Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Opposing Currents

The news certainly seems good from the "big wave" perspective that electric vehicles will soon enter the mainstream as a practical alternative transportation method. We are but a few years away from the point where, if you look left, then right, from your parking space there is a high probability that one of those vehicles will be at least partially electric drive. Of course the probability shoots up dramatically if you are in California or Oregon, as they are two states that seem to be gearing up for the EV revolution by supporting broad deployment of charging infrastructure. Portland General Electric (PGE) was announced as a winning partner in a DOE Stimulus bid award of $100M, along with charging company ETec and EV manufacturer Nissan. In California, the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) folks are soliciting response for a large scale smart charging network deployment. Can PSE&G be far behind? (sticking with the related letter acronym theory).

So what dark clouds may be looming on the horizon as a counter current to this seemingly unstoppable revolution and race toward electric transportation. Well, the best way as usual is to look at the potential losers and see what obstacles this may precipitate. One of the big ones might be the US DOT /Federal Highway Administration with a significant loss of fuel tax revenue that would result from the massive shift away from Internal Combustion Engines (ICE). How would this revenue be made up? What restrictions and/or additional costly submetering might be imposed on electrically fueled vehicles?

How about standards? These historically political battlegrounds usually give way to years of haggling, vetting, and agonizing delay. There is some hope that our Smart Grid initiatives will sett a vigorous pace for these critical developments so that EVs can seamlessly interoperate across the country, and innovative third party solutions can flow as freely as iPhone apps. One of the first important ones is the SAE J1772 standard for EV charging system connectors ... without that you would be tethered to your own home grown charging system for refueling. These are coming, but slowly, and we should all hope this can be agreed and adopted quickly.

There are other potential barriers that could slow things, but lets save those for a future blurb. For now, we can be optimistic that the tectonic plates of the Electric Utility and Automotive industries are shifting to let the currents flow .... to our EV batteries!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Big Stim

Well, last week proved an exciting time for the Electric Vehicle community - a massive deployment of stimulus funding toward battery and vehicle R&D. The top deck of the administration fanning across the country for the choreographed announcement at various flash points of this industrial revolution. For me, it was especially encouraging that the Smart Charging infrastructure investments were made a significant part of this, as building a strong infrastructure for rapid public and private recharging is critical to the ultimate market adoption success of electric transportation.

I am coming up on 2000 miles of all electric transportation and, as I have mentioned in previous ramblings, have had a but a single bout of acute range anxiety. The generalized, more "chronic" range anxiety has essentially faded into the background as I have learned to plan and drive within the range limits of the vehicle, and I am now comfortably in the groove of daily carbon-mitigated driving.... and loving it!