Study Reveals Myths about EV Recharging Infrastructure

In the auto industry’s struggle to re-invent itself as innovative, high-tech, and environmentally friendly, car companies have fixed on the idea of plug-in hybrids and electric cars as a solution. What hasn’t been worked out is the fundamental question of how and where a million plug-in vehicles—that’s President Obama’s goal for 2015—will find juice for their cars.

Pike Research, a renewable energy research and consulting firm, recently published the results of its inquiry into that question. Based on numerous interviews with industry insiders, as well as analysis of planned plug-in car production, the Pike study, “Electric Vehicles on the Grid,” projects rapid growth in car charging infrastructure—but not in ways that many consumers expect. John Gartner, industry analyst at Pike Research, said, “Automakers made the commitment and there’s no going back. They can’t let this fail. But it’s not going to be perfect.”

Pike identified a number of myths about how electric car charging will unfold by 2015. “That sounds like it’s in far in the future, but we’re really not getting started with vehicle production until 2011,” said Gartner, in an interview with HybridCars.com. “We’re talking within four years. That’s a big ramp up.”

The Myths Dispelled

1 Public car charging stations will not be ubiquitous in the urban landscape.

Pike forecasts 1 million car charging installations by 2015—but most of them will be private. Early buyers of electric cars—which will be expensive—will be affluent and will see public charging as less convenient than pulling into the garage or driveway for a fill-up. “A high percentage of early adopters are likely to have home residential access to charging,” said Gartner. “They will probably pay for the installation themselves just for the convenience of home charging.”

2Public recharging infrastructure will not be critical to the early success of plug-in cars.

Yes, pure electric cars have a critical dependency on public recharging to travel beyond their expected range of 100 miles. But Pike forecasts just 3,000 annual sales of electric cars by 2015 compared to 204,000 plug-in hybrids and 435,000 conventional hybrids. Plug-in hybrids combine electric and gas power to provide a driving range that matches or exceeds conventional vehicles. “Plug-in hybrids get you there,” said Gartner. “Eighty percent of the problem solved. You have the gasoline engine as your backup.”

3EV owners will not pay for public charging.

The low cost of electricity makes for a tough business model for fee-based charging. “People who look at their utility bill, and say it’s a buck or two for a full charge. Why should I pay $8 to charge somewhere else, when I get it at home for so low?” Gartner believes retailers will give away electricity to make their location more attractive to customers.

4Drivers will not use standard home outlets.

The need for bulletproof reliability and performance regardless of power fluctuations—and the ability to monitor power transfers—means that standard 110 outlets are not sufficient. “All the industry forces are going to try to heavily recommend that people don’t try to plug into a standard outlet,” said Gartner. Instead, they will produce and market specialized dedicated EV outlets at a very attractive price as part of a package of discounted products or energy.

5 The setup and hardware for home recharging is not yet ready.

The clock is rapidly ticking toward the introduction of the first plug-in cars. “The industry will be building up until the last minute to meet national and international standards,” said Gartner. At this point, utilities and carmakers don’t know how they will keep track of vehicle charging, or how they will avoid having transformers blow when as few as two EV owners simultaneous charge up in the same neighborhood. But they know it’s a problem and they are working to address it. “It’s gong to be a real rat race to get everything in line.”

6Vehicle-to-grid technology is not imminent.

The potential for plug-in car owners to store energy in their vehicles, and sell it back to the grid—commonly referred to as “vehicle to grid” or V2G”—is still very much in the development stages. Gartner said, “The grid operators are not interested in it right now. They have too many other priorities. “ And Auto OEMs “want no part of vehicle-to-grid” at this stage. Expect pilot projects, but nothing real until 2020.


Combine these trends to create Pike Research’s picture of car charging infrastructure in 2015: Mostly plug-in hybrids, mostly plugging in at home using specialized dedicated outlets.


  • Mr.Bear

    I find it difficult to believe a business will plant 10 charging stations in it’s parking lot at a cost of a couple thousand dollars each and not expect the customers using them to pay for the capital cost of the equipment plus the electricity.

    I think it more reasonable to think that people will be willing to pay to park and charge as much as they are currently willing pay to park at a meter or garage. If they can get their car back home without recharging it in town then all the better for them.

    If traveling long distance, the higher cost of charging will be based upon the capital cost for equipment that can rapidly recharge a car.

    At hotels it will become part of the hotel bill, just like telephones are today.

    The biggest problem I see to public grid charging stations: vandelism. How easy will it be to tag, cut the cords, or destroy the electronics of those things?

