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EV Resurrection

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2008

support vehicle policies and infrastructure policies that will help develop the market. But some things utilities can do by themselves, without regulatory changes. One is time-of-use rates. You don’t necessarily want people plugging in their cars at 1:00 in the afternoon, and one way to limit that is by offering TOU rates to encourage them to charge vehicles when rates are low (see sidebar, “Smart Charging”) .

Fortnightly: What about building smart-grid and V2G infrastructure?

Sexton: In general I think utilities should allow the gadgets to drive the demand for infrastructure. In the first generation, the market for cars will pull the infrastructure along.

With V2G, where you need the infrastructure in place to use the car’s capability [to store power for the utility]. Consumers will want to do that, but you don’t need special infrastructure to get plug-in cars on the road.

Also, utilities should keep in mind that vehicles are a right-brain decision. There’s a lot of passion behind the choice to purchase a particular car. People want to be recognized for what they drive, and they drive the car that reflects their values.

That’s a discussion we’ve had with utility people. Green power marketing and getting people to consume less energy is a challenge. Part of the problem is that as a customer, your neighbor doesn’t know you’ve made that choice. But if you buy a Prius, everyone knows it.

Utilities provide reliability, redundancy and security. That’s great, but as far as most people are concerned, they get their electricity out of the wall and they’re not interested in paying more so the utility can rehabilitate the grid. But once they own an electric car, people become much more aware of where their electricity is coming from. About half of the people who own electric cars also have solar panels on their homes.

If utilities help to get electric cars out there, consumers will see the value of the infrastructure, and it will create market pull for what utilities have to offer.