By on October 23, 2010

When I embarked on the Volt press launch, I made a public promise to keep my impressions of the car itself separate from concerns about its overall viability. My review of the Volt is coming on Monday, but a new issue is already raising its head to confront GM’s extended-range electric car. The Volt’s home charger costs $490 on top of the Volt’s $41,000 (pre-tax credit) price, and costs another $1,500 to install. But, according to BNet’s Jim Motavelli, money isn’t the only obstacle to obtaining the home charger that’s necessary to tap the Volt’s 40 miles of electric range. EV advocate and Volt Customer Advisory Board member Chelsea Sexton, of “Who Killed The Electric Car? fame, is one of the first Americans to live with the Volt, and despite enjoying the backing of GM, she’s run into a problem that she and other EV advocates worry will blunt enthusiasm for home-charged EVs like the Volt: she needs a “time of use” meter.

Motavelli explains the conundrum

California puts its electricity users in pricing categories based on their usage patterns. Since Sexton uses a “stunningly low” amount of electricity, she’s on the lowest tier. But the addition of the Volt would push her into a higher bracket, making it likely that EV charging “would be more expensive than putting gas in my Saturn.” With the time-of-use meter, the EV is billed separately and doesn’t count as part of her home use.

But California’s public utilities commission requires all of its customers’ electric meters to be grouped together, and that meant running a one-inch thick metal conduit along the face of her building. The other option is to punch through three neighbors’ walls. “I can just see the homeowners’ association going for that,” she said.

GM and its allied EV advocates never miss an opportunity to tout the low cost of electricity, but in California, rates increase with use. Without a separate meter to break out Volt charges, Sexton would likely end up paying considerably more for electricity, further damaging the Volt’s already-tenuous value proposition. And in order to install a compliant time-of-use meter, many customers may be facing major logistical issues and even more unexpected costs. Sexton herself seems committed to the EV cause, and is willing to sacrifice for it. But she clearly worries about how this charger installation issue will affect the mass market that GM clearly wants to target with its Volt. Sexton tells Motavelli

There’s nothing about my installation that they shouldn’t have seen coming. We could have been resolving this a month ago. And the point is that it happened to me, someone who understands the process as well as anyone, who has access to all the right people, who’s been party to hundreds of installations. So the average person is likely to get incredibly frustrated, and may end up walking away –- unless they’re so enthusiastic that they’ll put up with it.

And Motavelli points out that the problem isn’t limited to Sexton or the Volt, citing the example of Richard Lowenthal, CEO of the home-charger firm Coloumb Industries. Despite his obvious clout and interest in promoting home EV charging, Lowenthal admitted to Motavelli that his MINI E home charger took months to install. Motavelli concludes

I am convinced that none of the relevant parties, including car companies, utilities, state and local officials, have fully thought through the installation of charging infrastructure, including contingency plans for problems like Sexton’s. I’ve become frustrated by the vagueness emanating from parties issuing assurances that all will go smoothly. Frankly, it won’t. And here’s exhibit A.

Sexton is looking into her options, and making an appointment with the neighborhood association. Meanwhile, her garage is staying locked. And the Volt is supposed to be delivered next week.

With misunderstandings and debates over the Volt’s technical details and efficiency measurement already rampant, it’s clear that a mass-market rollout for the Volt is going to face a number of unforeseen challenges, and this charger issue is just another log on the fire. And it points to a larger issue: namely, that people who don’t own their own homes will face numerous challenges installinga home charger, particularly if they’re part of the urban loft-dwelling crowd who might be expected to form the vanguard for EV ownership. Regardless of what the Volt, Leaf, Coda and other EV hopefuls are like as cars, they face the inevitable challenges of changing how consumers interact with their automobiles. And that’s not something that can be fixed simply with education and PR.

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71 Comments on “Volt Customer Advisory Board Member Runs Into Charger Issues...”


  • avatar
    Flybrian

    These seems like yet another convoluted “caveat of living like a reasonable person” regulation loved by California that makes me ecstatic that I don’t live there…

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    I’m a little bit lost with the word “charger”. In my opinion the charger controls current and voltage going to the battery. It also measures the health of the battery etc. and can be pretty sophisticated and needs to be build for the exact type of battery.
     
    Similar like my IC car has a charger built in to regulate the electricity from the generator to the battery not not burn it up and keep optimally charged.
     
    With this I would think the charger has to be proprietary and needs to be part of the car itself and matched to the exact type of battery. A 2011 Volt has a different battery chemistry than a 2015 Volt, or a 2011 Leaf, or 2012 Plugin Prius. The car itself could plug into any power supply as long as the plug fits. Modern chargers can use wide voltage ranges too. so the same charger could use 120 V, 208 V and 240 V.
     
