Can Electric Vehicles Take Off? A Roadmap to Find the Answer  

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Yale Environment 360 has an article on how to ensure the success of electric vehicles - Can Electric Vehicles Take Off? A Roadmap to Find the Answer.

As instability in the Middle East pushes oil prices past $100 per barrel and gasoline prices toward $4 a gallon in the U.S., the need to find better ways to fuel our vehicles has never been more urgent. Some advocates see electric cars as the most promising solution and are urging policymakers to ensure their widespread use through federal subsidies or regulation, such as a requirement that all automakers offer a certain percentage of plug-in vehicles in their fleets. Skeptics argue that electric cars are too expensive, that taxpayer money should not be used to stimulate the purchase of luxury goods, and that market forces alone should determine the future of electric cars.

We believe that the right policy lies between these positions and that there is a clear path to test whether electric vehicles can be viable on a mass scale. The U.S. Department of Energy — in partnership with automakers, car dealers, electric utilities, universities, and local governments — should coordinate a national demonstration program of 500,000 to 1,000,000 electric vehicles in 10 to 20 designated communities from coast to coast. That was the chief recommendation of a recent in-depth study, in which we participated, that was conducted by a group of national experts on electric vehicles. These experts said that by concentrating the many pieces needed to create a viable market for electric vehicles — a variety of cars and trucks for lease and sale, a robust network of charging stations, state and local policies to make home recharging easy — these demonstration projects would give the country a clear sense of whether electric vehicles will play a significant role in the nation’s transportation future.

At first glance, the market outlook for electric vehicles seems bright; when compared on an energy-equivalent basis, electricity prices are 60 to 80 percent lower than gasoline prices. Yet the future of electric vehicles is far from assured. Will the high price of batteries come down sufficiently as economies of scale kick in? Will oil prices fall again as new reserves and drilling technologies are discovered, as has happened with natural gas? Will other technologies — such as hybrid cars or vehicles powered by natural gas, ethanol, or hydrogen — win the competition against electric cars?

Such questions may not be answered in the near future, but a well-planned national demonstration program for electric vehicles can help determine the promise, limitations, and costs of this technology. And once the demonstration is over and the facts gathered and disseminated, electric cars should be forced to compete in a technology-neutral marketplace where other promising alternatives are also considered.

How would a comprehensive EV demonstration program work?

The most cost-effective demonstration would stimulate sales or leasing of electric cars in a limited number of designated communities that have a range of weather patterns, commuting norms, electric utility systems, and mass transit policies. Nissan and GM currently are concentrating some of their early marketing for electric vehicles in selected states, including California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Given the current state of battery technology, demonstration projects should focus on commuter cars and delivery vehicles in urban areas because these vehicles typically make round trips within the range of a single charge.

The goal of the demonstration projects is to increase the number of electric cars and electric vehicle infrastructure in a community toward a tipping point. To reach that point, government and the private sector must take several key steps: municipalities and electric utilities should begin to modernize their practices, such as streamlining the permitting process for setting up home rechargers and implementing time-of-day pricing of electricity so recharging occurs primarily at night; more businesses to supply recharging stations for homes, workplaces, and shopping malls must be launched; and the development of a competent service and repair system for electric vehicles must emerge. Perhaps most importantly, as the infrastructure for electric vehicles grows, initial owners can be better assured that they will be able to re-sell their vehicles in the used-car market.

Without government leadership, no single company has adequate incentive to coordinate all of the stakeholders and agencies to bring a meaningful demonstration to fruition. The creation of 10 to 20 demonstration sites would not involve appropriating new public funds, but rather reallocating and focusing already-authorized government funding. If the demonstration sites are created in the near future, the results of this preliminary leap into the world of electric vehicles should be clear by 2020.

CleanTechies has an article on reducing "range anxiety" in electric vehicle owners - Electric Cars and the Kindness of Strangers.
As if we don’t have enough phobias already, now there is range anxiety, a malady brought on by the electric car. But it’s okay; there is a cure, or rather an app for that.

Studies indicate that many electric car drivers – and those considering joining the ranks – suffer the fear of running out of power and being stranded with a dead battery. A little planning ahead could take the pressure off; there are an estimated 1,400 vehicle charging stations in the United States today and the number is growing. Even though most people drive less than the 100 miles a day allowed by many EV’s, range anxiety remains a logistical – and largely psychological – impediment to widespread electric vehicle adoption by consumers. One 2010 study showed range anxiety even caused EV drivers to modify their driving behaviors, decreasing the travel range and limiting most trips to no more than 25 miles.

Several companies have stepped up to ease the pain. The navigation system in the new electric Ford Focus finds electrical charging stations nearby and can help the driver conserve power by suggesting turning off the A/C or taking a more leisurely route. Google Maps, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently added electric vehicle charging stations to its popular platform, allowing users to search for and pinpoint more than 600 charging stations.

PlugShare, a new free app from Xatori, goes one step further with a personal touch: users can find home charging stations close by, and even list their own as a safe-haven for range-anxious drivers. PlugShare works with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and you don’t need an EV or a special outlet to join. Accounts are customizable; those who wish to share can list their name, number and address as well as what types of energy they have available and where to find it (like the garage). The integrated app uses handy icons to identify private and public standard outlets, EV plugs and charging stations. With just a few clicks, you can identify the nearest charging station, call or text the person who listed it, and get directions. PlugShare hopes to launch a study of the app’s impact on the environment so users can celebrate the positive impact they’re making, not unlike other resource-sharing models like Denver B-cycle (members can track their miles ridden, calories burned, carbon off-set and money saved – and compare their stats to other members of the B-cycle community).

PlugShare’s website even encourages those without EVs to join the community: “Sooner or later an EV owner may ask to charge at your outlet, and you’ll be able to talk to a real person (not a dealer or a salesman) to find out if an EV is right for you!”


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