The US is catching up in implementing an Smart Grid (networks of electric vehicles supply equipment or Charging Stations and Energy Storage) but we still have a long way to go. In order to give incentives for Americans to support the adoption of Electric Vehicles(EV), a more comprehensive network needs to be built. Unfortunately, our electric network could not support the complete adoption of or the transition to electric vehicles (“Short Reason” too much strain on an out-of-date Energy network/system, will cause current energy problems to worsen ie. really bad blackouts). If there weren’t enough delays for the EV Revolution with minimal economic support, high price, and lack of infrastructure, you have to add a “moldy cherry on top”; EVs have to push through the “human psyche”. For example, “range anxiety”, a driver’s fear that their EV will not have enough charge to make it to the next charging station, and thus be stranded. Another issue is the EV’s high purchase price, even though there are federal and state incentives and the fact that most EVs offer long-term savings. So despite promising market projections, EV sales aren’t what they could be if a Smart Grid were in place.
This is a chicken or the egg problem. EV or EV chargers, which should come first? Promising market projections and increases in sales has resulted in wide agreement that a charging infrastructure needs to come first. People won’t buy a vehicle that is an inconvenience to refuel. Nobody would buy a gas-fueled vehicle if gas stations were hard to find…
Many countries around the world have recognized the inevitable transition to Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV). This has inspired governments to start developing management systems to pull energy from local renewable supplies, and manage and distribute power in a smart, conservative way. This intelligent energy system is called the Smart Grid.
The has been alot of interest in Europe, which has been looking into EV technology and energy management, for some time. France provided $550 million to subsidize the development and construction of “carbon-free” vehicles in 2008. The United Kingdom announced in April that EV buyers would receive 5,000 pounds ($7,400) in incentives for the purchase of plug-in hybrids. Spain announced in July that 1 million electric vehicles would be placed on its roads by 2014, offering subsidies for 15-20 percent of the vehicles’ cost. Norway, a nation made up of only 5 million people, is booming with the acceptance of EVs. Due to its small size there is less range anxiety. They have high government incentives, and there is a more developed charging infrastructure (3,500 charging stations, including fast charging stations). Even Germany announced ambitious plans to increase the number of EVs to 5 million by 2030, and contribute 500 million Euros ($705 million) in research funding. They also plan to develop a Smart Grid network in conjunction with Scandinavia and other southern European neighbors.
However, none cast a shadow on the EV infrastructure power house of Estonia. Earlier this month they established the world’s first nationwide network of fast chargers. They have installed 165 fast charging stations. Each station achieves a 90% charge in 30 minutes. This network of fast charging stations are strategically dispersed across the country and along highways. No two stations are more than 37 miles apart, and are installed at high visibility spots like gas stations, cafes, and shops. Also included in the plan are purchase incentives and the transition of their government fleet vehicles to electric.
So how does the United States compare? President Barack Obama has called for 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be in service by 2015, a goal he supported with the authorization of $2.4 billion in federal grants for electric vehicle research. We have federal incentives (up to $7,500) on the purchase of certain plug-in vehicles (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml) and many states have their own incentives on top of this (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/state).
As the electric charging infrastructure grows we must keep in mind that this is just the beginning to greater energy efficiency. The most important aspect of an electric infrastructure is tying all of these elements as stated above into a Smart Grid. The Smart Grid is a way of addressing heat and power independence, global warming, and emergency resilience issues. The Smart Grid is an intelligent monitoring system between energy producers, energy consumers, the ways of energy distribution and storage, as well as, incorporating the use of plug-in vehicles to store renewable energies at off peak hours (down time), and give back energy in times of emergency. The problem is that there is a shortage in power systems personnel and a lack of programs to grow the skilled workforce needed to operate power management systems across the United States.
The Electric Vehicle Institute is dedicated to see smart energy solutions within our transportation systems, and to build an intelligent electric vehicle infrastructure that can act as a model to the rest of the world.