a couple challenges, it's not that big of a deal. You have other vehicles fall back on, but when you start using it for emergency services, it just simply has to work. So they really did a good job of just verifying that it met their needs, and it did, and so they purchased two more, and so now they're up to three and they've got an order in for the new Chevy Blazer police packages as well. So they're going to try and acquire two of those as well. They did try a Mach-E.

Noah Silver:

It was physically too small, it just for the gear you needed and the separation for if you have a person in the back. It didn't work, so they repurposed that to more of a support role in admin. But yeah, so that's there.

Marc Culver:

That's what I want.

Noah Silver:

I want one of those Mach-Es.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, they're pretty nice.

Noah Silver:

With my job, I will say I always have to check every vehicle out right, yeah, right, and take it for a good test drive.

Bolton & Menk:

Yeah it's part of my job.

Noah Silver:

I have to do it so, and then we have other Lightnings. We have one in Public Works that's used in the parks and rec. Again, we're not in that timing where we need the other half-ton pickups replaced, but as we do, that'll be a high probability of what they're replaced with, and just recently four are going to fire.

Bolton & Menk:

Oh interesting.

Noah Silver:

Yep yep, so for fire inspections, yeah, so yeah, and then the other big bulk we would have would be we have five Hyundai Konas that we just received this year, okay, and those are going to like building and inspections type positions, things like that, and so far the employees really like them. They're, they're roomy and they they work really well for what they're doing.

Marc Culver:

I was wondering about what the pickups have you from the public works perspective. Have you done any testing with plowing on any of those yet?

Noah Silver:

No, I don't believe they're rated for that. You know, typically you're looking at three quarter one ton and up right for plowing. So I don't even know that ford would.

Marc Culver:

Uh, they even have a setup for that, so okay, yeah well, good, um, so you've you've mentioned fire, you've mentioned police, you mentioned public works, you mentioned inspections, um, which is awesome to see such a wide implementation of the electrification. But obviously all of those vehicles are being parked in different places. So talk about, maybe, the challenges of setting up your facilities now your parking spots, your parking ramps, your garages, what have you to charge these vehicles?

Noah Silver:

Yeah, so that's how we approach this is, again, it's primarily the three of us. At the very beginning it's myself the sustainability manager.

Marc Culver:

Who's your?

Noah Silver:

sustainability manager. Let's name drop Marissa Bayer, all right, yeah, so she just joined us recently from CEE and so really really glad to have her. She really knows her stuff and so really, really glad to have her. She really knows her stuff. Um, and then, uh, richard poppets is the fleet operations supervisor who acquires the vehicles and so, working with the various departments, when richard has vehicles that are up for renewal, he'll obviously connect with marissa and whoever's responsible in that department for procuring the vehicles and go through options and they, again, following what I stated earlier, look for a battery electric option.

Noah Silver:

And then, once that's been kind of pinned down, then I get brought into the process about what types of vehicles and the quantities and obviously where they're going to be. And then that's where I start my site assessment and that's where, with my background, I go in and I look at that specific site, look at the service, look at the distribution, the electrical distribution of that building or site, and determine what needs to be done to meet the charging needs of what's headed that way. And then from there I come up with a plan, a design, and work with internal staff and contractors to get them installed. You know, obviously we have to order, then you know. So I work with Marissa on figuring out what equipment we're going to order and then get that ordered.

Noah Silver:

And we also have a unique process where I believe Ross talked about last time when you guys were talking side to help with our initiative to lower our carbon emissions. So long story short, the police want to buy a new squad car, say a battery. Electric is roughly $10,000 or $15,000 more. Plus you need to purchase some charging infrastructure. The CAS fund will pick up that difference. That way these folks in these other departments, they don't have to feel that strain with their budgets and it's a way for the city to move this forward in a fairly equitable way with the various departments. Yeah, that's great.

