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Opportunities and Challenges During the USA Leg of the 80edays Around-the-World EV Challenge

We’ve just completed the drive across the USA as part of the 80edays Around-the-World EV Challenge. As the Team China pilot, I have had a memorable time on this journey so far, which has presented us with both opportunities and enormous challenges. 

You would think our biggest difficulty would be overcoming the language barrier or navigating the unfamiliar roads and city names in a measurement system we’re not accustomed to, but this hasn’t been the case. Instead, we’ve faced immense difficulty finding power charging adapter locations to support the DENZA electric car that we are driving to demonstrate diversity in global EV technology.

Having chosen a Chinese manufactured EV that is only available in China, we anticipated challenges and came prepared with EV charging equipment to allow for non-standard infrastructure issues during the non-China segments of the rally, but the current lack of EV standards did give us some headaches and required some creative thinking. As we drove across America, we found an abundance of EV chargers using PlugShare, Open Charge Map, and other EV locator sites. However, we rarely found an EV charger that could support our EV charging equipment.

EVs aren’t the first industry to face the barrier of standardization. Take the shipping container industry for example, containerization drastically dropped shipping costs and increased delivery speed, opening up international commerce in a way that had never been possible before. However, once a standard was reached, the improvements were amplified as transferring containers in different countries and across different rail lines became significantly easier, but it was still years after the initial innovation before container standards were adopted.

Let’s look at another example that affects my own business, PHNIX, a disruptor in the global HVAC industry selling in 60 countries outside of China. International manufacturers like myself are hampered by the challenges of dealing with two international measurement systems – the traditional English system also adopted by the USA and the modern metric system adopted by every other country. Having two systems creates problems that could be avoided if all countries committed to the metric system.

I dream of the day when we see the EV industry experience what the shipping container industry enjoyed and benefited from. EVs are gaining in popularity, and I believe that popularity will lead to exponential growth once a globally recognized EV charging standard is adopted.

When it comes down to it, which EV standard do I think should win? To me it doesn’t matter, just as long as there is a winner. What we’ve learned with the battle between the English vs. the metric system is that standardization must occur early, or it may never happen. Now is the time for the EV community to come together and adopt an international standard. 

THE SILVER LINING ABOUT DRIVING AN EV IN THE USA

You might wonder how we were able to complete our journey if we couldn’t find compatible EV chargers. We tried every option we could think of when we brainstormed other vehicles that require electricity. This is when we struck upon the idea of connecting our charging equipment to RV hookups. The charging system we have is compatible with NEMA 14-50 outlets, often found at campgrounds as an RV power source. We turned to the KOA website and its advanced search filters. We found it to be a reliable source to find the outlets we needed. Once we started using the website, we could more thoroughly plan our route and as a result, we made up the time we had lost in the countryside of Maine and the concrete jungle of New York looking for the elusive NEMA 14-50 outlets.

The downside of relying on single-phase NEMA 14-50 outlet sources was that the total Kilowatt (kW) output was lower than if the DENZA was charged with triple phase power. Because the total kW output was lower, it took longer to charge the DENZA. 

For me, this became a silver lining. While our electric car was charging, we spent the extra time befriending activists and enthusiasts from all walks of life. In Truckee, CA I had the honor of participating in my first parade. In Denver, CO I reconnected with my friend and Vietnam War hero Don Miller. Along the way I also met a hotel owner who’s a solar enthusiast, political activists, and many families at campgrounds who shared our passion for 80edays and a better world for our children. 

  • Photo above: Participating Independence Day Parade at Truckee, CA
  • Photo at top of article: 80edays China Team DENZA Electric Vehicle Getting Charged Up at a Camp Site

I also had the opportunity to learn about and meet members of the Ferrari Owners Charitable Foundation (FOG). We were invited to join their Ferrari rally, which departed from Sausalito with a route to Patland Winery in Napa Valley. 

  • Photo: Andrew Yi Zong and Leslie Yuen, Founder and CEO of GTO at Ferrari Owners Charitable Foundation (FOG)

During our time in the USA, I also had the honor of donating to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a charity FOG supports. 

  • Photo: Andrew Yi Zong making donation to Make a Wish Foundation

We will always face tough times in this life, but tough times don’t last, tough people do. Our time in the USA has shown that the China Team is comprised of tough people who can overcome the most difficult of challenges with positive thinking. We look forward to the next part of the 80edays journey knowing that the tough times behind us have prepared us for the tough times ahead. While our team will be in its home country, I have a feeling that this will yield its own unexpected challenges. Continue to follow us on www.80edays.com to see what’s next for the China Team and the 10 other multinational 80edays teams.

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