Charging Stations, the Backbone of the Electric Vehicle?

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Image via eric_arbras  

Electric vehicles are gearing up to become the next best thing since sliced bread, aren’t they? Well, that may be what the EV auto makers would like us to believe, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just quite yet. I mean what good is an electric vehicle without a charge?

At this point most electric vehicles are reported to get a maximum of 100-200 miles per charge. With limited charging stations, where are those EVs going to “fill up” if they’re away from home? A lack of charging stations is going to seriously limit the mobility and practicality of the electric vehicle.

Image by felixkramer

First take a look at some of the hottest electric vehicles we can expect to see on the roads in the new future. From the Nissan LEAF to the Chevy Volt to the Tesla Roadster and more, these electric vehicles are looking to make a major change in what people drive and how they get around.

Make no mistake, if the electric vehicles can gain the popularity auto makers are hoping for, they can make a serious dent in lowering harmful emissions. They also require less maintenance, they can be charged using solar power and they are much more energy-efficient overall. But that now brings us back to charging stations.

Without charging stations littering major highways and thoroughfares, driving your vehicle long distances will simply not be an option. Luckily that’s where companies like BetterPlace and Coulomb Technologies (with their ChargePoint® Network) come into play.

Image from coulombtech.com

Coulomb Technologies is aiming to place their charging stations at homes, existing gas stations, rest stops, curbside parking spots, businesses and more. They think (as do I) that if you are going to have an electric vehicle it should be just as convenient, if not more convenient, to get it charged up.

You can even suggest locations for charging stations if there aren’t enough ChargePoint charging stations near you. They also have a recently released iPhone app for your convenience to help you find charging stations, check availability, receive messages when your vehicle is charged and more.

Better Place aims to provide not only access to charging stations worldwide, but to battery switching stations and other services essential to making the EV driver experience a pleasant one.

Until that point, I’m afraid it’ll be just hit and miss. Check out this Southern California EV charging station map for example. I thought it was interesting that some users made comments that the location they used didn’t even realize they had an EV charging station. Wow!

So, if you are considering getting an electric vehicle, I highly recommend you do your research first. Otherwise you may end up with an electric vehicle that doesn’t get used as it should.

Hopefully though, sooner rather than later, we’ll start seeing charging stations pop up at every “gas station” up and down the highway. Until that point, work on driving less and driving smarter.

Image by Todd Mecklem

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13 Comments

  1. The infrastructure for EVs is indeed coming and soon – local governments, federal agencies and many special interest groups are working hard to ensure that the grid can handle it and electric vehicles can be efficiently and safely recharged. That future will be here in the next 1-2 years… and obviously is already underway!

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  2. Just passed a charging station the other day (nothing like the one pictured- lol!) but it definitely had me thinking about the future and their impact. I’d love to see more EV stations around. :)

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  3. The new electric vehicles have replaceable battery packs that you can change in 5 minutes. And they’re good for 300 miles.

    Even if there did have to be charging stations, don’t forget that when the automobile was invented, people thought they were a novelty because they got so little mileage… That meant that THOUSANDS of little stations all over the country had to be built so that people could fill their tanks with gas! Not to mention the creation of enormous, safe vehicles that could transport the oil to each station… Not to mention the fact that every road in the country had to be paved! It was a revolution. We need another one.

    Anyway, it would take around five hours for a person to drive 300 miles so it’s not unthinkable that a 5-minute pit stop would be in order for a snack, a pee, and a charge!

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  4. Look at a company like Momentum Dynamics. They have technology that will allow cars to charge without plugging in. Simply park in a MD space and your car charges. No wires, cables, nothing.

    THAT is how this will spread.

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  5. And somehow I am sure they will want to “profit” off the charging stations so it will be like (and just as expensive as) buying gas.

    Lou

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  6. Battery and new electric motor technology are cool but what I really want to say is that integrating the use of electric bicycles with electric cars would greatly speed up the rate of adoption of new technology. It would help people start to realize they can at least get a bike that can really go places for not much money. A vehicle that doesn’t use gas. Electric bicycles are a lot of fun and they are a huge step in the right direction at a fraction of the cost of an electric car. What I’m hoping is that new electric car design will allow space for bike sized battery units that can be switched out allowing essentially every car on the road to become a possible place where an electric bike rider could possibly trade out a battery for one with a fresh charge. I’m hoping for 100 mile range on an electric bike.