    From reading this article it sounds like the charger i described is outside the car. How does that then work with charging station throughout town? How do they have the correct charger for the Volt. Leaf and whatever the battery manufacturer dreams up? the same way my Nokia phone has the charger built in and as long as the plug fits and voltage is correct I could charge it with any power supply (the thing we call charger is just a power supply with the proprietary plug).
     
    And how does it cost $ 1,500 to install? when i remodel my lower level I plan to run a 240 V cable to my garage to be prepared for the future. This cost me $ 100 max for breaker and cable. and “installing” the proprietary outlet in my garage should cost me some ct. Even if I hired an electrician it wouldn’t cost me $ 1,500 (if it did, I would become an electrician…). Obviously if I have to run cable though finished spaces it will be more expensive. but that is the same for all wiring.
     
     
    If this country would not be so behind when it comes to electricity (in Europe minimum voltage is 230 V already, so needing to run additional wiring is not an issue) installation cost would be nill. But this applies to all high-powered equipment to be installed in the US. In addition, every garage should have 240 V in the first place. You never know when you need some welding, some concrete mixing etc.
     
    Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see how it needs to be that expensive.
     
    What I see in this article, that I now have another reason to own my own home and don’t share property with strangers. Never a good idea.
     

  • avatar
    carguy

    Not a great surprise – most companies dabbling in EV cars have found a number of issues with the home charging process. The electric Mini ran into charging issues (related to voltage I think) in eastern states and the Nissan Leaf will most likely also face related issues. It’s unrealistic to think that a shift in energy sources can occur on any scale without some changes in our electricity infrastructure which was not designed with cars in mind. That is why most manufacturers are starting with small scale introductions of EVs until these issues can be resolved.

  • avatar
    tced2

    When we get electric charging cars in larger numbers, we will start hearing about (electric) capacity problems.  “Time meter” is just one form of a capacity issue – the electric utilities want to encourage usage at off-times.  The problem is that “off-time” will no longer be at night because all the electric cars will be at home wanting a charge.  What will be the cheapest time for charging?

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      considering the vast amount of electricity used by industry and commercial building AC and lighting I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      Moving a car requires “vast amounts of electricity”.
      All the electric charging cars requiring a charge at the same time (nighttime) will require “vast amounts of electricity” – there’s another term for that we’ve heard – peak demand.  Time-of-use meters are to there to give an incentive to using electricty off-peak. If everyone switched to an electric charging car, the electrical system would not be able deliver the energy. And it won’t be cheap.
      Changing the energy source from petro-fuels to electricy doesn’t change the amount of energy it requires to move the car – it just changes how the energy is delivered and stored.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      I was referring to your claim that charging at night will create a similar peak demand as during day time. You have no idea of the magnitude of demand difference between July midday and night time.
      If the majority of electric cars would charge at night time, capacity itself won’t be much of a problem any time soon. Obviously at some point it will. Especially wen the expensive (to run) day time peak natural plants need to run at night time.
       
      but we look at 10,000 volt next year, 50,000 in 2011/12. throw in some Leaf… this really won’t affect the grid soon if cars charge at night. During day this will be an issue.

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    Interesting I brought this issue up a couple of weeks ago and was told that I was crazy.  I have seen this issue with many US products.  As stated in the above posts, the car should carry the ability to charge with 110V or 220V and have the converter IN THE CAR.  The Volt user should even have the flexibility to grab a standard construction grade extension cord and charge it in 110V mode – emergency mode if you will.  

    Great article that once again shows all the real world challenges associated with the Volt. 

    Sheesh…how much did GM spend on the Volt?  The Program Manager and Engineering staff responsible for the Volt charging methodology didn’t figure this out?

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Nothing crazy about that. I would also advocate for an intelligent outlet that signals grid capacity and rates so the car can decide when its the best time to charge.

    • 0 avatar
      TimCrothers

      Um hello IT HAS A 110V charger built into the car which can be used in any standard 3 prong outlet and charge the car in 8 hours.  This article is about the optional 3 hour 220/240V quick charger in a home that didn’t have such an outlet already.  if you only want to recharge the battery at night you don’t need the quick charger just the standard 110V charger which comes for free with the car.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      Why didn’t they just include a wide range charger? Any laptop/phone nowadays has 110-240 input.
       
      One would assume fast-charging is more important on the road and not at home. I usually stay at home longer than at the shopping mall where I’m supposed to be able to recharge midway.
       
      Oh wait, it is a GM. Nevermind.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “Why didn’t they just include a wide range charger? Any laptop/phone nowadays has 110-240 input.”
       
