Commentary

I recently attended a couple of conferences in Washington, D.C. One of the most interesting and exciting topics for me was electric vehicles (EVs). In many instances, an EV is a great alternative to a traditional gasoline vehicle. It is key to allowing our country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and become independent from oil, especially foreign oil.

At the GridWise Global Forum, Under Secretary of Energy Kristina Johnson told the audience that smart grid development must be accelerated to allow renewable energy and EVs to meet their potential. Johnson said that between 2030 and 2050, electric transportation will account for 15 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States.

Britta Gross, director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization at General Motors Co., spoke about the release of the Chevy Volt at the Homeland Security for Networked Industries (HSNI) 2010 Conference. The Volt is the result of collaboration among GM, EPRI and several utilities. The new EV will be introduced into seven regions of the U.S. in November, and it will be available to all U.S. markets this time next year. It will have a battery range of 40 miles on a full charge and an unlimited extended range made possible by a gasoline engine. The battery pack holds 16 kWh of energy and can be charged by plugging into a 110 or 220 volt outlet.

Much will be learned about the technology and consumer acceptance and behavior through the launch of EVs. Because I drive more than 25 miles one way to work and my company doesn’t have an EV charging station, I won’t buy an EV in the near future. An EV doesn’t make sense for me. It will, however, make sense for many people who commute short distances. Gross estimated that it will cost the average consumer about 88 cents a day to recharge the Volt’s battery, which means an EV also could make financial sense, at least when it comes to fuel costs. The 2011 Volt is not cheap, but it isn’t outrageously priced either. It’s MSRP is $41,000. The first 200,000 buyers, however, are entitled to a $7,500 tax credit, which would lower the cost to about $33,500.

Almost every passenger car manufacturer that sells in the United States has announced plans to introduce an EV in the next year or two. Much research and development in this area should increase the range and lower costs, allowing the country’s EV fleet to grow and consume the electricity that Johnson predicts.

I’m excited about this possible transformation of our country’s passenger car fleet and hope to own an EV one day. I will follow the Volt’s release and keep you updated.

Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

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