By John Addison (2/19/09)
Momentum continues for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. BMW is already leasing its freeway speed MiniE. Sports car lovers navigate curving mountain roads in their Tesla Roadsters. Toyota is putting 500 plug-in Priuses into fleet tests this year. Next year, Nissan, Chrysler, BYD, and Ford plan to start taking consumer orders for electric vehicles from cars to vans. Toyota and GM will be fighting for plug-in hybrid market leadership. Over 100 EV players will be competing for your business. Electric Cars for 2010
Forty-thousand electric vehicles are now on the road in the United States; 99 percent max out at 25 miles per hour. These light-electric vehicles (LEV) are surprisingly popular in college towns, retirement communities, and in a variety of practical fleet applications from maintenance crews to parking meter attendants. Most of these electric vehicles are in California.
Will consumers buy or lease EVs in large numbers? Yes, if a few problems are overcome. Most will want freeway speed. Customers want an affordable vehicle. Many will want the types of vehicles planned by Toyota, Nissan, and GM – four door sedans and larger vehicles that can carry several people and lots of stuff. The vehicles will need greater range than today’s LEVs. Although the average household in the U.S. has two vehicles, with one rarely going over 40 miles in a day, many people will insist on EVs and PHEVs with much greater range. Consumers fear getting stuck.
“There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.
Yesterday, the City of San Francisco demonstrated its installed Coulomb Smartlet Networked Charging Stations by charging a city-owned plug-in hybrid Prius. Unveiling of the charging stations was done by Mayor Gavin Newsom, a former EV1 driver who has a Tesla Roadster on order (yes, he is buying it with his own money).
San Francisco is an ideal city to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Every year over 100 million rides are taken on the city’s fleet of electric trolley buses and BART rail/subway system. The city already has electric and plug-in vehicles in its fleet. San Francisco is recognized as one of the greenest cities in the United States, if not the world. Citizens have been early adopters of electric vehicles, e-bikes, and plug-in hybrid conversions.
San Francisco, like most cities, needs a charging infrastructure. Only 16 percent of vehicles in SF have access to a garage with an electric outlet. (Clayton Cornell’s Post) Most vehicles are parked on streets, apartment buildings, co-ops, and public garages without charging infrastructure. San Francisco does have at least 17 charging stations. Most are not publicly accessible. Others are older generation and not compatible with new vehicle standards.
“Our goal is to transform the Bay Area into the EV Capital of the United States, and a networked infrastructure is essential for the adoption of electric vehicles,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “San Francisco is proud to be the first city to feature charging stations with technology to support our city’s clean electric fleet vehicles and car-share fleets.”
City CarShare, a successful non-profit pioneer in car sharing, is including in the demonstration progarm a Prius converted to be a plug-in by 3Prong Power. “City CarShare is pleased to participate in the Mayor’s Green Vehicle Showcase,” said Rick Hutchinson, CEO of City CarShare.
“Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco.”
Zipcar’s 250,000 members use car sharing to save $5,000 to $8,000 per year by reducing their need for a second vehicle or for any vehicles. Members also use Zipcar as part of their multi-modal transportation. For example, in a few years a Zipcar member in LA could take LA Metro to California’s new high-speed rail, then use a Zipcar plug-in hybrid for a few hours of cross-town meetings, and then return the car to take rail and transit home. All in the same day.
“Zipcar encourages sustainable lifestyles in several ways – fewer personally owned cars, less driving overall, and now the addition of these super efficient plug-in cars,” said Mark Norman, President of Zipcar. “Our members strongly support the notion of adding next-generation clean cars, and this program is an important first step in exploring the potential.” The plug-in hybrid for the San Francisco Zipcar fleet is a Toyota Prius converted with the A123 HymotionTM L5 Plug-In Conversion Module to deliver 30 to 40 miles of electrically assisted driving on a single charge.
San Francisco is taking an important step forward by implementing a smart charging infrastructure that can be centrally managed and supported. The intelligent system can send text messages to drivers when their vehicle is charged, or that their hours of free parking are ending. The charging adheres to new SAE standards agreed upon by automakers and charging infrastructure providers. By making EVs a reality in a city with excellent transit and a future hub of high-speed rail, EVs will solve last-mile issues, and car sharing partnerships will allow long journeys to be zero-emission end-to-end.