The ‘Green Crowd’ is going ‘Ga Ga’ over totally electric cars such as the Chevy Volt and the Ford Focus Electric, but an article from the authoritative Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ on line “The Institute” shows that there may be a long gap between what Greenies wish and what actually can happen.
• “Several electric vehicles on one residential street can contribute to a brownout or even a blackout by overloading the local distribution transformer.”
• “If you are on the road, you may find it difficult to recharge your vehicle because even though EV charging stations are being built, they are still few and far between.”
• “And there are significant environmental concerns about the disposal of used up EV batteries in landfills.”
Giving yourself, and your neighbors, a blackout
The article mentions that you can get a battery charger for an electric car that plugs into a regular 120 Volt household outlet – if it is protected by a 20 Ampere circuit breaker. But, this low energy system (as car chargers go) will take something like 10 to 21 hours to recharge the car. That’s not going to work too well in many cases.
This will also be essentially the only thing you can run on that circuit. Were you planning to do a little shop work in the garage with your electric power tools? Forget it.
You can upgrade (for over $2,000 installed) to a more powerful home charger that sucks 40 Amperes of current from a 240 Volt circuit. That serious chunk of power will turn the ticket for a full car charge overnight, but the article points out that it will also suck a disproportionate amount of power from a typical residential power pole transformer. If your neighbors load on some more electric cars at their locations, or just run their air conditioners and electric stoves, the whole neighborhood could be headed for a brownout or full blackout. That could REALLY extend recharging time!
Just put up a bigger power transformer you say.
OK, who pays for that? The guy who is grabbing all the electrons for his electric car, or all the other folks who didn’t cause the problem? This one carries a couple of thousand dollar price tag for the neighborhood to consider. That should spice up the next neighborhood gathering.
Oh, yeah, the article doesn’t say it, but electric cars won’t work out too well during a Hurricane Ike/Kentucky ice storm event, either. When the power lines go dead, so does your electric car’s recharger.
My kingdom for a horse (‘cause my car went dead)
Out on the road is a bad place to run out of electrons in a battery car. Public chargers are scarce. There is no such thing as carrying a gas can to help out in this situation. And, the average road service vehicle doesn’t have what it takes to recharge your battery, either. Plan on a nice expen$ive tow.
The ‘stuff’ in those very high energy car batteries can be unhealthy for a landfill. So, what do you do with the duds? Remanufacturing could help, but that might be costly. In the end, Greenies won’t be happy that you saved on gas emissions if you poisoned the water supply.
Anyway, the electric car craze seems more talk than action. Aside from dubious economics, if the trend really took off, sooner or later we’d start to have problems with the power generation and distribution system. That might become an issue a whole lot sooner if current efforts to shut down coal fired electrical plants take hold. Vastly increasing electrical demand while simultaneously cutting generating capacity could really extend the recharge times for total electric cars. After all, even a high capacity recharger becomes a non-charger when someone pulls the big switch.