I actually think the solution for a city like New York is for a Zipcar-like operation to introduce short-term rentable electrics for the urban (i.e., Manhattan) market. That company would then handle the recharging at a bunch of centralized locations. (And also supply the tow trucks to pick up out of juice cars.) Not a bad idea, right?
The big problem with charging in urban areas is the very point you've made here, Alex. A lot of urban dwellers don't have garages where they can recharge their cars. So, as you point out, what can they do? Run an extension cord out the window? The problem with this is that urban dwellers are the likely candidates to buy and use battery EVs. Many of them have short commutes. Nonetheless, they do need to charge their cars, so where do they do that? The likely solution is charging stations (almost like parking meters) lining the streets.
The EVChargerMaps.com map looks great for your area, but doesn't seem to work for the greater Seattle area. Either that, or there's not a single charging station anywhere along the I-5 Corridor in the Evergreen State.
I hate making excuses why I don't do something. But darn it, an EV would not be feasible for my work commute and work requirements. I can be sent to a customer at any time during the work day, up to two hours away. Drive to work is 19 miles. Even if I charged at work, I would have to charge at a customer site in order to get home. That's a pretty tacky image, asking a customer where I can plug my car in.
The charge time for 120vac is 10 hours. I don't really want to wait for the car to "fill up" at that charge rate in order to go home.
EVs will be a gimmick until this problem is solved. They will have to have better range, faster charging, or the ability to swap batteries on the road in a matter of 90 seconds in order for them to be fully acceptable.
Wow, I should remember to be grateful for where I live. EV charging stations have been a fact of life here in Silicon Valley (actually I'm outside the fringe) for some time now, although there still aren't enough of them. According to this map
In 2012, I'm guessing we're going to have to add "battery cooling systems and technologies" to our list, in light of the recent to-do over the Chevy Volt Lithium-ion battery fires following crashes. And TJ makes a good point, so there's also work to be done on the economics of charging, or, more correctly, the infrastructure of charging. Those government-funded tests to set up charging stations in several cities throughout the U.S. need a boost if consumer demand for electrics is ever going to take off. New York, where I live, is waayyy behind the curve here. What are you supposed to do, throw an extension cord out your window? (That would be a very Seinfeldian solution...)
I've not yet seen a decent analysis of the cost of the electricity when charging your vehicle at home. There's lots and lots of handwaving around the MPG of the things, but much less about the actual day-to-day operating cost. 10 hour charging is necessary when using a 120vac house outlet. What does that translate to? Quick research says the answer is complicated, depending on when you decide to charge. Still, how about an average number from the manufacturers?
The electrical grid isn't smart now, taking too long to get smart, and yet more and more cars are expected to plug in. Does the electrical grid have enough capacity to deal with this increasing load?
Car companies rolled out their electric cars, and said "not my problem" to the source of that electricity. The companies that attack both problems at once will become wildly successful.
To Watashi: It would be nice if those R&D dollars could be invested in long-term battery technologies that could actually make EVs competitive. Right now, the energy density is too low and the cost is still too high. The problem is, we're in a big hurry when it comes to EVs. The unfortunate part of this is that in seven years, many of the lithium-ion start-ups -- some based on government money -- will be going out of business when the lithium-ion battery glut hits.
I'd guess that the answer to Alex' question will idepend on how well big auto makers do in the EV space and whether they then decide to throw dollars at the little startups, i.e., buy them out and take them over to acquire their technology, or alternatively, R&D it themselves.
CAFE has been forced so high that any automaker who wants to compete in the US will have to offer an EV just to bring the fleet average up. Car manufacturers will have to invest in creating EVs and hybrids that appeal to an unfriendly market (mainly because of the performance vs. cost issue).But, will any technology be developed that can also benefit their core vehicle lines?
I would love for my vehicles to get 50mpg and give me the same performance, convenience, and function that I currently enjoy, at the same price point.Unfortunately, the technology being developed to comply with the mandate appears to have limited use in the conventional market.Worse yet, with the push to electrify taking up the R&D funds, is there enough being done to improve current ICE designs?
Automaker "agreement" to the new CAFE standards is an interesting spin.It would be more accurate to say that Congress agreed for them.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
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