Marc Culver:

That's great. Can you run us through a little, maybe an example of one of the buildings that you did that site review on and analysis? And because when we were talking, uh, earlier or prior to this, you know there are some considerations for you know, if you would, if you did want to charge all the vehicles at the same time, that probably would. That might exceed the uh load capacity, um of of your panel or what have you, or even the service to the building, but there's some ways to manage that. So just kind of talk about an example of one of the buildings. You'll fit in.

Noah Silver:

Sure, I think a great example would be the Public Works Garage, because we can hit all of that, what you were just highlighting there. First of all, we decided in a central location in the garage. Again, you've got to be collaborative. You get all the stakeholders involved, especially when you're moving people's cheese, yeah. So we settled on a central area of the garage, a bank of eight spaces where it would be easy to move people around from their different areas and groups and have that be where we start rolling it out and then from there. I basically looked at it and said, okay, we need eight ports here and with the ChargePoint system at the time, because they've come out with some new products, they have a fleet charging station. That's smart, that's connected, that can do up to 50 amps of load, which is a pretty decent amount for a level two. 80 amps is the current maximum for the standard.

Marc Culver:

Hey everyone, I just want to take a quick moment to thank our sponsor, Boltman Mink, who is producing and editing our podcasts.

Bolton & Menk:

At Boltman Mink, we believe all people should live in a safe, sustainable and beautiful community. We promise every client two things We'll work hard for you and we'll do a good job. We take a personal interest in the work being done around us and, at the end of the day, we're real people offering real solutions.

Noah Silver:

So I don't know how nerdy.

Marc Culver:

Well, this is for the nerds. Let's go.

Noah Silver:

So the maximum power for a level two is 19.2 KW. That's the max.

Marc Culver:

That's the most that the vehicle will accept right.

Noah Silver:

It depends on the vehicle. So here's another little nerd thing. Sorry, sidetrack.

Marc Culver:

We've got to go on.

Noah Silver:

Level one, level two, we gotta go on. Yeah, level one, level two. We don't really say level three anymore, we say dc, fast charge, right. Level one is 120 volts, okay, ac. Level two is 240 or 208 volt because we have commercial services, single phase, right up to 80 amps. It can be anywhere usually you don't typically see it lower than 20 amps, all the way up to 80 amps. It can be anywhere usually you don't typically see it lower than 20 amps, all the way up to 80 amps. Right. So that's level one, two and three.

Noah Silver:

So with that, on these vehicles they have an onboard energy management system and it has its own charger. So these level one and two stations that you see, they're not chargers, they're just a smart AC switch that plugs into the car. They communicate and the car all it's doing is telling that switch to send me AC power and then onboard the car is the actual charger and that's where it takes the AC and rectifies it to DC to inject the DC into the battery and charge it up. So the point being is that when you purchase an electric vehicle, you need to look at the specifications of that specific vehicle to see what the onboard charging capacity is. Because if you were to say, well, I'm going to put in an 80 amp level 2, so I have that 19.2 kW of capacity, but your onboard charging of the vehicle is only good for around 7,000. That's all you're going to get.

Marc Culver:

You know, it just simply can't so then you've wasted that additional 20 amps or whatever, correct.

Noah Silver:

And it might be the difference between upgrading your service or not. So you really you know this kind of now. We're kind of swerving back towards getting to what you asked me to talk about with the design and the site assessment. Just for a quick wrap up though. But then on DC fast charging, how that works is the charger is outside of the car now. Now, and you're actually outside of the car at that charging station, you're taking the AC and rectifying it to DC and you're injecting it directly into, you're coupling it directly to the car. The car is still regulating that DC current flow. However, it's not converting it in the car anymore. But you're still limited to what the car is designed for. Yeah, so you could pull up to right now.

Noah Silver:

350 kW is about the high end of the standard for DC fast charging. Right now that is going up, but that's pretty typical for the upper level. The lower level is 50 kW. Anyhow, your car, like a Chevy Bolt, is only good for 50 kW. Yeah, but then you get into a Mach-E. It can do 150 kW. So again, you got to be careful and you have to look at your specific vehicle when you look at it.