  • Dan L

    I find this article reassuring. Whenever I read an article about someone building the EV or PHEV equivalent of a gas station it makes me nervous. Charging in your own home is simple. Charging at your workplace presents a few difficulties. Charging in any other place has numerous complications.
    Amongst the complications are:
    1) Prices and payment
    2) How to charge while the customer waits, in minutes instead of hours
    3) Standardized outlets for different models of vehicle
    4) Availability: how far out of your way will you need to drive to find one?
    Any EV or PHEV system that depends on public charging stations will never get off the ground.

    Charging at home is the obvious solution. Purchase of your new car should come with free installation of an outlet that will be able to charge it.

  • Joe

    I have a question, where will all the dead cell hydric/electric batteries go? To the landfill to poision our water with lead & acid!
    When everyone is driving a Electric vehicle will the all the dead batteries be worse on the environment than CO2 from gas vehicles? How long will the batteries last before you have to pay thousands of dollars to replace EV’s batteries? What happens in an accident with the chemicals from a these batteries during a serious accident. Call out hazmat for EV crash tying up traffic for hours? How many accidents will occur to figure out, if Ev’s are dangerous to the occupants? These are some of the question of that need to be asked.

  • Dave K.

    Joe, your question has been answered many times, the current Nimh battery used in hybrids have a very low failure rate, many are lasting 2-300,000 miles or more, when they do fail they are recycled, just as lead batteries are now. The new lithium battery technology that will be used in the near future is double safe, both non toxic and will certainly be recycled since we need the lithium. I also debate #4, I think many drivers will use the 120V outlet that’s already in their garage, in PHEVs for sure.

  • drivin98

    If electric cars used lead acid batteries, which for the most part, they don’t, they would be recycled just like the hundreds of millions of lead acid batteries out there today are recycled.

    How long will they last. It depends on what type you’re talking about but the worst modern lithium batteries should last 5 years.

    Cars must be crash tested before they are allowed to be sold and so far, the Tesla Roadster, which is really the only production electric on the road, passed with flying colors. You might remember that most cars driving on the roads today could explode under the right circumstances in an accident. They burn all the time. Go to a junk yard and take a look around.

    Any more questions? Use Google.

  • nycsolar

    I frankly find all this talk about lack of infrastructure and places to charge ridiculous. Look at how many gas stations there are in the world. Due to the need, our economy has developed a huge amount of wasteful infrastructure (trucks, tankers, refineries, etc.) to deliver gasoline to our vehicles.
    There will be a need for electricity for cars in the near future. The demand will be enormous. That means, despite the relatively low cost of electricity at home, companies can still make a profit by charging high prices for electricty at former gas stations, etc… especially if they can offer extra thick power cables that are capable of carrying more current or higher voltage (assuming the cars can take it). People can and have paid $70 a tank of gasoline. They’ll pay $8 a charge or more if necessary to get where they’re going. “Gas” stations could all go solar (think about the real estate they occupy!), providing at least some clean energy.
    Each and every home and business in America already has the infrastructure to support the charging of electric cars. All you need is an electric line. Perhaps not at optimal speed, but it’s possible anywhere. And metering electricity is not a complicated matter. All it takes is a “Kill-a-watt” or “power angel” meter available for $30 and calculator. I believe the newer ones already have a function where you can enter the cost per kwh. The car itself could have a meter built into it to tell you how much electricty has just been inputted (for verification purposes).
    In any case, I think the infrastructure argument is for the naysayers… who refuse to understand how much infrastructure exists for the delivery of gasoline… Is gas really that more convenient? Is it really easier to get? Why?

  • Shines

    I think Mr. Bear points out some possibilities that the study seems to have missed. Think for a moment about self serve gas stations, and think about the self serve check out lines in grocery stores. Think about the Red Hat kiosks to rent DVDs in grocery stores and the locations of ATMs. I can see self serve electric recharge parking spaces at rest stops on freeways and highways across the nation. I can see them at Dennys, AM/PM mini markets, 7-11s and the same types of places that now have ATMs. Your battery is low? Time to stop at a Dennys, McDonalds, BK or wherever (places that are open 24/7 will have a much lower risk of vandalism) take a break have a snack while your batteries are recharged and then continue on your way. I can even see chains competing for your charging business. (Stop at McDonalds and chrge your vehicle for only $xx.00. or Charge for free at Dennys with the purchase of any 2 dinners. Heck what about grocery stores… get a free charge with each $100.00 worth of groceries purchased. The EV may be a much cheaper form of transportation than current gas vehicles sooner than we think.

