Sunday, 6 March 2011

Electric Cars 3 of 4 - Charging Points

The Electric car and the infrastructure it needs are different to conventional cars. This much is obvious, but what the new system looks like is causing policy makers difficulty. They are getting trapped into the concept that electric cars replace conventional cars-one-for-one instead of realising that this is a game-changing transformation.

Policy makers are assuming that the electric car need to fill up (as a petrol car needs a filling station) so on-street charging points are assumed to be needed. This is seen as a barrier to sales of electric cars so considerable investment is planned to provide them. They fail to understand how electric car drivers (l am one) behave.

Electric cars are charged overnight from cheap-rate electricity whilst the car is parked at home and the owner is sleeping. We venture in the morning out being careful to plan our day to stay within the range of the battery. If there are on-street charging points they will presumably be expensive day-time tariff so not attractive. How about going outside my safe range? This is not something I will do because there is likely to be a charging point; I need a guarantee that there will be a charging point. I can go outside my safe range to visit a friend for lunch and agree to charge the car in their driveway. I am not going into a town outside my range planning to use a charging point unless it is reserved for me. Someone else might be parked at it or it is broken and I am stranded.

A network of public charging spaces will see very little use and are a wasted investment.

What would be very useful are charging parking spaces at work sites. These can be reserved for a particular employee allowing them to commute safely beyond the range of the battery. The infrastructure here would ideally include a roof over the car park with solar panels feeding into the grid and providing a good deal of the electricity going into the batteries of the cars parked beneath.

Forget the public charging infrastructure; instead channel tax incentives to business to fit solar panels to their car parks and charging points for employees.

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