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Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations – The Classic “What Came First” Dilemma | Solar Energy USA Blog Archive

Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations – The Classic “What Came First” Dilemma

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 at 3:40 pm by Solar Energy USA

ev-charging-solar-energy-usa-e1311104721769 Electric Vehicles (EVs) have received a lot of recent press due to their somewhat innovative design. They have also received a lot of criticism regarding what many are calling “range anxiety” or the anxiousness a potential EV buyer feels about the uncertainty of knowing how far he or she will be able to drive his or her new car. While attending the 2011 Green Building Focus Conference and Expo in Charlotte, NC, we at Solar Energy USA sat in on a discussion about the technology of the electric vehicle charging station, the state of the EV community, and where the industry is headed in the very near future.

Those in favor of EVs, a lot of them being environmental enthusiasts, have a myriad of points they like to cite to encourage rapid adoption of EVs:

-The dramatic reduction in automobile pollutants as a result of driving an EV (especially in highly traversed, heavily congested cities and metropolitan areas)

- The strong financial incentives currently offered to entice adoption of EVs including tax rebates on the purchase of new EVs, tax rebates on the purchase of new charging stations, and affordable leasing terms for obtaining a new EV

-The long term money savings of driving an EV compared to a traditional gasoline-powered automobile ($0.03 per mile to “fuel” and EV using a national average electricity rate of $0.12 per kWh compared to $0.15 per mile to fuel a traditional automobile at $3.60 per gallon. If you drive an average of 40 miles per day that is a savings of $144 per month or $1,728 per year!)

-The higher performance and lower maintenance of an EV

-The possibility for businesses and communities to entice customers and visitors to their parking lots and parking decks with free charging or up front parking for EVs

-The increasing popularity of EVs (16 companies will have EVs on the market by 2012)

Those opposed to EVs also have a number of points of their own:

-The uncertainty of battery life and battery disposal

-“Range anxiety” and the lack of charging station infrastructure with anxiousness caused by concern and lack of knowledge of available charging station locations

-The high initial cost of purchasing a new EV ($32k for a Ford Focus plug in hybrid, $100k for a high performance EV Tesla Roadster)

We saw that there are multiple version of charging stations being developed:

-A level 1 in-home charging station using 20 amps at 110 volts which uses 2.2kW worth of energy which translates to a “fuel” rate of $0.22 per hour

- Level 2 in-home charging station will get you 40 amps at 220 volts using 8.8kW, a “fuel” rate of $0.66 per hour

-Finally, the top tier public charging station will take 20 min to bring battery up to 80%. It provides 125 amps at 500 volts using 62.5 kW power and has a “fuel” rate of $6.25 per hour

solar-panel-carport-electric-vehicle-solar-energy-usa We also started to see a classic “What came first” type dilemma: Those in favor of EVs say that rapid adoption of Leafs, Volts, and Roadsters will encourage local businesses and communities to invest in charging locations, while those opposed to EVs say the infrastructure needs to be built first before the demand for these electric automobiles really starts to drive.

On one hand, if we all drive a Chevy Volts that run on both batteries and gasoline, we are always going to have a dependency on oil and will never curtail our CO2 emissions and pollutants. On the other hand, at least right now, there really is not a good infrastructure to drive a Nissan Leaf across country, there just simply aren’t enough Cracker Barrels within the needed 100 mile battery range of each other.

But we can say this – there is a definite interest in EVs that has been tied to an increasing interest in residential and solar PV. The two have a very synergistic relationship because a residential PV array can easily be tied into an at-home charging station in one’s garage, making fuel not only dramatically more affordable but also considerably cleaner by taking coal-fired energy production plants out of the occasion.

prius-ev-charged-by-solar-panels Likewise, we salivate over the thought of installing solar carports and EV charging stations in our office complex and adopting a “most innovative employee of the month” program where the reward is a month’s worth of clean, solar powered driving in a shiny new pollutant-free Nissan Leaf. We have plans to install multiple EV charging stations to be powered with the excess energy we produce each month from the 158 solar panels we have on our roof (click here to read our blog post about running our office with solar panels).

We don’t know what the future holds with the market for EVs and charging stations but we can say that we are very, very excited to see things progress.