Washington D.C. Auto Show: GM's Wish List for Volt
Shocking news: Extended-range electric vehicles like the forthcoming Chevy Volt will need all sorts of municipal infrastructure in order to break into the mainstream, GM told reporters at the Washington, D.C., auto show yesterday. The company says it’s working with cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to make this happen. GM says steps needed include charging stations at offices and in public areas, favorable electricity rates and access to carpool lanes in states that have them. The major hurdle — consumer incentives to make such technology affordable — has already come in the form of a $7,500 tax credit approved last fall.
We asked Britta Gross, manager of hydrogen and electrical infrastructure commercialization (and also quite possibly the owner of GM’s longest job title) about where she sees the state of infrastructure down the road. Would drivers pay money for the electricity used when they plugged into a charging station? Not initially, Gross thinks. She said that in the 1990s, businesses would install such stations — sometimes with a federal tax credit for doing so — and offer up free charging.
Once plug-in cars proliferate, there may be a “business case for charging for access,” Gross said. “I think only time will tell.”
That introduces another wrinkle. Right now, plug-in proponents point to off-peak hours — i.e., nighttime — as the time when the majority of cars would be plugged in, thus minimizing overloads to the power grid and keeping electricity rates manageable. But if public areas nationwide install charging stations, daytime electricity use could skyrocket.
Gross said GM is working with a number of utilities to manage this possibility. There are perhaps a dozen days per year when electric resources run at peak capacity, she said:
“If everyone powered up between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on August 14,” for example, electricity resources could be stretched thin; the vast majority of the time it wouldn’t be a problem.
Time will tell, of course, if Gross is correct.