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The Battle of Electric Power Stations

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On: Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 12:44PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Battle of Electric Power Stations

According to J.D. Power and Associates, yearly sales of electric vehicles (EVs) is forecasted to rise to 2 million by the year 2020. Other sources, such as HSBC, say that number may be as high as 9 million. The growth in projected EV sales is impressive, considering that in 2009 there were only around 5,000 electric vehicles sold.

As the number of EVs being developed continues to climb, one can’t help but wonder just how well the infrastructure to charge all of the EVs on the road will be able to keep up.

"If it's too difficult to charge an electric vehicle, too inconvenient, the customers will not buy them," says Christian Feisst, managing director of business development for smart grid at U.S. networking giant Cisco Systems.

"Today a lot of the work is around battery technology and the behavior of customers. There is not a lot of work done around the charging technology, or the charging process itself, nor how to manage charging."

Interestingly enough, when the first Ford cars (the Model Ts) were launched at the start of the 20th century, motorists had similar concerns regarding fuel supplies to keep their combustion engines running. A full tank would enable the Model T to travel no more than about 150 miles.

It seems that history may be repeating itself as a new age of motorists ventures out with a similar dilemma. Many of the newer electric vehicles can now get up to 250 miles on a single charge, but what then? The lack of infrastructure to charge the new EVs is of utmost concern, particularly since no one really knows, for sure, exactly how and where charging stations will be located.

There is much controversy regarding the location of roadside versus home or workplace stations. Many believe that is why electric/gas hybrids are the only solution. Other advocates for EVs believe there should be gas station-like stores where drivers can quickly stop and exchange their battery with low volts for a new one that is fully charged. There is a taxicab company in Japan currently performing a live test to document whether exchanging batteries is feasible and so far the results look promising.

Whatever the outcome, for now the possibilities are endless; financial analysts are saying the hybrid market could be a $473 billion market, perhaps enough to pull the economy out of the recession. With potential profits being so high, you can be assured of one thing, the infrastructure will progress to meet demand. When there is a market in a free enterprise system such as the United States, someone will step up to the plate.

In the 1900s, when the masses were deciphering which type of fuel to adopt for the Model T, the decision was easy: gas prices were low, and prohibition in 1919 prohibited the sale of ethanol.

Today there are many factors that will influence the future of EVs, factors such as political influence, possibilities of new technology, and the bottom line choice of consumers which will sway the decision.

According to Sam Jaffe, research manager at IDC Energy, "The introduction of electric vehicles is more than a financial matter. It's a big anthropological experiment. There's no question that there are drawbacks, but there are also advantages. It requires a resetting of mindsets and how that unfolds will decide who wins the race."


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