      The Volt battery (600volts?) is well over the voltage available from the outlet, so the charger has to raise the voltage up to that level, or be split amongst the battery stack to deliver charge to segments that match the voltage available — either way, much more sophisticated than a laptop charger – probably two distinct chargers for 110 and 220 V.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      The fact that the battery is 600 V has nothing to do with that. It is just a cheap or outdated design.
      It really is not different from a laptop power supply that works on all voltages and always produces the same DC voltage. What happens in modern power supplies is that (and an electrical engineer may correct me) they take whatever voltage they get (110, 240 etc.) and convert it to DC. That DC gets converted in an inverter to any voltage or frequency you need. the voltage is more limited by what safety standards you want to meet. 600 v is the limit of “low voltage” at least for buildings and NEC. All low voltage wiring is rated to 600 V. Obviously in DC you have other issues (arcing etc.) to consider. but from the inverter point of view the sky is the limit regarding voltage. no matter what the original voltage is. I used to have a 1974 Trabant with 6V battery system and had a 6V/12V inverter for my cassette radio. really not much sophistication needed. You can buy $ 10 1V/120V converters for the cigarette lighter in your car.
       
      Obviously details are little more sophisticated. but that is how they get high conversion efficiency and wide range of input/output.
       
      Fluorescent ballasts produce 600 V and have 85-300 v wide range input. Inverters for solar power deal with a wide range of input voltage etc. It really is not a problem and very common to deal with varying voltages. Every little rechargeable device has wide range input nowadays, it really is not rocket science nor expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      In car converter charging can’t be done fast because of waste heat. That is why an external is necessary. There is also the issue of metering electricity and that means you need some intelligence at the mains. Another issue is that the Volt uses more watts during fast charging than that most mains can supply safely

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    My guess is that the Volt never was really intended to be anything but vaporware by prebankruptcy GM. It was for pr only except for mayybe a few EV1 demo units. The takeover and government control made the project a priority and the engineers were ignored or told to go along or else. So you are going to see a lot of issues like this from now until the program is finally killed as a massive failure.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      +1  The Volt always appeared to me to be the means to sell a bailout package to congress.  “If you help us out of this fix, we’ll be able to build the green/PC vehicles that you all advocate.’  So much of this smacks of technological advancements by governmental fiat, i.e., if you throw enough money at a problem eventually it will get solved.  Which tends to lead to very expensive short-sightedness.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The Volt made business sense in the 2006-2007 world of skyrocketing oil prices but full employment and unlimited credit.
       
      Today – or a year ago, or two for that matter – it’s a born loser.  Launching it at all is throwing good money after bad.
       

  • avatar
    GS650G

    If this story of a voluntary installation complete with a commitment to the ideal of electric powered travel sounds tense,  just wait until the day we are required to have charging stations in homes for mandated electric vehicles.
    Crazy? Yes, today. But if they don’t get enough buy in to electric travel then some legislative prodding will take place.
    You could always give up personal transportation as an alternative. Just move into a city area and do what they tell you.

    • 0 avatar
      ja-gti

      Doesn’t sound crazy at all.
      I live near the biggest collection of freshwater in the world, and the federal government requires that I have a water saving toilet (isn’t water recyclable?) that is often times incapable of doing its job.
      It’s cold here too, but soon I won’t be able to buy incandescent light bulbs because the government has outlawed them starting in 2012 b/c they “waste” so much energy as heat – it’s dark in the winter, so that bulb is both lighting and heating my house. No waste! And in the summer, the sun is up longer, so guess what I don’t use that often?
      The EPA has mandated that painters do expensive lead-paint abatement on most of their jobs (old houses are most in need of new paint), so guess the house is going to just stay ugly.
      Do you remember voting on any of this, or even hearing any debate on it?
      The United States – where a free people are willingly subjecting themselves to an increasingly authoritarian government with nary a whimper.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    What will be the cheapest time for charging?

    thats a great question, ” Sir will it be 3am – 5pm  mon, wed, thurs but not sat or sun?
    and your meter will be running regardless, since i cannot find someone else to take your slot in a short notice.”

    For sure when the EVs are up to steam running u bet is going to be much more than driving a 8 litre benzenes burning petrol machine.
    Probably when more folks on your block have charger then the hydro co. will need an upgrade of another 20k to supply industrial grade wiring to your house.
    Is going to be wunderbar.

  • avatar

    40 + thousand dollars is a mass market car? GM doesn’t really live in this world anymore.

    What was the old Ford joke. Found On Road Dead? Well, this one won’t be found on road much, but it sure looks dead.

    Well maybe if gas goes to 6 dollars, or politicians find more “cvlever” ways of making their car saleable.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Not JUST GM, but all the ideological academics surrounding the president of the US.

