An Uncertain Transition: Merging Transportation Energy with the Electric Power Grid

November 13, 2018 |

Cars that transmit data to other cars and surrounding infrastructure. City buses that operate all day without needing to refuel. Interstate automobile travel powered by solar energy.

These aren’t scenes from the latest science-fiction film, it’s the future of electric vehicle (EV) technology. As EV technology and communication systems evolve and become increasingly decentralized, Kiewit is keeping pace.

Currently, transportation energy is responsible for one-third of CO2 emissions in the U.S., with petroleum products powering 92 percent of transportation.1 The emerging EV market aims to reduce, and eventually eliminate, that one-third of CO2 emissions. Over the next 10 years, the U.S. will see a surge in the EV market—and Kiewit is focusing our expertise in power and infrastructure to support this coming trend.

What factors are propelling this movement forward? To start, the cost of batteries has dropped substantially. Between 2014 and 2016, battery costs fell over 50 percent thanks to process improvements and scale effects, bringing the total cost of EVs significantly closer to parity with fossil-fueled vehicles.2 The lower price has made a significant difference in terms of affordability and accessibility of this technology. In addition, rideshare and mobility startups are focusing their strategies on EV platforms, creating innovative charging strategies that attract capital from non-traditional investment sources. Finally, electric utilities, state mandates and the notable Volkswagen emission settlement are driving an additional sustained investment in charging infrastructure.

How this new infrastructure ultimately develops is impossible to predict right now. What we know for certain is that our power and transportation infrastructure is going to be significantly affected. While roads and highways have traditionally had little to no integration or connection with communications technologies, communication networks are now being deployed directly into roads and rights-of-way via smart pavement—essentially concrete that is pre-loaded with sensors and communication technology. Infrastructure that has been traditionally financed by public entities and lacked a sustainable means of monetization will transition to private ownership supported by the value of connected vehicle data. Imagine a world where roads can inform first responders of accidents and automobiles are charged while en route to their destinations.

Kiewit is positioned to drive this transportation evolution effort with collaborative teaming across our infrastructure and energy businesses, and we’re even integrating EV technology into our company culture. In addition to providing EV charging stations for employees and visitors at our new Lenexa campus, we plan to integrate this technology into our construction sites to accommodate plug-in, hybrid work trucks. We are excited to navigate this transportation and communication evolution and are dedicated to creating a better world for future generations.

About the Author

Sam Scupham, P.E., is vice president of emerging markets. With more than 20 years of experience in the power industry, Sam leads the company’s efforts to be competitive in emerging markets, such as battery storage and electric vehicle-charging technologies. He has served in a variety of roles throughout his career, including director of renewable energy. In this role, he was tasked with expanding the company’s renewable energy business to reach global capacity by developing new strategies with a focus on client segmentation and market competitiveness.




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