Smart meters to give electric cars a second chance

28 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Smart meters to give electric cars a second chance отключены
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Smart meters to give electric cars a second chance

Most residents of Phoenix, Arizona are paying $4.09 or more for a gallon of gas, but not Paul Moore. Moore, who lives in Paradise Valley, is only paying pennies to drive all around the city.

In March of this year Moore bought one of the few remaining electric vehicles in America a 1998 Ford Ranger for $15,000. “This is a Ford-built, crash-tested, honest-to-God Ranger truck,” said Moore. “It’s got A/C and goes like a bat out of hell.” Moore may be sharing the roads with more drivers of electric vehicles before long. Several major automakers are preparing new versions in order to meet the demand from both environmentally-conscious drivers and those struggling with record high gas prices.

Ford produced about 1500 electric Rangers in the early ‘90s and recalled them in the early 2000s when the leases on the vehicles ran out. Other major auto manufacturers have done the same thing with their brief run of electric vehicles which were available mainly in California. Some drivers found a way to purchase the electric trucks and about 200 remain on the road.

Besides the Ford Rangers, there are a few pure-electric Toyota RAV4 models on the road and some businesses have custom built electric fleets. Other than that the pure electric automobile is unheard of. Nissan, Chrysler, and Chevrolet all produced a small amount of the electric cars in the past.

Despite the phasing out of electric vehicles before they caught on, the electric car is about to get another start. This time some of the cars will also have gas motors.

Chevy expects to introduce the Volt in 2010. This car will run purely on electricity for 40 miles before relying on a gas engine for a longer distance. Mitsubishi and Subaru also plan to introduce electric cars in 2010 and both companies plan to test market the vehicles in the United States.

Mitsubishi’s electric engine will have a range of 80 miles while the Subaru model will have 50 miles, but an advantage of a quick recharge.

Some specialty automobile manufacturers, such as Tesla Motors, also are planning to introduce an electric car. Tesla’s version is a high-performance sports car and carries a high price tag. Currently, the company is accepting reservations for the car.

Moore’s Ranger, with a 40 mile range each charge, easily handles his daily commute back and forth to his job as a software developer and can handle the casual errand such as picking up the children from school or visits to the airport.

Moore believes electric cars could do a lot to both reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil and eliminate Phoenix’s notorious “brown cloud” of polluting fumes from gas-powered automobiles. Moore estimates that it costs about $350 for him to drive his electric Ranger for a year, less than 10 percent of what he would spend on gas in a regular car.

As an added advantage, Moore has affixed a 6-kilowatt solar panel to a shed in his backyard that provides the same amount of energy that his truck uses when he plugs it into an outlet. His energy provider, Arizona Public Service, pays him for excess generated energy that is put back in the electrical grid there.

The solar power system cost around $18,000 but Moore claims that the savings he’s has already on his utility payments have made it a worthwhile investment. Moore knows he’ll have stable electrical rates as he heads towards retirement.

Other alternatively powered vehicles are also getting more attention such as fuel cells, hybrids, and natural gas vehicles. Officials at ETEC, a technology-consulting firm for electric vehicles, think the advantage electric and electric hybrids have over other vehicles lies in the fact that the infrastructure already exists.

Jonathan Read, president and CEO of Ecotality the parent company of ETEC, said: “There is rarely a point in the day when you are more than 10 feet from a plug. Electricity is the lifeblood of our civilization as we know it. We’ve spent more than 100 years putting this infrastructure in.”

“It really is like having your first heart …,” added Read. “This country has had its first heart …. We’ll survive, but next time it could be fatal, so we’ll take remedial steps. That means changing the way you live, changing your diet.”

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ETEC has made progress with a challenge associated with the length of time it takes to charge a vehicle. It has developed a fast-charging system that companies like Southwest Airlines have already adapted In order to charge fleets of electric utility vehicles. ETEC’s system can charge a battery with enough energy to run for 40 miles with a 15 minute charge.

Arizona Public Service (APS) still has parking spaces for electric cars, complete with a plug-in terminal, a leftover from the experiments in the late 90s with electric vehicles in Arizona and California.

These parking spaces reflect a need that electric cars will have the ability to recharge from power provided by the utility company for drivers that don’t build solar arrays in their backyards like Moore.

As more people purchase electric cars, it will increase demand on the power grid, but officials at APS aren’t concerned yet. “To the extent that they all would plug in their vehicles during the peak of the day, it could cause us to have to have more generation,” said APS Chief Sustainability Officer Ed Fox. “We have excess energy in the evening. Plugging in during the evening helps us better utilize our (power generation) units, which makes us more efficient. But we can’t predict human behavior when people charge or don’t charge.”

ETEC is consulting with software companies to develop smart meter systems that allow utility companies to monitor electric usage in the home. These systems would regulate how much energy is drawn from the grid by a car, and would allow the utility company or the customer to give a priority to what devices should get energy and at what time.

A system such as this could prove critical for a large volume of electric vehicles hitting the roads during the next several years. Many drivers will drive to and from work each day and will then plug in their cars at night. If consumers have the ability to program their smart meters to only provide juice to the car at night they end up saving money and the power company ends up selling off excess capacity that was never used before.

APS is installing smart meters at this time that can handle these kinds of communications and data transmissions. “There are a lot of issues that need to be worked out,” said Fox. “We are at the beginning of a brave new world.”

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