      This whole big thinking cultural directing is theory.

      I have always asked if anybody has a formula to figure out the cost to charge a Volt, or any electric car, from empty to full.
      There must be a way to convert this to MPG.

      I know I saw this somewhere once, perhaps here at TTAC.

      But without this readily handy, as well as all other cost such as the ridiculous charger, how can anybody really know what an electric car is costing them????

      How are things down south?
      Have you been doing any soccer/volleyball? I used to watch this on the beaches of Rio and feel impotent after awhile!
      Those players are awesome!
       

    • 0 avatar

      Fucker only runs down hill

    • 0 avatar

      Hi TrailerTrash,

      Well, I disn’t want to lump in all the political thing into this, but since you did…I won’r say I disagree. Down here pols and such are (even more) crazy, too. And all is distorted by the them looking at the world through the prizm of the current prez election campaign. If you were to believe one side, Brazil is now, if not THE leader among nations, at least an equal partner. And people have never been better fed, cared for and supported. If you’re to believe the other side, our democracy is in danger, all the other side is corrupt, and they represent “good”, while the others are evil. Sigh!

      As to Academia, I came to the conclusion a long time ago the most of them are just clever people who are paid to supply “facts” to whatever the politicians want to push at a given moment in time. Sigh! Sigh!

      As to volleyball and beaches and whatnot, family issues have been very pressing. Haven’t had much time. Some good some bad. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Not much of an incentive for those making day to day decisions at GM to worry about petty stuff like this. At America’s current level of decay, shareholders are much better served by management focusing on ensuring Those With The Power To Compel Others To Spend, are seen as having some personal and ideological stake in a project. Then they can simply sit back while those guys use The Force to make the project less of a failure than it could ever be in a free world, on engineering terms, alone.
     
    Expecting different behavior from GM, is about as gullible as expecting some bank or mortgage lender to spend their time and resources looking at credit records and paystubs, instead of on promoting themselves as a part of some magical “System” that the rest of us must bend down and pick cotton to keep in splendor.
     

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    The first issue is that GM is expecting the new Volt owner to buy the charger in addition to the price of the car.  What an utterly absurd way to begin marketing an EV, can you imagine buying a lap-top computer, only to find you cannot re-charge the battery because the cord comes at an additional cost?  The Volt not only isn’t going to have the range you expect, it is also going to hammer you on your electric bill, if you can get it charged in the first place.  This the sort of colossal fail that shows GM doesn’t give a rats ass about its customers.  Of all the ‘plain-as-the-nose-on-your face’ things to do with an EV, would be to include an adapter and line conditioner so that every Chevy salesperson in the country can say ‘and all you have to do is plug it in to your outlet, just like your computer, toaster, etc. etc. Instead the dealers will have to pick up the slack and do a two step around the most blatantly obvious question any potential buyer and EV novice would have; ‘how do I charge this thing?”

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Actually, now that I see the insanely low skirt under the bumper, I couldn’t even get this car into my driveway without dragging, never mind attempting to charge it…..

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    In fairness to the Volt, the issues with regulations and bureaucracy effect the installation of a 240v charger for any EV, not just the Volt.  I believe the Leaf has an external charger as well.
    The Volt can be charged on a regular 120v outlet, but it’s slower and a bit less efficient.  It’s unlikely to charge the car fully in an 8 hour charge.
    I do find a bit of irony here, since Chelsea was such a critic of GM in “Who Killed The Electric Car.”  One the arguments the movie made was that it could take a long time to lease the car from GM… making it sound as if the company was purposefully making the purchase cumbersome.  Rather, the reality is that charger installations were scouted out before the paperwork was signed, and the time was required to figure out a total installation cost for the customer.
    There a lot of regulations that need to be adjusted for EVs.  When the first EV1s were delivered in 1996, the California DMV took months to issue plates since they couldn’t figure out how to issue a registration to a car that didn’t pass a tailpipe test.  Duh.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Speaking as an electrician I have always felt that the issue of the charger was going to be a headache for a great number of people who would like to own an EV. It is not really a problem for single family homes where at the very least there will be a 110V receptacle in the garage or exterior wall. The installation of a 230V charger while an additional cost, is not a show stopper. In my own home I already have a 230V outlet in the garage however if it did not I estimate $200 tops would cover it plus the cost of the charger. Folks who live in apartment buildings and in any situation where they cannot get their vehicle off the street or always park in the same spot are right out of luck. In a city like Toronto near where I live, a huge proportion of the population would not be able to operate an EV because they would have no place to charge it. Even if you have a reserved parking spot in an underground parking lot you may not be within easy reach of a 110V outlet without running extension cords over or under other vehicles, a proposition that is just not feasible. I can just see the unlucky commuter who plugs his EV into an outlet over which he has no control only to find that the circuit breaker popped sometime during the night and his car has no charge or not enough. What does he do now? I guess there is always the bus. Not much attention has been given to these problems in spite of all the hype about EV’s. They are just not practicle for a huge section of society. I wonder how many people will find all this out when it’s too late and find themselves using (in the case of the Volt) the range extending ICE most of the time or taking the bus (in the case of the Leaf). On the other hand, if EV’s take off, us electricians will be in big demand! Go Leafs Go! Volts too!

