Mike Brigham of Toronto charges his Chevy Volt. A new study finds that electric cars will have less impact on grid reliability than previously thought. (Photo by David Dodge/Green Energy Futures via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Julia Pyper
As electric vehicle sales rev up, there are concerns that more battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars might disrupt the nation’s power grids.
If a large number of electric vehicles (EVs) in close proximity plug in at peak times — like after work on a hot summer’s day — it could prompt a power surge and overwhelm the local transformer. But a new report by the Texas-based Pecan Street Research Institute finds there may be little to fear, at least in the near term.
In a study of vehicle charging in a neighborhood with one of the highest residential concentrations of electric cars in the country, researchers found that owners are charging their EVs much less during hot summer afternoons than most behavioral models predicted.
A solar powered electric car charging station at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. (Photo by ANL via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from NRDC Switchboard with permission
By Max Baumhefner and Cecilia Springer
Uncovering a fraud is uniquely satisfying, which is perhaps why news outlets continue to provide electric car deniers with a platform to proclaim they aren’t as green as they appear. But close examination reveals the latest round of skeptics to be lacking in substance.
Numerous peer-reviewed articles have reached the same conclusion — from cradle to grave, electric cars are the cleanest vehicles on the road today. And unlike cars that rely on oil, the production of which is only getting dirtier over time, the environmental benefits of electric cars will continue to improve as old coal plants are replaced with cleaner sources and manufacturing becomes more efficient as it scales up to meet growing consumer demand.
“Smart” switches on power lines can help regulate a two-way flow of electricity. (Photo via Department of Energy)
As solar panels and electric cars catch on among consumers, managing the grid becomes an increasingly vexing challenge for utilities.
To keep track of these and other distributed energy resources, utilities are installing ever more smart meters and other monitoring equipment. They now need to track far more data from far-flung locations just to reliably keep the power on.
The challenge is not insurmountable, but going forward the electric power industry will need new technology and new business and regulatory models, three experts said last week at the annual conference of the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E).
Physicist Mahalingam Balasubramanian conducts battery research at Argonne National Laboratory. (Photo by ANL via Creative Commons)
Chicago has often been called the nation’s candy capital, murder capital, basketball capital, steakhouse capital and even the capital of “false confessions.”
Now Chicago boosters are planning to add the title “battery capital” to the list (though that title is already claimed by Holland, Michigan, thanks to two factories that opened last year).
Advanced batteries are crucial to a cleaner and more efficient energy future, many experts say. Developing better batteries for electric vehicles could replace emissions-spewing trucks, cars and machinery. And improving giant batteries to store energy on the grid or in buildings is key to large-scale deployment of solar and wind energy.
In November, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago had won the heated competition for a $120 million, five-year grant to develop a battery research and development hub.
This means a stand-alone battery facility will be built at Argonne, and the lab will partner with prominent universities and private companies in a multi-faceted initiative that aims to explore fundamental yet vexing science and engineering questions while encouraging venture capital start-up companies and established multinational corporations to channel their findings into commercial applications.
Ford’s 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine on display at the Paris Auto Show in 2012. (Photo by Autoblog via Creative Commons)
DETROIT — While electric cars wow crowds and the media at auto shows, there’s no denying that for now, gasoline-powered cars still rule the roadway.
That’s not to say electric vehicle technology isn’t important, says a leading industry analyst, but the focus for the near future will continue to be developing internal-combustion engines that meet tightening fuel economy standards while still being affordable to consumers.
Brett Smith, a co-director at the Center for Automotive Research, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, sat down for an interview with Midwest Energy News in front of the Chevy Volt — which incorporates both technologies — at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.
A GM pickup converted to an extended-range electric vehicle by VIA Motors. The company couples an electric motor to the truck’s gasoline engine to create a powertrain similar to the Chevy Volt’s. (Photo by Howard Lovy / Midwest Energy News)
DETROIT — Trapeze artists performed death-defying acrobatics high above Detroit’s Cobo Hall convention floor, and a hologram of Thomas Edison gave sage advice to former General Motors Vice President Bob Lutz.
This was the way VIA Motors, a company that converts trucks, vans and SUVs into extended-range electric vehicles, rolled out three new products Monday at the North American International Auto Show, in a display reminiscent of the real-life Edison, himself the king of the publicity stunt.