  • Jeddy

    Check out what the Ontario government is doing to promote electric car adoption :)

    Source:
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/07/15/ont-electric-cars511.html?ref=rss

    Electric cars will become part of the Ontario government’s fleet and consumers will get up to $10,000 in rebates to buy one of the experimental vehicles, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

    But with a hefty price tag, the new electric-hybrid cars will be a hard sell.

    McGuinty was undeterred, saying eventually “the price comes down.”

    General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt is expected to hit the roads next year, but will cost as much as $40,000.

    “Electric vehicles are the way to go in Ontario,” McGuinty said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “This plan helps get more people behind the wheel of a green vehicle to create jobs, reduce smog and equip Ontario for the 21st century.”

    European car sales rose in June for the first time in over a year thanks to government “cash-for-clunkers” handouts, automakers said Wednesday.

    Manufacturers’ group ACEA said sales were up 2.4 per cent to 1.46 million units, the first increase after 14 months of falling sales.

    State incentives are credited with firing up car sales. Germans get $3,500 US in cash for swapping their cars. This has accelerated sales by 40.5 per cent in June in Europe’s biggest market and by 26 per cent for the first half of the year compared to 2008.

    Sales also were up last month in two other nations with the programs — in Italy by 12.4 per cent and in France by 7 per cent.

    ACEA said the handouts for car buyers had cushioned tumbling sales in Spain, down 15.9 per cent and Britain, down 15.7 per cent.

    Both countries have been hit hard by collapsing house prices, which have held shoppers back from big purchases.

    Later, the premier told a news conference at a Toronto auto dealership that he wants electric cars to make up five per cent of all cars on the road by 2020.

    In an effort to achieve that, McGuinty announced “rebates of between $4,000 and $10,000 for plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles purchased after July 1, 2010.

    “They tell me that when they roll the first of these off the assembly line, they’re going to be expensive, relative to the traditional car powered by the regular internal combustion engine,” he said. “We want to help people buy those first cars.”

    The province will buy 500 of the new cars for government use.

    When asked why the government is handing out taxpayer dollars to subsidize the new line of autos, McGuinty said the idea is to help build a market for the vehicles.

    “At some point, the price comes down … and you can take away the government initiative.”

    Subsidy ‘won’t last forever’

    McGuinty said the subsidy, which doesn’t begin for 12 months, will eventually be dropped. He just couldn’t say when.

    “It won’t last forever.”

    Not all electric or hybrid cars will be covered by the announcement. The rebate is restricted to cars that can travel on highways.

    That rules out the Zenn car, which was designed for urban use and has not been approved for Ontario’s highways.

    The government has cited safety concerns, even though two other provinces have approved the Zenn car for use on roads with speed limits below 50 km/h.

    Analysts say the province is using the incentive as an attempt to boost its struggling auto sector and position itself at the forefront of the green technology.

    The province also announced plans to expand recharging facilities and allow owners of the new cars to use carpool lanes.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see the problem as to where are they going to put these charging stations either. Just as you have to pay to air up your tire or vaccume your car you should be able to put a coin in the electrical charger and get as much electricity as you pay for. They should put them in the car washes next to the car vacs. Drop in a quarter or two and charge your car while you vaccume it out. This is an easy solution to a serious problem. We have satellites in space and personal computers in almost every home in America. What’s the problem?

  • Tom Me

    You know what? Just build the EV’s. If half of the customers at the local coffee shop start crying for a plug in, it’s a no-brainer for the owner to do that in the name of better business. There’s enough pent up demand for a practical EV (look at Tesla), that these issues are not a show stopper. They are perhaps nice to know.. but until the EVs show up, it’s speculation.

  • Mr.Bear

    Joe,

    Landfills are regulated and have HDPE liners, leak detection systems, monitoring wells, etc. You do understand that the days of open dumps where trash is just thrown into holes in the earth are over.

  • RMike

    I am stoked about PEHVs! I’ve been thinking this is the way to go for a while now, and especially with the solar charging stations that are now being made. ( http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/04/28/chicago-unveils-first-solar-plug-in-charging-station/ )

    The infrastructure to support these vehicles will take some time to come together, but nothing worthwhile is easy and hopefully with the weight of the government behind them, there can be real progress. (Did I actually just say that? The government, getting anything done? Riiiiiiiiiight…)

    What about using Ethanol or at least E85 for the non-electric component of these hybrid vehicles? Do we really have to be slaves to gasoline for the rest of our days?