  • avatar
    vww12

    Just yesterday I commented on TTAC that fueling these electrics is gonna be so expensive that many are just going to stick with a 50 MPG Golf and be done with it.

  • avatar
    JimC

    Um, I take it there must be some good reason against using already existing 240V clothes dryer plugs?  (As in, since not a lot of people dry their clothes for 8 hours a night every night…)
     
    Somebody help me out here.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      If your dryer is in the garage next to the car, your in luck. If it’s upstairs, around a few bends, and 50 feet more to the parking spot your in, your shit out of luck.
       
      BTW you would need at least an 8 Gauge cord with a Hubell connector rated for 230 at 40 amps on that cord. Just run it through the dog door every night and you’ll do fine. You can dry clothes during the day or weekends since the circuit won’t handle both without popping a breaker.
      Now if you have a gas fired dryer, your screwed.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Last time I needed a new 220V in my house it cost $12,000.
       
      Oh wait, that’s insane.  This is something you want to hire an electrician to do, but installing a new  outlet isn’t rocket science.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    ” I’ve become frustrated by the vagueness emanating from parties issuing assurances that all will go smoothly. Frankly, it won’t. And here’s exhibit A.”

    Cannot be true.
    Government is the key to Jobs and Prosperity for All.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    So California wants EVs but it is making it miserable for those citizens who want to drive an EV.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Sure, the $109K Tesla driving douche doesn’t care.  It is going to be painful for the $41K Volt buyer and even more painful for the $32.5K Leaf buyer.
     
    What a freakin’ mess.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      There’s nothing crazy going on here:
       
      1. If you want to charge an EV, you probably want Time-of-use billing.
       
      2. The utility doesn’t want you to have one foot in each camp.  You either need to commit to TOU billing, or regular flat billing.
       
      Sexton’s HOA issues are her HOA issues.
       

  • avatar
    dwford

    Early adopters beware. By the time all the early buyers sort through the process with the power companies, the regular consumers will have an easier time. Electric cars won’t work for everyone anyway, so most people will never deal with these issues.

  • avatar
    stuart

    Guys, the real problem is here:

    “But California’s public utilities commission requires all of its customers’ electric meters to be grouped together, …”

    I live in Northern California, and the local utility is replacing all the electric meters with so-called “Smart Meters.” The new meters facilitate time-of-day metering because they communicate wirelessly (like WiFi) with the utility. Because every meter reports to the utility, we don’t need humans to visit and read every meter every month.

    …And the convenience of the meter-reader is almost certainly the motivation behind the rule quoted above.

    Now that CA has “Smart Meters,” we don’t have human meter-readers anymore, so there’s no reason to force all the meters on Ms. Sexton’s condo complex to be grouped together. They’re all connected via wireless anyway. Yes, that means the entire problem is caused by a rule that has been made obsolete by technology.

    That said, I’ll note that virtually no residential electricity customer in CA desires or approves of SmartMeters. Fairly or not, they’re widely seen as an obfuscation employed to raise electricity rates. Currently the top rate is $0.40 per kilowatt-hour, and I pay that rate for most of my electricity.

    stuart

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

       virtually no residential electricity customer in CA desires or approves of SmartMeters

      Regardless or what CA utility really has in mind, the whole problem is electricity use.  In California the shit has hit the fan once big time and will again. 

      It is important that those pushing technology upon the public understand, and quickly, the reality.  Electricity doesn’t just come magically from the wall outlet!

      How does 40 cents per KW/hr transfer into MPG????

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      A typical electric car gets about 3 to 5 miles per kilowatt hour. So allowing for some losses in charging, I’d say you would probably get 2 to 4 miles per kilowatt hour measured at the meter. Which with a price of 40 cents per kilowatt hour gives you a per mile fuel cost of 10 to 20 cents.
       
      If you run the Volt on gasoline at 30 miles per gallon, right now with gasoline about $3 per gallon you would be paying about 10 cents per mile in fuel cost.
       
