Electric vehicles: are they for real?

20. April 2011 14:46

The president of ECOtality presented their case for why electric vehicles are here to stay.

Jonathan Read, President and CEO, ECOtality (NASDAQ: ECTY) presented today at Automation & Power World with the title, "Electric vehicles: are they for real?". He began with a bit of history: Thomas Edison built the first electric sedan (1913) and first electric convertible (1914). However, electric vehicles soon gave way to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles because gas became cheaper than electricity, and the electricity market was fragmented. In the 1990's there were many electric car projects, but they all failed. Some reasons:
  • No official EVSE inlet/connector standard
  • Inability to create universal public charging networks
  • DC power fast charge limited to fleet trials
  • Gasoline was relatively inexpensive
  • Battery technology was not ready for prime time (lead acid, very heavy)

Mr. Read presented some facts on why ECOtality believes electric vehicles are ready to succeed:
  • Better battery technologies
  • 2010: Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1772 standard established (240V/32A) for standard car charger
  • Adopted by every major electric vehicle manufacturer
  • Allows for universal Level 1 & 2 EVSE infrastructure
  • Consumer demand for electric vehicles are at an all time high
  • High gas prices
  • National security and environmental considerations
  • Assuming gas costs $3.50 per gallon and getting 25 mpg, your electric vehicle will cost between 1/3 to 1/4 of your current gas car. Ownership cost will also be much less; no oil changes, transmission fluid, or belts, just tires and wipers.

The current North American Standards for charging are set, except for fast charging. The DC fast charge standard is still undefined, however ECOtality is using the existing Japanese standard. Mr. Read believes this will become the de facto standard in the Western world. All Japanese OEMS have adopted the CHAdeMO. The SAE also working on DC fast charge standard.

Some current electric vehicles available today in North America:
  • Nissan Leaf
  • GM Volt
  • BMW ActiveE
  • Ford Transit Connect
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  • Toyota Prius
  • Daimler Smart
  • Toyota RAV4-EV

While the United States is targeting 10% of vehicle production being electric vehicles by 2020, by 2015, China will be building more electric cars than the US will be building cars. China is planning on 35% of vehicle production being electric vehicles by 2020.

To bring the discussion around to the audience at Automation & Power World, Mr. Read emphasized that electric vehicles will impact the grid if not managed correctly:
  • A typical home consumes 2-5 kW
  • Residential EVSE will use 3.3-6.6 kW (@240V/32A)
  • DC Fast Charging will use up to 60kW for passenger cars
  • Consumer demographics will lead to neighborhood clustering

ECOtality, which ABB has a 20% stake, offers solutions for utilities to help them understand what it will take to build up infrastructure to handle electric vehicles. Called the EV Micro-Climate program, it involves community planning, road mapping, and infrastructure implementation. They even help with parking planning, such as tickets for parking too long in charging stations.

The key to ECOtality's success is it's Blink charging stations, which have real-time communications built-in to allow both utilities and car owners to plan when to charge their cars to maximize convenience, pricing, and grid load. The residential level chargers also include apps for smart phones so charging can be remotely managed.

Commercial charging stations are being deployed in 18 cities nationwide, including retail locations such as Best Buy, Kroger, BP, and 7-Eleven.


Comments (2)

If EVs become mainstream traffic...ZiaSongFriday, 22. Apr 2011 05:07

RealizationPieter LootsThursday, 21. Apr 2011 07:29

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