6 fears about electric cars that turn out to be false

Tesla Roadsters lined up outside of the Model S Beta Customer event

Electric vehicles are a big worry for many utilities. Over the last few months, I’ve had several interesting conversations with Europeans responsible for electric vehicle pilots in places such as Denmark, Germany and Portugal. Based on the results of their research and their real-world pilots, I learned of six frequent fears that turn out to be false.
Still plenty to worry about of course. But you may be relieved to hear that:

  1. We don’t need a massive infrastructure of “intermediate” charging stations in malls and parking lots. Based on real-world pilots, almost all charging takes place at home at night. (In fleet situations, in the company lot overnight.)
  2. Garage charging won’t be enough. We still need to figure out how to handle on-street, overnight parking for urban dwellers who park their cars on the street.
  3. We don’t need a fast-charge option for residential users. Early pilots show that users rarely get their vehicles anywhere close to “empty.” As a result, they typically only need a few hours of charging time to “top off” the battery.
  4. We don’t need battery swapping stations, except in special cases. The industry will never agree on standard battery sizes and enclosures. That makes the idea of hot-swap battery stations impractical. (Though you may see it crop up in military and fleet operations.) Besides that, most early adopters use their EV for scooting around town. For longer trips, they take a gas-powered vehicle.
  5. We don’t need to worry about range anxiety. It goes away quickly, often within a few weeks, as owners learn the true range and true charging times.
  6. We don’t need vehicle-to-grid. We can get almost all the benefits of V2G through smart charging (letting the utility decide when to charge the vehicle, as long as it’s ready at the specified time). And smart charging doesn’t run the risk of voiding a car’s battery warranty. Warning: Any smart charging scheme needs an ultra-simple “Charge Now” override for those occasional situations where the owner needs to leave again soon and doesn’t want to wait for overnight charging.

Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com. He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Energy & Environment directorate.
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