Marc Culver:

What will the Ford Lightning do?

Noah Silver:

Boy, you just asked me.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, you got me, I got to try to stump you.

Noah Silver:

You stumped me, I want to say they're 150, but I don't know if the newer ones are higher capacity. Don't quote me on that one, though. So with all that, now back to the public works. So we have these eight spots. So at the time makes sense, we're going to do the 50-amp draw, so it would be a 60-amp circuit. But here's the thing we're a fleet. These vehicles are going to plug in at the end of the day and have all night to charge, so are they all going to be pulling that 50 amps at the same time, or need to? No, so what I do is I sprinkle in how I describe it is. I need to design this where I'm not under-engineering it and not over-engineering it, and it's a balance. And I'm also guessing, because where are we going to be?

Marc Culver:

in the future.

Noah Silver:

How are we going to acquire more fleet vehicles? What kind are they going to be? So it still is a little bit up in the air and we're taking a little bit of risk. So I really try to do the best I can with balancing all this. And so what I did here and this is again PWNerd podcast I ran a separate feeder from our 480 volt service out to a transformer that we hung up in the bar joists above 75 kW transformer.

Noah Silver:

So we have a 225 amp, 208 three-phase panel down below and then from there we put in these eight single-phase 60 amp circuits. Now, for those of you that are the nerds and you're checking my rough math, we're slightly over double the actual capacity of that panel. So how do I do it? This is where the smart charging comes in. We use energy management. So, because these are smart stations and they all communicate, I program in what the actual capacity of the panel is and what the capacity is of each one of these stations, and it tracks which exact circuit breaker they're on, so what line of the panel they're on, and it coordinates all that automatically. So that way, again, you're not under-engineering but you're not over-engineering, and you can do more reasonable installs when you have all these tools at your disposal, to kind of piece it together.

Marc Culver:

So just out of curiosity, you've got. How many of those electric vehicles do you have in the public works garage right now?

Noah Silver:

Right now we have four of the eight?

Marc Culver:

Yes, all right. So then you've got capacity to expand for another four vehicles. How many total vehicles do you have in your public works garage?

Noah Silver:

Vehicles that are currently I'll call it eligible to go to battery electric. I don't know the number. If I had to put a rough guess on it, it's probably more like around 30 ish, I would say so do you so?

Marc Culver:

obviously, if, if you know, in 10, 15 years, if you're successful in electrifying your complete fleet there, at least the eligible vehicles, um, you're going to be adding some more services.

Noah Silver:

Well, 15 years I'll be retired, It'll be somebody else's problem.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, it's not my problem.

Noah Silver:

So next question no, but yeah. No, you're right. But here's the thing. So those eight that I selected. Also there's two off to the side, so really you could have up to 10 vehicles parked without having to move them. That's the other thing I did.

Noah Silver:

We decided to double up on the ends. It was a really good spot for that reason. So really we have 10 spots where you can park vehicles, not have to juggle them around, and they can all have access to a port. So really we're good for that. On top of that, again, with the way the fleets go and how much the vehicles will be driven, there's going to be some level of we don't need them all sitting in that spot, maybe charging overnight all the time. Some of these vehicles might only need to charge every other day or every couple of days. That's a good point. So with some coordination that shouldn't be too complicated, we could have auxiliary spots that don't have ports, somewhere where we can just simply switch vehicles out. Maybe somebody at the end of their day comes in and parks in the non-port spot and then that leaves whatever. But there's a lot of room for that as well. But then obviously the next step would be to find another bank and do it all over again.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, so, moving beyond the electric service and such, you know we've been talking about eligible vehicles, you know vehicles that have a common sense pair on the electric side. But what about you know, looking ahead? I mean, a year ago is when Ross and I had that you know short conversation about this and we talked about sweepers, for instance, and it's like, well, right now it just doesn't make sense for us. Has that math changed at all for you guys? Have you started talking about other more, maybe heavy equipment that might be?

