Feb 3, 2010

How will we power all the Electric Vehicles

We are all ready for the wave of EV(electric vehicles) that hopefully will continue to grow in popularity and hopefully will one day be the primary vehicle for many families. But the batteries of these cars must be powered up often and of course unless every family has a solar PV array or wind turbine on their roof they will need to rely on the local utility for the power.

The Economist has a great article(Running out of juice-How we will recharge all the electric cars-1-29-10)about this dilemma and how it will perhaps be handled.

Here are some points:

-"With more than a dozen plug-in and pure-electric models arriving in showrooms over the next year or so, sales are expected to outstrip even those enjoyed by the Prius and other hybrids in their early days."

-"One thing the new plug-ins and pure electrics have in common is a beefy lithium-ion battery pack that needs a lot of heavy charging. At the very least, that involves installing 220-volt wiring in the home. Trying to recharge a modern electric car with a standard American 110-volt supply takes too long to be practical (up to 18 hours in the case of the Leaf)."

-"In theory, recharging electric vehicles during off-peak hours should help utilities “fill the valley”—the trough in electricity demand between midnight and six in the morning, and thereby get better utilisation from their coal- or gas-fired generating stations. But, again, things are not quite as they seem. No utility wants to run its network flat out. Scheduling maintenance becomes difficult, which can lead to more frequent failures. The net result is that additional capacity has to be installed at a cost that would not otherwise be justified."

-"A study done a few years ago by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, suggested there was enough idle generating capacity in America to recharge three quarters of the country’s 230m cars if they were plug-ins of one sort of another—provided they only connected to the grid during off-peak hours, and preferably in the coal-rich midwest. But the vast majority of new plug-ins will be located in a handful of urban centres on the east and west coasts, which, unlike the midwest, do not have huge reserves of cheap, coal-fired generating capacity. Nor can they import it easily from the middle of the country, given the fragile nature of the grid."

-"If plug-in electrics follow a similar demand curve to other disruptive technologies, there could be 25m of them humming quietly around by 2025, and ten times that number by 2040. Hopefully, by then, the utilities will have learned to cope with recharging them."

Here's a good blog reply to the article:

cbdh19 wrote:
Jan 29th 2010 8:06 GMT

This is a decent overview of EVs/PHEVs and the issue of charging for the layperson. I do think it's overly negative, on the whole, though.

First, there's no acknowledgement of the fact that oil is finite and that some alternatives must be found (or we could all give up driving altogether).

Second, it fails to acknowledge the ways in which people, especially in sunny areas in the U.S. (and around the world), have the option of installing a home solar system that fully, or partially powers the EV/PHEV (thus creating a zero air pollution vehicle!) and partially, or even, fully offsets that vehicle's drain on the electric grid.

That's what I'm going to be doing, and I bet it's what a good number of early EV adopters are going to be doing, as they are surely going to be disproportionately green, and many of them are going to quickly realize that sun + solar panels + electric cars = fueling independence and zero pollution driving!

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