And with electric vehicles still largely a niche product – even hologram Edison acknowledged “the transition will still take some time” – companies with all-electric offerings recognize the importance of competing for your attention, if nothing else.
“Customers have to know you exist,” said Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of another Lutz investment, Current Motor, an electric motorcycle company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
But while the major auto companies, with a few exceptions, rolled out prototype-only electric vehicles — from the BMW i-series to Smart’s not-yet-released electric-drive vehicle — Current is already shipping vehicles to consumers even while it improves on its proprietary electric motor. The electric motorcycles are selling to, “green, affluent, techie, early adopters who want a no-emissions vehicle,” Flanagan said.
Hybrid and electric vehicles are not necessarily renowned for their performance, but this summer, competitors in one of the country’s oldest motorsports events are hoping to turn that perception on its head.
An uphill battle
An electric Nissan Leaf competes in the 2011 Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. (Photo via Nissan)
This summer, at the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, seven of the almost 200 entries will run on electricity.
Last year, two electric cars challenged the 12.42-mile course — a Nissan Leaf in the stock production category and a highly modified 268-horsepower two-wheel drive electric racer driven by Japanese driver Ikuo Hanawa setting a new class record of 12 minutes, 20.1 seconds.
In addition, Chip Yates took his 240-horsepower homebuilt electric superbike to a record time of just under 13 minutes, smashing the old electric motorcycle record by more than four minutes.
Cross-posted from EarthTechling.com with permission
by Pete Danko
Electric vehicle detractors love to deliver lectures about how EVs just substitute coal power for petroleum, providing little environmental benefit, which is only occasionally almost true and wildly off the mark in most cases.
To respond to these cranks, you can go into the number crunching that proves the case – or, if you live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, you can plug in your EV at Western Michigan University.
image via The Green Panel
A 50-kilowatt solay array went online on campus this year, and now 15 EV charging stations are drawing power from the sun.
The 216 Mage Solar modules – from Georgia, by the way – are mounted onto 18 poles in a parking lot across from the university’s James W. Miller Auditorium. Coulomb Technologies supplied the 15 Level 2 chargers, which are part of the ChargePoint Network the company is building with help from the U.S. Department of Energy.
And this is nifty: Whereas Web-based power displays are common for solar installations, we’ve never seen a Web-based EV charging station consumption display – until now. Check it out. You can see that in May, the array produced 5,246 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, of which 1,139 kWh went directly to power vehicles. For the year, as of yesterday afternoon the array had produced 22.4 megawatt-hours (MWh) of power, with just under quarter of that electricity – 5.25 MWh – used by the EV chargers.
Don’t worry about the power that doesn’t feed the chargers; the system is grid-tied, so it doesn’t go to waste.
Talk with car company executives and you will find most agree that the challenges faced in the adoption of electric vehicles are less about a need for better technology than they are about better educating the public.
Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer for General Electric’s Capital Fleet Services and the global alternative fuel leader for GE, agrees. That’s why she led the creation of the company’s Innovation Center for Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Solutions in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Electric and alternative-fuel vehicles available for test drives at GE's facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. (Photos by Kevin Clemens for Midwest Energy News)
The 6,000 square foot center, located on the campus of GE Capital Fleet Services’ headquarters has classrooms and showrooms, a large service bay to demonstrate electric charging and compressed natural gas fueling stations and infrastructure technologies, and a half-mile test track where fleet representatives can experience first-hand the operation of more than 20 alternative fuel vehicles that are kept at the facility.
A solar-powered EV charging station, prior to its unveiling, at Como Park in St. Paul. (Photo by Michael Hicks via Creative Commons)
Independence, Missouri, is the kind of place where when someone buys an electric car it’s unusual enough that the local newspaper writes a story about it.
Stan Adkins of Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet sold a second Chevy Volt last month.
Adkins is a big believer in the car, but he doesn’t expect many sales in this Kansas City suburb until residents are more confident they’ll be able to plug them in when and where they need a charge.
“If you see public charging stations beginning to appear, it’s going to minimize some fear or reluctance that people might have in considering electric vehicles,” Adkins said.
Over the winter, Adkins helped start Electrify Independence, a civic committee focused on bringing the first public charging station to Independence by the end of the year.
Independence is among several cities and counties in the Midwest that are starting to plan new policies and infrastructure to support the growth of electric vehicles.