Noah Silver:

eligible. It's still kind of out there I I that's again subjective, but in in my opinion as well what ross said. I think we're still kind of in that area with it. However, uh, there is a fire vehicle, yeah, um, rosenbauer, yeah, uh, locally here it's. It's, uh, it's basically it's an electric fire truck but it has a range extender which is a six-cylinder diesel engine. So it's a pumper truck, like a pumper rescue truck that has the capacity in most scenarios for most of the day, most days, it can run 100% battery, electric, but it gets stuck on that one fire call or whatever where it has to pump. Then it has that range extender to keep it going. I know we've looked at that, I've seen the specs on it and it's being reviewed. I don't want to misspeak, but I think there's a chance that that might be seen in the city here sometime in the future.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, I know Roseville was. I watched a couple of council meetings after I left Roseville where their fire department was making a pitch for their budget process last year for that electric fire truck and I can't remember where it ended up. But I wouldn't be surprised if they've got one on order in Roseville, trying to be the first agency in Minnesota to have an electric fire truck, but the diesel range extender. So one of the and this is one of my questions for you is what are the advantages of electrical vehicles completely overall, but with this diesel range extender? Is there a separate combustion engine on there or is a diesel generator just charging the batteries to extend the range of the batteries? Yes, it's a range extender. Is there a separate combustion engine on there or is a diesel generator just charging the batteries to extend the range of the batteries?

Noah Silver:

Yes, it's a range extender. When I say that, what I mean is the diesel engine is not coupled to the drivetrain. The engine, the ICE engine, is simply a generator to produce electricity to go to the electric motors and the battery. Correct, so it is an EV, it is an electric vehicle. So, by definition, an EV is any vehicle where the prime mover is an electric motor, right. So our locomotives that you see going down pulling freight, they're EVs, they're electric vehicles. Down pulling freight, they're EVs, they're electric vehicles. There is no.

Noah Silver:

That diesel you hear and see chugging out of it is a huge generator that makes electricity. The train itself moves on electric motors, and kind of into one of your questions there, and that's why I believe with our current technology that's the way to move stuff. It's way more efficient, you have way less moving parts mechanically and the torque is virtually unlimited. That's why freight cars use it. You know it's pretty hard to argue that. So, uh, again, with an ev you're looking at 70 to 90 efficiency overall. Wow, from the time you produce the electricity at the power plant, transmit it on the line, with line losses, transformers stepping that voltage down, the conversion I described earlier with the charging of the vehicle and all that, and then getting it to the wheels and moving the vehicle, you're depending 70 to 90 percent what's a nice vehicle. You're lucky if it's 25 percent. So, aside from all the other noise you might hear, just that alone is the big reason why we really need to do this.

Marc Culver:

That's interesting. I love that concept of pairing a. You know. Because I love that concept of pairing a, you know? Because you know in an emergency situation you may not be able to recharge a vehicle before you need it. So having that ability to use a gas generator and we've all used gas generators for various things, you know, whether it's just camping or powering your home or whatever but just to have that as a backup to provide that electricity and not necessarily power the vehicle through combustion, but just provide the electricity.

Noah Silver:

Well, and that engine, when it does have to run, it's going to run a lot more efficiently because it's a constant load. So there's still a benefit there in reducing the carbon emissions and being more efficient. So it's still viable.

Marc Culver:

You know, just going a little bit out of your expertise maybe, but going outside of the city operations for electric charging of vehicles, you know, maybe. What do you know about? You know the overall electrical infrastructure that we have and that we need and the challenges that, like Excel, is going to face in meeting the demand if every garage in the Twin Cities had an EV vehicle in it.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, this is an area that, uh, through the industry that I'm in, that we've we talk about. You know, uh, it's kind of a loaded question, yeah, but some big chunks to take out of it. First of all, different regions of the country have different challenges with the grid. Right, we've seen it, you get get out to California. They have a lot of challenges that we don't see here. So, you know, focusing here on Minnesota, let's keep it more on a regional kind of thing to digest here.