      That said, I live in California and am a Pacific Gas & Electric customer. My latest electric bill shows that we paid 12 cents per kilowatt hour. That is the lowest rate. During the winter with its earlier darkness, I know we sometimes pay more. But not much more. I know we have never paid 40 cents per kilowatt hour.
       
      Of course, were we to buy a Volt or Leaf, we might get into the higher brackets. Electric cars use a lot of electricity. To compare, your typical cell phone battery would move a Volt about 10 inches. Your typical laptop battery would do a lot better — about 200 feet.
       
      With electronics, power needs can often be drastically reduced. We get used to that. With electric motors, the need for lots of power is a more immutable problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      40 cents a kWh is ridiculous.  I pay between 6 and 8 cents a kWh in TX.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    $1500 to install a charging device?
     
    I’ve had 30 A 220 lines run to various garages and time and materials never goes into that range unless you have a very difficult building.
     
    All the necessary breakers, 10GA wire, and a twist-lock receptacle might run $300 tops.  Add another $300 labor and this type of job should only cost $600 or so.
     
    I suspect some electricians are trying to milk customers willing to spend big bucks on a bleeding-edge product.
     
    -ted

  • avatar

    This sort of problem is a reason why it’s good to get EVs and range-extender EVs on the road long before they make sense for the mass market. All the bugs will be worked out before millions of people are buying them. Thank you Chelsea Sexton.

  • avatar

    @Stuart: $0.40/kwh???! And I’m thinking I’m getting screwed at $0.20/kwh here in Lexington Mass.
    I’m surprised about the antipathy towards smart meters.

    • 0 avatar
      stuart

      Here’s a link to Pacific Gas & Electric electrical rates:

      http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-1.pdf

      This isn’t entirely PG&E’s fault. The State of California had a disastrous experiment with deregulated electricity in 2000; it drove PG&E into bankruptcy. I guess we’re still paying for that, but PG&E has done plenty of evil since; here’s an example:

      http://www.nasdaq.com/aspx/company-news-story.aspx?storyid=201006090715dowjonesdjonline000361&title=pge-backed-ballot-initiative-to-limit-public-power-failing

      Here’s one of many skeptical articles about SmartMeters:

      http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-05-31/news/21651552_1_smartmeter-program-silver-spring-networks-pacific-gas

      stuart

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    If you think the cost of installation of a charger hurts wait till your home insurer finds out you have a 220V charger, and a load of batteries connected to it, in your garage.   Charging produces heat at the charger and in the batteries.  Too much heat and you have a fire.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Too much heat and you have a fire
      This is what happens if you overcharge it:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS2hGoJVmlA&p=B4D887151BBF2584&playnext=1&index=65

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Your home insurer isn’t going to raise rates because you have an electric charger.  220V exists in every house today.  Not everyone charges with it, but in Europe, they all have 220.  They charge computers, phones and everything else with it.  You are not going to get enough heat out of this to start a fire on an EV.
       
      MCS,
      How many phones and computers have you seen starting fires?  Sony had some problems with batteries getting to hot, but I don’t recall any fires from them.

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    Stuart

     “Currently the top rate is $0.40 per kilowatt-hour, and I pay that rate for most of my electricity.”

    Wow!  The national average for electricity is around $.13, and I pay .11 here in SW Florida.  That pretty much negates any cost savings the electric side of the Volt was supposed to give.  Two years ago Bob Lutz estimated the cost of 40 miles of electric operation at about $1.00 (8 kWh @ $.12) and the IC portion at around $3.60 for the gallon of gas to go the same 40 miles. At your California rates the 40 electric miles will cost $3.20.

    The problem with California is you live in a regulatory morass.  The basic economics of electric costs is there is a fixed cost for the power lines and a variable cost of generation.  What that means is the more you use the less it should cost per unit because the fixed line charge becomes a lesser percentage of the total. 

    But in all their wisdom, California regulators have decided electricity is bad and they provide incentives to use very little electricity.  That’s OK, its just that heavier users must pay more to subsidize the light users.  But then we get EVs and suddenly electricity is good.  So how do you resolve it?  Simple.  You put in a line for bad electricity and a separate one for good electricity.  If you don’t you will be thrown into a high use/high price bad electricity category.  That’s what well intentioned over regulation does.  

    The rest of the country hasn’t yet followed the suicidal regualtions of California, witness the difference in costs of Florida vs California.

    • 0 avatar
      stuart

      Corky,

      “You put in a line for bad electricity and a separate one for good electricity.”

      ROFL! Obviously you have a fabulous career ahead of you as a California regulatory bureaucrat. :-)

      stuart

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Wow…really. Rates in Manitoba are .0625 per Kw/h – all day, every day. Needless to say, the Volt and Leaf make much more sense at that rate, especially with gas at $1/liter ($4.50 per gallon).

