Beyond the actual manufacturing process, the largest hurdle for the widespread implementation of viable plug-in electric vehicles is the infrastructure needed to allow buyers to conveniently recharge their cars away from home. To satisfy that demand, construction of public charging stations in Israel, Germany, Britain and the U.S. are underway that will test the feasibility of such facilities and encourage motorists to purchase EVs.
In Britain, there are less than 3,000 electric cars on the roads. The lack of range is the main drawback of existing models, not only in the UK but here in America. They need recharging after about 30 miles, making them suitable for only short journeys within cities. The British Government believes that many more drivers can be persuaded to go electric by a combination of easy-access recharging points and the promise of a new generation of longer-range, higher-performance, battery-powered cars. To that end, charging points for electric cars are being installed in thousands of car parks and on streets as part of a government plan to convert drivers from gas to electricity. Under the plan, motorists will be able to plug in and recharge their batteries while shopping or at work. In the longer term, those who are unable to wait will be able to exchange their empty battery unit and drive on with minimal delay. To further advance mass production of electric cars, the government is allocating significant funds in the form of incentives to manufacturers and driver tax breaks. A similar plan is being implemented in Israel, where a half million recharging points are being installed in a project known as Project Better Place. Part of this plan involves building battery switching stations for drivers travelling farther than the 100-mile range of future electric cars. Under such conditions, drivers will be able to pull into a station have their empty battery replaced within five minutes with a fresh one. To meet that goal, Renault and Nissan are developing an electric car with a range of more than 100 miles and plan to mass-produce them beginning in 2011.
Closer to home, the city of San Jose will be the first to test electric-car charging stations with help from start-up Coulomb Technologies. The company’s products include 110-volt outlets that can be outfitted in public and mounted on poles, such as streetlights. Each station would cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for a business or municipality to set up. Because there are only 54 million U.S. garages for 247 million registered passenger cars, Coulomb hopes to fill the charging needs for the majority of drivers of electric cars. One of the major concerns is who will pay for this electricity. While initially many of these projects will give out free power to encourage ownership of EVs, many plans call for enrollment in a subscription that would charge a premium for tapping into the grid during peak demand times, similar to the way people use “smart cards” in cities to pay for parking. Regardless of how these projects get funded, the energy pulled off of the electric grid is at least 1/3 the cost of conventional fuel.