Noah Silver:

I honestly think we're going to be okay, you know, with the scenario you're describing Now, when you get into fleet, where you're talking about dock trucks and you've got hundreds of them, that is an issue and I don't know what the answer is and I don't know what we're going to have to do, what's going to need to be innovated to tackle that. Because that is, how do you have a couple hundred dock trucks? You're going to have half of them out of commission, right, you know, I don't know Right, but with the garages and folks at home, I think it is manageable. And the reason why is this stuff's connected. You go to a gas station right now. You have no idea how much fuel is in those underground tanks. All you know is their business hours and that when you go there and you pump fuel into your tank, you're're gonna get gas. Yeah, and that's all you know. You know nothing else.

Noah Silver:

With the evs and with smart charging and we didn't even talk about bi-directional charging, right, right? Um, and people are putting solar on their homes and other energy generation. Think about this tesla has their battery walls, right? People are putting me in your garage. Why can't your ev be a battery wall? It can. And for an example I know we talked about earlier uh, prior to the podcast with that ford lightning you can get a bi-directional charging station for your home and an inverter similar to what you'd have if you had a solar array, and you can basically back feed 80 amps at 240 into your home and afford lightning.

Noah Silver:

Let's round it to 100 kilowatt hours. How long can a person operate their home on 100 kilowatt hours? A long time days, and if you're talking about a peak period in the evening, that's maybe four hours. You know that can help buffer the demand on the grid and then, when it's off peak, then you can recharge it. So, again, without going too deep into the weeds, you start thinking of things like that, coupled with solar on your roof, other types of renewables and other energy sources, I can see the grid going to more of a regional level and kind of micro, in little areas like that, where maybe it won't be quite as bad as people think, yeah, that's really interesting when you talk about you know, when it first talked about that like why the hell would you ever have your car, power your house?

Marc Culver:

But it makes sense, you know, particularly when you talk about managing your own home's consumption of energy. Yeah, and you know trying to, you know, only pull the energy off of the grid in the off-peak hours and the low demand.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, and a lot of the utilities they'll give you a lot lower rate if you do it off-peak and then so during the on-peak, if you shed during that you could save a lot of money.

Marc Culver:

That's interesting. So what's the as we get to the end of the podcast here, what do you see as like and maybe you know whatever conversations you had at Edina about like what are your next steps for expanding your fleet or just kind of managing that Like? What do you see in the future here?

Noah Silver:

Yeah, I think right now it's pretty much we're staying the course of what I described. I think I again I don't have the timeline, but I think when you get into those heavier duty vehicles it's not quite there yet. So we're really focusing on that half ton and below right now, and I see us doing that for a while yet.

Noah Silver:

Not to say that we won't entertain some of the other equipment that's coming out the fire truck. We talked about our brand new fire station too. That is currently under construction. We specified out load on the service for DC fast charging there, specifically looking at potentially for electric vehicle equipment at the fire station and not talking lightnings but fire trucks. So we built that infrastructure in with the new building. So we built that infrastructure in with the new building. So we're not going to lose sight of that either when we have those opportunities. But I think that's kind of where we're at and so as far as adding stations and expanding, that's going to flow with where the vehicles are expanding, what department, what area of the city.

Marc Culver:

That's great. Yeah, that's great. What's your favorite electric vehicle you've driven?

Noah Silver:

That's a hard one. I have two. I really enjoy the Ford Lightnings. Yeah, and I also enjoy. I drove a Tesla Model Y, oh yeah. Yes, performance and I thought that was a lot of Tesla Model Y. Oh yeah, yes, performance, and I thought that was a lot of fun too. Yeah, yeah, we don't have a Tesla in Edina. That was just a friend of mine.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, but yeah, I think Eden Prairie has been using a couple of. They've tried out some Teslas for their police vehicles as well. But what electric vehicle do you want? That you've seen, that you want to drive, that I want to?

