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British Charger Company Says Public Chargers Not For Range Extending

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On: Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 11:16AM | By: Chris Weiss

British Charger Company Says Public Chargers Not For Range Extending

Right now, limited range and the fear of getting stranded by a drained battery—a fear that's colloquially called 'range anxiety'—are the biggest factors hampering the viability of electric vehicles. A car is a means of getting from point A to point B, after all, so if your point A to point B is often, or even occasionally, longer than the 100 miles or so that current generation electric vehicles offer, an EV really isn't a sound option.

In the US and abroad, municipalities and EV charging companies are working to address this issue by installing charging stations. After all, a gas powertrain doesn't have enough range for some longer trips, but, thanks to the fact that there are gas stations in towns and on roadways across the world, this isn't an issue for gas-vehicle drivers. So, once electric charging stations are as diffuse as gas stations, the EV will be viable for everyone, right?

Not so fast, says a U.K.-based Polar Network, an electric charging manufacturer that's been building level 2 charging stations in the U.K. Charging stations are meant to top your juice off, not fully recharge and boost your range.

In a controversial comment Polar sales director Neil Sharpe said: "We are primarily installing 40 charging bays in 100 towns and cities in the first wave which are intended to ‘top up’. The intention is not to range extend [electric cars] that are being used above their range capacity regularly—a use to which [plug-in hybrids] are far more suited."

Sharpe basically implies that Polar's network of level 2 stations are suited to topping off plug-in hybrids, helping to add a little more mileage to figures like the Chevy Volt's 35 miles of all electric, but not to significantly boosting the range of electric vehicles, which is kind of the more important aspect of public charging, since EVs don't have a gas backup like hybrids.

To be fair, public charging stations aren't only limited by the companies that build them, but by the sheer nature of charging. Level 2 charging stations are 240-volt systems that provide about 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging, according to the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center. That's hardly enough to make much of an impact when driving an electric vehicle—while it's easy enough to fully charge your car at home or work, you're not likely to stand around a public charging station for an hour to get 15 miles of drive time.

Level 3 charging is what EVs really need to power up on the road. The AFAVDC says that these systems, which are still under development, have the potential to deliver a full charge in 30 minutes—still rather lengthy by gas standards, but much more practical for on-the-go power ups.

Hearing Sharpe's words, though, is rather disheartening when you consider that Level 2 is where charging-infrastructure development is currently at. It also makes you wonder why they're even bothering to install Level 2 equipment at all—seems like the investment would be better spent on speeding the deployment of Level 3 and beyond equipment. Level 2 seems like a tiny bandage on a major wound. Plug-in hybrid owners, after all, have a gas engine to extend their range and don't need public charging the way electric vehicles do.



DipStick | 4:03PM (Thu, Oct 27, 2011)

Enough with the EVs...we need hydrogen

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