  • Fred Linn

    It can be pretty hard just finding a parking place at all many times. How much harder is it going to be trying to find a parking place, AND one that has an electrical outlet, AND wait around for several hours just to get enough charge to get back home.

    I doubt that most people will spend the premium prices EVs are projected to cost, just to buy into that sort of headaches.

    ——–”What about using Ethanol or at least E85 for the non-electric component of these hybrid vehicles? Do we really have to be slaves to gasoline for the rest of our days?”————-

    Exactly. Ethanol has the advantage of an octane rating in the neighborhood of 115-120(compared to 85-87 for gasoline). With ethanol widely available, we can easily double the thermal efficiency of internal combustion engines. By making high compression engines, we can more than double the amount of work we get out at the wheels compared to the amount of BTUs put in the tank. We’ve been doing it for over 100 years. Indy League Racing Circuit cars have been using alcohol fuels for this reason and safety reasons for over 40 years. Indy league race cars develop around 1200 to 1600 hp from 3L Honda V8 engines using 100% ethanol—that is about the horsepower developed by 3-4 over the road, 18 wheel diesel rigs. Using ethanol, we can easily power the largest SUV or pickup truck with engines that are smaller than most conventional gas powered economy cars—-and have power to spare. Using off the shelf technology that requires no changes in manufacturing or service infrastructure. We also need very little in the way of changes to supply and distribution infrastructure. Mostly just change gaskets and clean petroleum sludges out of tanks and pipelines.

    Diesel engines require no modification at all to run on biodiesel. That is what they were originally designed to use. The first engine Rudolf Diesel built in 1893 ran on peanut oil. Diesel engines are already high compression, efficient(around 30 to 40% more efficient than gasoline) rugged, durable, well known and well proven under all conditions, and require no changes in our present manufacturing and service infrastructure. With the use of biodiesel, they are also clean, and do not sacrifice any of their useful qualities. In fact, they have shown to perform even better in the long run with biofuels than petroleum in many cases.

    Why do we need batteries made out of lithium or other exotic materials anyway? If we are going to build hybrids—why not take a lesson from what is already being made. Railroad locomotives are diesel/electric hybrids and have been in widespread use for over 70 years. Diesel/electric locomotives are one of the most efficient and well known, widely used means of transport we have. Locomotives use plain old lead acid batteries because they have the advantage of deep cycle instantaneous discharge—they are cheap to produce, and easy to recycle. It is easy to recharge lead acid batteries and does not require high voltage currents or expensive electronics. You can buy a lead acid battery recharger in any auto parts store that is perfectly capable, plugs into ordinary house current and costs less that about $50.

    If we can build railroad locomotives that are cost effective, durable, economical, cost effective to build and operate in a range of sizes from 4,000 to 12,000 hp, why can we not build cars that only need 100-200 hp using the same diesel/electric technology? What can be scaled up, can also be scaled down.

  • Fred Linn

    From Jeddy:——–”Manufacturers’ group ACEA said sales were up 2.4 per cent to 1.46 million units, the first increase after 14 months of falling sales.”———-

    Reality check. Up 2.4 %? From a drop of how much over 14 months? A totally meaningless statistic.

    ——–” General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt is expected to hit the roads next year, but will cost as much as $40,000.”———-

    There is a very serious question if there will even be a GM next year, let alone a Chevy Volt.

    I’m not against EVs—hybrids offer some advantages. From an environmental standpoint, we can do the same thing without expensive new technology with biofuels—particularly ethanol made from wood and plant waste, and biodiesel made from algae.

    I do get excited about hybrid technology for a couple reasons though. It is well known, efficient, durable and when coupled with biofuels, clean, renewable and sustainable.

    The main advantage to hybrid technology coupled with biofuels and internal combustion engines is design freedom. IC is powerful and does everything we need it to—and with the adaptability of high power, small size IC engines and smooth control of electric—-it is possible to build drive trains on a flat bed chassis’s, that we can make interchangable cabins for. A consumer could have one drive chassis, and either buy or rent differing cabin arrangements. You could have a sleek sports car, a large SUV, a luxury car and a pick up truck depending on your needs and/or mood—-or all of them. Simply switch cabins and use the same drive chassis—-controls would be drive by wire. Sort of like plugging in a video game controller. It has already been done for years on aircraft.

    From a consumer standpoint—-you can buy one vehicle, and use the same drive components you’ve paid for already to make several different vehicles as needs change.

