Sep 6, 2010

EV (Electric Vehicles) Charge Stations are finally coming

Steven Cole Smith of the Orlando Sentinel editorial board tries to keep up with alternative power auto transportation. Below is a good article on a very important part of the future success of EV cars-the electric charging stations.

In the past even going back to the pre-Henry Ford auto days, electric cars were hampered by their low range(mileage per charge) and the inability to find ubiquitous charging stations to power the car if far away from one's home. The EV industry as well as the electric utilities seem to realize this handicap  finally and are trying to build a network of recharging stations not unlike how the oil and gas industry did the same in the early 20th century with gas stations.

One thing the article suggests to us is the investment potential of the companies building the EV infrastructure. Money can be made by Going Green and this is a perfect example of how.

 Miami-based Car Charging Group has begun a nationwide effort to place electric car-charging stations in public places, laying the groundwork for a supplying power to a growing number of alternative vehicles on the road.

The company just installed electric-car charging stations at Dania Beach's new parking garage; the ribbon-cutting was Thursday. And the company also has placed stations at a business park in Delray Beach and condominium complexes in Pompano Beach and Aventura.

In addition, Car Charging Group has partnered with Icon Parking, the largest parking provider in New York City, with 200 parking facilities in Manhattan alone. On a trial basis, CCG will install recharging stations in some of Icon's facilities.

CCG President Andy Kinard worked for Florida Power & Light for 15 years, and became interested in electric vehicles as the caretaker of FPL's own electric-powered fleet. At one time, the utility's vehicles included 20 of the General Motors EV-1s, the subject of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

This is, undeniably, going to be a growth market. Katz & Company, an equity research firm, suggests that the "electric gas station" could generate revenues of $12 billion in the U.S alone over the next five years. A new "infrastructure" of such stations is expected to grow from the current 20,000 or so existing charging stations to a forecasted three million.

And, with very little organized competition so far, CCG is sure to be a big part of that ramp up.

Katz & Company's research points out one major factor that could bolster the future of CCG: The probability of federal, state, county and city help in terms of subsidies and tax breaks. Even private firms are likely to make it financially feasible to install charging stations: Shopping mall owners, for instance, might consider installing charging stations for customers, who might shop while powering up their vehicles.

People who are recharging become "a captive audience," Kinard says. "We're looking at places where people wouldn't mind spending a couple of hours." Other prime candidates: Restaurants, airports, hotels, commercial parking garages, office buildings and hospitals. Kinard will charge consumers for "sessions" as they hook up to his rechargers because Florida and many other states bar re-selling of electricity unless you are licensed as a power company.

And the demand for electricity will be there. In the next two years, a plethora of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles will be arriving. (The difference: Electrics, like the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla, run on pure battery power. Plug-ins like the Chevrolet Volt run on battery power, but if you drive beyond the batteries' range, a small gasoline engine kicks in to power the electric drive motor.)

The Tesla is already here, and the Leaf and Volt will arrive late this year. Soon to follow: An electric Mini, an electric Smart, an electric Fiat 500, the luxury Fisker plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi MiEV, the Ford Focus EV and at least a half-dozen others. Most of the pure electric vehicles claim a range of 60 to 100 miles between charges. Car Charging Group estimates that 40 million plug-in electric vehicles will be on the road by 2030. All, incidentally, are required to have a common electrical input system that allows for recharging from any unit, and all will be offered with at-home charging stations.

Meanwhile, Kinard has been concerned with things few have considered before now. One is "charger etiquette." Suppose a non-electric car is parked in front of the charging station, and you need to park there? Suppose an electric car is already parked there -- and has been there for three four days, because the owner is out of town, and he just left his car there to recharge? Also, Kinard wonders, will he be required at some point, legally, to provide recharging stations to handicapped parking spaces?

Answering these questions will become keys to Car Charging Group's mission, behind laying the groundwork for the future supply network.

Steven Cole Smith can be reached at or 407-420-5699 in Central Florida, or or 954-356-4361 and 561-243-6519 in South Florida.

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