Like The Herald Business Journal on Facebook!
The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
Heraldnet.com

The top local business stories in your email

Contact Us:

Josh O'Connor
Publisher
Phone: 425-339-3007
joconnor@heraldnet.com

Maureen Bozlinski
General Sales Manager
Phone: 425-339-3445
Fax: 425-339-3049
mbozlinksi@heraldnet.com

Jim Davis
Editor
Phone: 425-339-3097
jdavis@heraldnet.com

Site address:
1800 41st Street, S-300,
Everett, WA 98203

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 930
Everett, WA 98206

HBJ RSS feeds

New breed of electric cars challenges U.S. power grid

Vehicles create biggest growth opportunity for utilities since ’50s

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS
Associated Press
Published:
  • Employees and guests look over a new Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new car dealership in Seattle in Octo...

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    Employees and guests look over a new Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new car dealership in Seattle in October.

  • The Chevrolet Volt is unveiled at a General Motors centennial celebration in Detroit in 2008.

    Associated Press

    The Chevrolet Volt is unveiled at a General Motors centennial celebration in Detroit in 2008.

  • The Nissan Leaf will get the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, based on government testing.

    Associated Press

    The Nissan Leaf will get the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, based on government testing.

  • A sales representative at George Matick Chevrolet in Redford Township, Mich., prepares to test drive a Chevrolet Volt.

    Associated Press

    A sales representative at George Matick Chevrolet in Redford Township, Mich., prepares to test drive a Chevrolet Volt.

  • Lee Colin, Green Vehicles vice president of business development, drives the Triac electric car at the company’s new factory in Salinas, Calif., on Sa...

    David royal / Monterey County Herald

    Lee Colin, Green Vehicles vice president of business development, drives the Triac electric car at the company’s new factory in Salinas, Calif., on Saturday.

  • The first mass-market electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf, go on sale in December, and the nationís electric utilities couldn’t be more thrilled ...

    Associated Press

    The first mass-market electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf, go on sale in December, and the nationís electric utilities couldn’t be more thrilled — or worried.

NEW YORK — The first mass-market electric cars go on sale next month, and the nation’s electric utilities couldn’t be more thrilled — or worried.
Plugged into a socket, an electric car can draw as much power as a small house. The surge in demand could knock out power to a home, or even a neighborhood. That has utilities in parts of California, Texas and North Carolina scrambling to upgrade transformers and other equipment in neighborhoods where the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be in high demand.
Not since air conditioning spread across the country in the 1950s and 1960s has the power industry faced such a growth opportunity. Last year, Americans spent $325 billion on gasoline, and utilities would love even a small piece of that market.
The main obstacles to wide-scale use of electric cars are high cost and limited range, at least until a network of charging stations is built. But utility executives fret that difficulties keeping the lights on for the first crop of buyers—and their neighbors—could slow the growth of this new niche.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” says Mike Rowand, who is in charge of electric vehicle planning at Duke Energy.
Auto executives say it’s inevitable that utilities will experience some difficulties early on. “We are all going to be a lot smarter two years from now,” says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America.
Electric cars run on big batteries that are charged by plugging into a standard wall socket or a more powerful charging station. A combined 30,000 Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts are expected to be sold over the next year. Over the next two years, Ford, Toyota and every other major automaker also plan to offer electric cars.
Governments are promoting the expensive technology as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. Congress is offering electric car buyers a $7,500 tax credit and some states and cities provide additional subsidies that can total $8,000. The Leaf sells for $33,000 and the Volt sells for $41,000.
Electric cars produce no emissions, but the electricity they are charged with is made mostly from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that do. Still, electric cars produce two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions, on average, than a similarly sized car that runs on gasoline, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Driving 10,000 miles on electricity will use about 2,500 kilowatt-hours, or 20 percent more than the average annual consumption of U.S. homes. At an average utility rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, that’s $275 for a year of fuel, equivalent to about 70 cents per gallon of gasoline.
“Electric vehicles have the potential to completely transform our business,” says David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group.
Nationwide, utilities have enough power plants and equipment to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars. Problems could crop up long before that many are sold, though, because of a phenomenon carmakers and utilities call “clustering.”
Electric vehicle clusters are expected in neighborhoods where:
•Generous subsidies are offered by states and localities.
• Weather is mild, because batteries tend to perform better in warmer climates.
• High-income and environmentally conscious commuters live.
When plugged into a standard 120-volt socket, the electric car will draw 1,500 watts. By comparison, a medium-sized air conditioner or a countertop microwave oven will draw about 1,000 watts.
But the car can be charged faster, and therefore draw more power, when plugged into a home charging station.




MORE HBJ HEADLINES

CALENDAR

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus

Market roundup