Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Google To Highlight EV Charging Stations

Google has plans to update their “Google Maps” database with locations of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. In several previous posts I have given the EV a hard time for various reasons such as lack of driving distance, price gouging at dealerships, and charging station locations. I do not necessarily question that the EV is most likely the future. But what I do struggle with, and try to point out, is that the technology is not yet ready for prime time.

While Google’s efforts are noteworthy, you’re going to have to really zoom in to actually find a charging station. Other than using the electricity at your own home, charging stations are few and far between and the locations leave an awful lot to be desired. There are a few retailers and businesses that have installed charging stations, but again, those are few when you consider scale. Installing them at rest areas along the freeway system is most likely throwing money into a pit. People don’t take trips along the freeway to only stop every 50 miles or so to take on a four to six hour charge.

The actual length of time the battery will hold a charge is problematic and there really is no breakthrough on the horizon that will dramatically increase the charge holding time. The Volt does have a gas engine “backup” but because the technology is so weak right now, when cruising at highway speeds, the electric motor is not even in use. On top of that, weather has a significant impact on how far one can travel on a single charge. The colder the weather, distance is decreased.  When the weather is warm, the AC also uses up the charge rather quickly. Until charging time and distance available is improved A LOT, the EV will remain an about-town scooter.

What also needs to be considered is the power grid. As it stands right now, there is no way the grid could handle the increased demand if we became an EV dominated society. It struggles to handle demand now. Anyone remember the rolling blackouts in California from 10 years ago? The grid could not handle the increased demand put on it by a hot summer. While there have been improvements made to the grid in California, could it handle another hot summer plus the demand made by the EVs? The costs to upgrade the power grid has been pegged anywhere from $100B to $2T. In today’s economic status, this would be a cost we cannot bear, especially if the government stuck their fingers into the “solutions”.  There are also some privacy concerns. Beyond the power grid is what is called the “smart grid”. This is the "progressive's" solution to the weak power grid. This kind of grid would allow the power companies to monitor your usage. It could be as benign as sending you a note each month letting you know you could run the dishwasher and charge your EV overnight to save money to as intrusive as shutting your electricity off if you decide to keep your house cooler than the government dictates. The Daily Bell outlines some of these issues here.

I will give Google their due. This is a progressive-owned company who has many times talked about how we all should be greener. They are putting their money where the mouth is.

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