Noah Silver:

drive. Yeah, hmm, for me personally and not towards work right now, I really, I, I, I was intrigued by the Mach-E, I enjoyed driving it and I think for me for more of a practical vehicle, it would be something like that right now I don't know, have you ever tried one pedal driving in these vehicles?

Marc Culver:

I rented a Tesla on a spring break trip once I did.

Bolton & Menk:

It's really weird getting used to that where it's basically braking.

Noah Silver:

Never touching the brake.

Marc Culver:

Especially when you're coming up to an intersection or something you're like it seems wrong it does like an accident waiting to happen, yeah, but I kind of liked it. You know it takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but I liked it yeah, and that's that's I.

Noah Silver:

You know I really enjoy doing that in the city driving where it's a lot of stop and go, uh, you know. But yeah, I would say, those right now are the vehicles, but there's so many that are coming. What I'm excited about is I don't need a vehicle personally right now yet, but I'm going to for sure in about summer fall of 25, maybe stretch it into the beginning of 26. And by then I think there's going to be a lot more options out there. Are you for sure going to go all electric? I'd say there's a high probability. It really depends on where the pricing's at out there. So, are you for sure going to go all electric? I'd say there's a high probability. Yeah, it really depends on where the pricing's at. Right now I have a hard time paying forty thousand dollars for a nissan leaf that gets 200 miles of range, because they do the base model and then they do the whole deal. It's one or the other right, you know, and so I think that needs to be tempered a little more. Where I have some more options?

Bolton & Menk:

Yeah, I think.

Noah Silver:

Yeah, so that's personally what I need to see.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, I've been debating that. It's probably going to be a while before we're buying a new vehicle, but I'm going back and forth between all electric and a plug-in hybrid, but we'll definitely have at least a plug-in hybrid, yeah, that vehicle.

Noah Silver:

You know that's where my household is at right, my wife and I with the kids. I see us for a while yet having an internal combustion engine vehicle as one, and then again, when I'm ready for this next round, having an ev for more of our around town and yep yep out running errands things like that, commuting. Yeah absolutely yeah.

Marc Culver:

Well, cool, well, anything else you want to talk about or mention or anything, gee.

Noah Silver:

I don't know. There's so much we could have talked about with this. It's like tons, but no, I really enjoyed it. And it's just, I really do enjoy talking about EVs. Being an electrician, it's electrons, that's my jam, yeah, you know. So I do get pretty excited about it. I had to hold myself back because I can't hold a candle to Ross.

Marc Culver:

Wow, yeah, it is tough to compete with Ross's nerddom.

Noah Silver:

Yes, is that a word, nerddom?

Marc Culver:

We're making it up. I love it I love it.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, I love it. Well, great, Great, Well again, Noah, thank you very much for joining us and giving us some background on electric vehicles and hopefully our nerds out there have found this useful and and we'll do something with it. And that's, you know, that's the charge. Here is no pun intended. And that's, you know, that's the charge. Here is no pun intended. That's the charge to our listeners and to the. You know, the agencies out there is start thinking about what vehicles can you electrify? And I mean there's clearly savings out there from fuel.

Noah Silver:

We didn't even get to that Right, right, just the cost savings Maintenance.

Bolton & Menk:

Everything but maintenance is huge.

Marc Culver:

Yes, no, more is huge. Yes, no more oil changes. No, just all the fluids and everything that you're not taking care of. Yes, the wear and tear of the belts, the wear parts, Blah blah blah, we needed more time, right Right, maybe next time we'll break down the differences, we'll really nerd out and get into the mechanical differences between an electric engine and a combustion engine.

Marc Culver:

But again thanks, noah, and to all the nerds out there. Thank you for joining us on this episode and really hope you've enjoyed it and found some value and, if so, make sure you tell your nerd colleagues to listen into this and other episodes. Until next time, nerds out.

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