[ad#post_ad]The coming tidal wave of electric vehicles is both a blessing and a curse for electric utility companies, and like coastal towns awaiting a possible hurricane, they remain unsure just how to prepare.

We realize one great value of EVs is having the fuel station right in our garages.  This represents a great financial opportunity for utility companies coming from electric cars.  After all, drivers spent $325 billion on gas last year, and even a portion of that would be a boon to utilities.

The typical electric car driven 10,000 miles in a year would increase a typical home's electric rate by 20 percent.  This could be $200 to $300 per year more revenue per consumer.

"Electric vehicles have the potential to completely transform our business," says David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group.

The typical electric car charging at 120-v will draw about 1500 watts of power, similar to a large microwave oven, or small air conditioner.  By itself this draw will have a negible effect on the grid. What the electric comanies fear, however, is clustering of EV owners within certain neighborhoods, potentially taking own local transformers.

The "nightmare scenario" is described as a hot summer afternoon when a cluster of EV owners come home to their neighborhood, turn on their air conditioners, microwaves  plasma screen TVs, and plug in their electric cars all at the same time.

We're talking about doubling the load of a conventional home," says Karl Rabago, who leads Austin Energy's electric vehicle-readiness program. "It's big."  To prepare for this, car companies and utilities are working together looking at early adopters and seeing if they could potentially identify clusters in neighborhoods ahead of time, so that local infrastruture like transformers could be upgraded, a cost of $7000 to $9000 per unit.

Both the LEAF and VOLT will also charge at 3300 watts (240-v) potentially exacerbating the concern.

The article claims both GM and Nissan "may boost that to 6,600 watts soon."

As exciting as a two-hour Volt recharge may be, Volt vehicle line director Tony Posawatz doesn not confirm this intention to GM-Volt.  "We are not looking at increasing the on-board charger capacity of the VOLT in the near-term," he said.

Finally one utility director describes the future uncertainty as waiting for a baby.

"It's like you're about to have a baby," says Duke Energy's Rowand. "You know it's going to be good, but you also know there's going to be some throw up and some dirty diapers, and you just hope that it's something you are prepared for."

That's a little less worrisome than a hurricane.

Source ( Detroit News )