    From a manufacturers standpoint—you sell a vehicle—and you can still make follow up sales to the same vehicles, or even rental and/or leases of cabins for customers who only need to change set ups for awhile. A manufacturer would not have to wait 5, 7, or 10 years or more before a customer decides it is time to buy another vehicle. What consumer would not want a new car every year—without having to buy the expensive drive train again and again? Buy the drive train—and lease the cabins—change cars every year. And the returned cabins(after lease expires) could be taken back to the factory—refurbished and returned to service again. Recycling would be easy and cost effective.

  • indigo

    Actually, I read in the news lately that 96% of automotive batteries do get recycled.

  • Fred Linn

    ——-”Actually, I read in the news lately that 96% of automotive batteries do get recycled.”———–

    Well, I suppose that if a bottle and can deposit gets people to pick up bottles and cans for return and recycling—I don’t see why a battery deposit wouldn’t work to get people to return batteries for recycling. Make the deposit high enough, and people will return batteries.

  • Eddie

    Toyota has from the start recycled their battery packs in the RAV4 and Prius. Up to 95% of the battery packs are recovered this way. Their dealers are paid x amount of dollars for each battery pack they replace under an 8 year battery pack warranty plan. Try to buy or find a used Toyota Prius battery pack and you will understand. Other auto makers might also do this, but don’t know for sure.

  • Arnie

    The batteries will be recycled as lead acid batteries are now. Tesla Motors already has a program in place to and it comes when you purchase the car.

  • Blue Swan

    Kia, GM and Honda will reap the rewards of eschewing fantasy plug in technology and leaping to Hydrogen…the real answer.

  • ACAGal

    From the last go-around with EVs in CA, there are still active charging stations at the local Costco, and a mall. A gas station not too far from here has already added EV charging, another one added compressed natural gas.

    Neither the Costco or the mall charge for recharging. These are not the high output charge systems, but enough to help while one spends an hour or more spending money. Of course, even though the EVs were killed off, Edison managed to hang onto theirs. Edison seems to like the EVs. More use for their juice at night, but there is an alternative side….in a short emergency, EVs not otherwise in use, can supply power back to a house without power, or even the grid.

  • Adrian

    I agree with this article. There are lot of problems to be faced, however it is not impossible. If the government provides financial support, it can make a huge difference.

  • Anonymous

    Where did you come up with a couple of thousand dollars each for a electrical outlet? Perhaps you looked at the picture above? Could you imagine those types of plugs at home? Every time you want to plug in your TV, you drag a coiled cord over to it then plug it into the back of the TV? Then you want to plug in a radio and you pull the plug from the back of the TV and move it to the radio? Really dumb way to do things. I suppose it is a relic of gasoline station thinking. Fortunately TVs and Radios come with their own cords the same as cars will have, with all the charging status displays on the car. Parking lots are usually wired for lighting, a few outlets would not be much of a cost. Even in the picture above there appears to be a lighting standard next to the “charging station”, that pole could have had an outlet installed on it, eliminating the gas station style pedestal. If charging (money) is needed it would be no worse that any other parking meter now used. As for parking lots, the more the available outlets were used the more cost effective it would be for the lots to install more, filling the needs of the customer. You mention 10 outlets but you didn’t suggest what size parking lot that would be, for example if a large chain store such as Walmart were to install 10 outlets it would be nothing to them in such large parking lots as they have. Realize also that in a normal parking lot cars face each other and are side by side, that means only one pedestal with outlets would be needed in the center of 4 cars. So initially 10 cars to be charged would require only 3 pedestals (actually charging 12 cars). Or maybe no additional pedestals would be needed if grouped around light poles.

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  • Cheap Used Cars

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  • anderson

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  • Freddie Brown

    CHALLENGE OF THE CENTURY. To all Car Manufacturers of Ameruca USA or Foreign Pure zero Emission ev’s to a Guiness World Record for pute EV’s to travel 3,000 miles or more+++ without recharging(no onboard orelectric outlet or any form of a recharging systemthat uses the grid)
    You will be given 1 yeaer to come up to conjure and construct an E,ectric Vehicle worthy of the public./ It sshould not cost the buyers more than $25,000.Interested parties may join my team. Sponsors are welcome .
    Thank you

  • dan10toren

    Check out what the Ontario government is doing to promote electric car adoption :)

    Source:
    http://www.successcharging.com/car-charging-station-network

    Electric cars will become part of the Ontario government’s fleet and consumers will get up to $10,000 in rebates to buy one of the experimental vehicles, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.