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  7. Fantasy Land folks…….

    Big big Problems with the electric car idea. Anyone have any clue as to how much additional electrical capacity would be required to have charging stations in convenient, (everywhere) locations? Just do the math. If each rapid charge station required 100A service, (to charge in say 5 minutes), that means a 12 unit station on the the electrical grid would need 1200 amps of service, (@220V). That equals the capacity now used by 40 houses, (average 60A capacity per house at 110V, which is on the low side)

    Any idea how much electircal additional electric power would have to move across the grid to make this even remotley possible? Factoring in line loss and other inefficiencies and SURPRISE…… More energy consumed than a conventional gasoline engine uses now.

    Since most electricity now comes from coal or oil based power plants, how would this save us any energy. It won’t. In fact it will make the problem worse.

    GM and the others are creating half a solution. Where is the electricity going to come from? How will it be delivered on America’s declining and out of date electrical grid? Who will pay for the upgrades required to the grid for wide electric car use?

    Sorry folks, unless we get serious about distributed power generation, (local solar, wind and bio), this will be doomed to huge failure. Unless each home could generate locally 1/3 of it’s power requirements, (either stored locally or fed to the grid), this will not work.

    Electric cars are a third of the solution. Local power generation and new regulations regarding the power grid, (force for-profit utilities to buy locally generated power at the SAME cost they sell it for) will be needed to make this work.

    There is no silver bullet, single solution.

    1) Electric cars
    2) Local power generation
    3) Updated electrical grid and breakup of the electrical power monopolies

    All three required to make it work. What are the odds of this happening before gasoline reaches $12 a gallon? Pretty slim, I’d say…..

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  8. BP and whoever else is responsible for the Gulf Oil spill should be charged 10% of their gross income for the next 10 years as punishment for that disaster (in addition to stopping the leak and paying for the cleanup). The money should then be used for establishing an EV infrastructure, providing more EV buying incentives for consumers, and research for better battery technology. That wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime, and would help create some real change that we so badly need!

    Another thought- retailers should look at installing FREE EV stations as a way to drive sales. Think about it- consumers have to park in front of the store to charge their car, so of course they’ll end up going into the store and shopping to kill time while it takes 10-30 minutes.

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  9. RE Tony:

    You have some good (although to most of us somewhat obvious) points.

    However you sound like a bit of a drama queen, e.g.. “Fantasy Land folks”, “Big big Problems with the electric car idea…”

    No one is saying that we could all just simply switch to electric cars overnight – clearly that’s not the case.

    However, electric cars will be phased in slowly. In fact they will phase themselves in naturally via market forces. As demand for more electricity slowly increases, higher profits will be there to be made from generating electricity. As the price of electricity goes up we’ll naturally start producing more electricity and adding improvements to the grid. Not only that but increasing prices will lead to more and more categories of renewables becoming economically viable (some, such as wind, already are). (BTW, this model doesn’t even try take into account dropping costs of renewables – whether they reach CURRENT grid parity or not – we’ll still end up spending less to “fuel” up our cars).

    Before someone starts coming down on me for flippantly passing off increases in electricity prices as good thing, remember that there is a lot of room to move here (gasoline is expensive!). I spend a lot more on gas than on my electric bill and that would be the case even if you doubled or trebled the price of electricity. At those kind of prices we could have plenty of electricity (including renewable if we want it that way). Overall they’d kind of balance out.

    The TRUE problem, is simply the current price of the electric car and in particular it’s batteries. How much they come down in price and/or how much they are ABLE to come down in price is what is going to be interesting.

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  10. Hi there,
    Maybe the infrastructure isn´t such a big issue as it seems to be. Of course currently the range is a problem and the batteries are expensive. However there is a big potential for cost reduction of the batteries in the next years. At the moment the batteries develop and improve much faster than thought. Therefore the range maybe won´t be an issue in a couple of years. At the moment electric vehicles are not appropriate for everyone. And those who would perfectly fit with their mobility requirements are able to use their car with a charging spot at home and maybe at work.
    In order to get a clue about the suitability the the olmo factor should be regarded. (More information at: green-and-energy.com/blog

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  11. Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you are interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

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