Do Electric Cars Spell Cash Or Calamity for Utility Companies?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

power lines, wire, electricity, grid Power lines (Flickr: shoothead)

New "current cruisers," the first mass-marketed plug-in electric cars, will hit the market next month. For utility companies, their arrival is cause for both excitement and anxiety. Plugged into a socket, the Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts can draw as much energy from the grid as a small house. Will the early adopters – and their neighborhoods – wind up in the dark?

Mark Duvall, director of Electric Transportation for the non-profit Electric Power Research Institute explains how utility companies are preparing the grid for the new vehicles. Also joining us is Kent Larson, director of the Changing Places Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, who talks about the future of the electric car as part of a changing urban transportation ecosystem.


Mark Duvall and Kent Larson

Produced by:

Kateri A. Jochum

Comments [4]

Garry G from Brooklyn, NY

Agree w/ outline provided by your guests.. but if I could build upon it a bit.

I think we're likely to see first wave of plug in EVs adopted as centrally managed fleets. So the control over power use could be serviced as an 'industrial customer' by utilities - and not residential category.

Long term - I think we want to see Electric Vehicles - as moving beyond purely 'plug in' battery based. The most likely future for EVs is an integration of battery (storage) and fuel cells (molecule fuel conversion). Automakers are most interested in low cost (and low mass) vehicle platforms. Batteries are here- but I cannot imagine a future in which they are alone. Nor can I imagine a future where we do not have 'fuels' in the transportation sector. So it is possible that the future of EVs includes a 'fueling' (non-grid) system. Automakers are targeting 2015 for fuel cell EVs - so I don't know that utilities will need to solve these problems over long term!

Nov. 30 2010 07:58 PM
SMS Reseller from india

Thanks for the information. As a newbie I got a very nice information about electric cars.

Nov. 24 2010 01:54 AM
hsr0601 from other

They are all charged by coal power stations anyway?
To my knowledge, the coal and natural gas generally generate electricity at daytime.
But EV drivers tend to charge mostly overnight with the untapped, or mostly WASTED electricity as hydro & Wind & nuclear power plants keep operating around the clock. In other words, we are draining much of the precious power at night due to lack of high-cost storage devices.
And, in EU & America, the pace of renewable energy development has already topped that of unhealthy energy.

Nov. 23 2010 02:50 PM
David from Manhattan

If you're concerned about transportation's effects on the environment, then understand that NO car--not hybrid, not plug in, nothing--is a real solution.

All cars of all varieties enable continued sprawl. Until all of our energy comes from renewing sources (only about 500 years from now), then all car reliance will cause us to spread out more, devouring more resources and burning more energy to heat and cool our bigger and farther apart homes.

NO car is green. Instead, demand walkable communities and transit-oriented development.

Nov. 23 2010 08:39 AM

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