Green Update: The EV Future Looks Complicated But Positive
Despite a numerous, noisy bunch of skeptics, electric cars are beginning to make an impact—in the press, with early adopters and, yes, with some of our readers.
A friend of mine wrote:
I’m still delighted with my 2007 Prius as it nears 100,000 miles with no repairs except new headlights (which requires removing the bumper and costs about $250—ouch!). My next car will be all-electric. That gives you some idea of how long I plan to hang on to my Prius. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as gassing up at a filling station next to a pickup truck whose meter reads $80 while mine reads $9.
Randy, one of our frequent commenters, expressed some doubts about EVs and hybrids, but left no doubt that some kind of electrified mass transit commuter vehicle seems likely.
He worries about the power grid’s capacity to absorb high numbers of power-hungry EVs charging during the day. Factors to keep in mind are that plug-in EV production will grow rather slowly over the next four years to about 500,000 vehicles and that grid capacity will be able to match this. Most charging will occur at night, when there’s lots of excess power available.
Getting easy access to charging stations and building out such an infrastructure seems to be the immediate problem. This will require some kind of “smart grid,” networking drivers to facilities, and perhaps even new methods of charging. Some of these are discussed here.
Maybe you’ll be able to park your car over a charging mat and refill the battery via an induction process, providing plugless power. Or swap out your battery for a fresh one, in Better Place swap stations.
For the present, Ford and other carmakers are working on telematics and smart-phone apps to not only monitor electricity usage but control it—telling the car when, where and how much to recharge, turning on the air conditioning or heater when the car is still plugged in, monitoring energy consumption, mapping you to the nearest charge station and so on.
The toughest problem is going to be buyer education. AutoWeek recently pointed up some of the tremendous “confusion and ambivalence” over what EVs can do and how they work. One survey revealed that “58 percent [of vehicle shoppers] didn’t realize that plug-in hybrid EVs can run in all-electric mode.”
Our readers, of course, are smarter than that.
Have you recently shopped for or investigated buying an EV or plug-in car? What’s the biggest problem you foresee in owning one?