      This isn’t a problem just for the Volt, BTW; this impacts every EV (Tesla, Fisker, Leaf, etc.), and until utilities are prepared for the stress on the system that thousands of EV’s will incur, this problem will negatively impact EV sales until it’s as easy to re-charge as it is to fill-up with gas.

      Once again, governments have forced a choice on the consumer that’s not viable without major expenditures and a 190 degree shift in our attitudes.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      Heh.  «a line for bad electricity and a separate one for good electricity»
      You, sir, are good.
      And also, don´t forget CA imports a large share of its electricity because they have blocked power developments in their own state over, and over, and over.
      I hope they enjoy their 40¢ stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      @ Monty:
      Wow…really. Rates in Manitoba are .0625 per Kw/h – all day, every day.
      Driving through parts of Canada, I’ve noticed that parking lots and retail establishments are VERY well lit. When you cross over to the USA, God magically dims the lights in all urban areas.
      Nothing like having a sane regulatory environment when it comes to hydro power and nukes.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Rates in Manitoba are .0625 per Kw/h – all day, every day.

      Those are the lowest rates in North America. Thanks to hydro power. Cheap and reliable, hydro power is the gold standard of electricity generation.

      But in California the 40 cent per kilowatt hour maximum rates are not driven by the market. The government mandates that to discourage use of electricity.

      For many years the per capita use of electricity in California has stayed stable. The government considers that a great accomplishment.

  • avatar
    mcs

    There are going to be impacts on the distribution system as well. We’re probably going to see EV chargers blowing out neighborhood transformers. This paragraph is from our friends in California. Not addressed in the document, there is a legal impact of blowing a transformer. Could an EV user face a lawsuit by neighbors for damages caused by blowing a transformer?
    Here’s the link to the entire document: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/FINAL_DECISION/106042-02.htm

    In our July 15, 2009 electric vehicle workshop in R.08-12-009, we were warned that distribution system impacts, more so than transmission and generation system impacts, may arise in the early electric vehicle market. There is some evidence that in certain neighborhoods, clusters of early adopters of electric vehicles exist. Under certain charging voltage and timing assumptions, an average of less than one PHEV per household could increase asset overloading on the neighborhood transformer.20 A commonly used 25 kilovolt-ampere (kVA) neighborhood transformer serves the typical household load for five to seven homes. Level 2 charging (for example, at 6.6 kW) for a BEV can increase the load served by the transformer by the equivalent of an additional household load; a PHEV charging at 120V (1.4 kW) is the equivalent of a third of a household load. DC charging, if as ubiquitous and used as often as a gasoline filling station, may place acute stress on multiple local circuits and transformers. Distribution system stress is particularly of concern if customers charge when they arrive home after work when the transformer would otherwise cool down with declining household evening load.21 Consequently, vehicle charging level and charging timing is relevant to the rate of transformer capacity and transformer aging. For electric reliability purposes, this Commission intends to address this important issue to see how to encourage sequential charging during hours that will not adversely impact local circuits and transformers.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      Good point, especially the sociological one (birds of a tree hugging feather nest together… or something like that).
       
      So what do utilities already do every Christmas when there is a neighborhood full of wannabe Griswolds trying to outdo each other on decorative lights?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      (^^^  Does Christmas = cold season have anything to do with transformers getting too hot under load?)

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      My power company can and does turn off my AC unit when they decide it’s proper.  What’s different about having the same kind of circuit in my garage?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    The electrical grid, as it operates now, is a giant inefficient mess. Particularly during hot weather. In order to meet peak demand, powers plants must come online hours before the actual need arises. What happens to all this excess power? It gets dumped as in completely wasted. There’s a revolution going on in the commercial and industrial world as a result of partnerships between utilities and consumers of energy. That will spread to the residential world via the use of smart meters , smart appliances and smart electric car chargers.
    Complain all you want about smart meters. Yeah, they may suck now but as the grid and home become more sophisticated in time-slicing use of electricity, the result will be a much more efficient system and, ultimately, lower costs. We’re not there yet, but just as there’s more to be wrung out of the IC engine, there’s a lot that can be wrung out of the grid without increasing capacity. For the forseeable future, there is plenty of capacity for charging the sorts of electric vehicles that will be available for next decade or so.
     
     

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Even if the intial rollout of electric vehicles will be relatively small, I can already sense the electric utilities salivating and rubbing their hands together at the prospect of increased energy usage. I can also envision (in the not so distant future) the end of the overnight “off peak” rates, raising the rates for the rest of us who like to run various appliances like the dishwasher or clothes dryer at night to save money. Thanks eco-weenies!  

  • avatar
    ILO

    I remember Soviet Union switched from 127V to 220V in 1950s without much fuss. And USSR as a country was larger than US. If USSR could do it 50 years ago what prevents the “most powerful nation in human history” to modernize its infrastructure in accordance with 21st century standards? US is not capable even to switch to metric system (which was inverted couple of centuries ago). Instead Obama administration cancels moon program, retires space shuttle with no replacement for foreseeable future, increases healthcare costs to unsustainable level, comes up with idiotic cap and trade program, does not even consider nuclear power plants, invites millions of uneducated illegal immigrants to become US citizens and lower already low intellectual level of nation and borrows trillions of $$ with no intention to pay back. So much for so called “progressive” president. And now he came up with idea of 60 mpg CAFE standard without any plan how it will be achieved. What do you expect from country which elects inexperienced community activist as a president?
     

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I’m investing in power company stocks. this is going to be a gold mine. No one has done the math and calculated thousands upon thousands of people recharging their cars every night just so they can get to work in the morning. And earn money to pay taxes and electric bills.
    So as long as the electricity gets generated elsewhere CA gets clean air as a result. Nice. In addition to their 75 billion dollar debt we’ll handle powering their lifestyle too.
    Cheeky bums.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    After reading the article and comments, I think there’s a lot of assumptions being made here. First of all, that there’s going to be a swarm of electric cars invading California in a very short amount of time. GM is only planning on producing 10,000 Volts for 2011. Not even nationwide, just five states. If they distribute them equally, California would get 2,000 of them. GM hasn’t even delivered ONE of the cars yet, but it’s going to somehow cause massive disturbances to the California power grid.
     
    I’ve forgotten for the moment, how many Leafs (Leaves?) is Nissan going to dump, I mean sell, here? 25,000 maybe? Not all of them will show up on the West Coast, all at the same time, no matter how much you want them to. Teslas? Codas? Do we even believe those will become anything beyond a curiosity?
     
    Secondly, when you’re the VERY first of something, there’s always going to be glitches. Even Mr. Lowenthal with the MINI E (cited in the article) had an issue with the recharging device. How many MINI E’s are in the US? (I really don’t know. Most electric cars really aren’t on my radar.) I think the total production was going to be very small – I can understand why there may be some issues with these devices. There seems to be a lack of a reliable knowledge base. Although, if it really does cost $1500 to install the recharging device for the Volt, I’m getting my electrician’s card and moving to California posthaste! I’m going to get me a piece of those 2,000 installations…
     
    Third, what do we really think will be the take rate on these cars? I think the newness factor will great the first few years, but these cars have a certain set of requirements that automatically shut out a large percentage of the buying population. I live in a nice neighborhood, with a garage where I could plug in my car every night and recharge, my friends who live in the apartment complex down the road have no such arrangement. I see where some cities are trying to get free public power supplies installed in downtown areas for this ‘onslaught’ of electric cars, but how long will that last? Especially if the electric cars don’t show up?
     
    I say we see what happens with the electric cars. Events may not happen the way people are assuming.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I’m investing in power company stocks. this is going to be a gold mine. No one has done the math and calculated thousands upon thousands of people recharging their cars every night just so they can get to work in the morning”

    Here we again. Power companies have all kinds of excess power at night which is why they try to give it away. They don’t have the ability on a daily basis to throttle the plant up and down based on their customers needs. So the reality is this won’t be an issue for a long long time. If ever. And the pollution generated to charge electric cars like the Volt at night is null or zero.

  • avatar
    nonce


    <i>There’s nothing about my installation that they shouldn’t have seen coming.</i>
     
    So now it’s GM’s responsibility to manage her condo association?  Sheesh.

  • avatar
    timlocke

    At some risk of sounding smug.
    I am just about to start a basement reno.  I think I’ll have the electrical contractors run a cable capable of 50 amps from my panel through the easily accessible basement ceiling to the garage and just cap it off in a box.  I have a 200 amp service, and plenty of space on the panel for another dual breaker.   I estimate that this will cost maybe $250 extra on the reno.  I estimate that I can run 40 amps of charging + the A/C ( new 15 SEER) + the dryer on low or medium at the same time. In the winter, no A/C of course. Furnace is gas.  Stove is gas. Water heater is gas.  I do not permit the power Co to turn off my A/C.
    My municipality in Ontario has just installed time of use metering so that is all ready.  If we should sell the house, the next owner will be already set up for charging.
     
    However, I have absolutely no intention of buying any sort of Electric car for the rest of my life. If I should feel that I need better economy than my Golf GTI I’ll buy a Golf Diesel.


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