• Jan 20, 2010
2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

The onslaught of electric vehicles expected to hit the market over the next five years, such as the Chevrolet Volt (pictured above), is keeping many local power utilities up at night. The dilemma has to do with the power supply – more specifically, how to feed the increased demand on the grid down to the household level.

There isn't really a shortage of power, experts say. However, while your electric company has built the infrastructure to keep your microwave, HDTV and computer all running simultaneously without dimming the kitchen lights, an anticipated flood of innovative all-electric cars concurrently guzzling electrons off the system in private garages may lead to household circuit breakers tripping and street corner transformers burning out.

Not to worry, say the utilities. While it is a challenge that they must address, there is something working in their favor... cost. As is often the case with new technologies, the high selling price of the early all-electric cars (expected to hit $40,000 or more... or less) allows the power companies to anticipate which neighborhoods need upgrading first – now, that's electrifying insight.



[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 48 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      How are you americans producing your electricity again?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Do you take into account the transportation of hundreds of tons of coal, and mining?

        Do you take into account the transmission of electricity, emission of electromagnetic fields, and loss as heat and other transmissive losses?

        From coal out of the ground, to electricity in your electric car is not that efficient of a power conversion and transit, even if an electric motor is more efficient at turning electricity into motion.

        A gasoline or diesel engine gets fuel from the ground, but drilling isn't as expensive or destructive as mining, refinining isn't as expensive as mass power generation, and liquid fuel is only lost by accidental spill, not inherently lossy like power transmission and conversion.

        An ICE engine may be lossier at one point... but the energy process isn't as lossy for liquid fuel, which is more energy dense than a battery's capacitance, anyway.

        Thanks, but I am not convinced.

        Also, if larger, centralized systems are inherently so much more efficient, then how efficient are hundreds of generators, each hundreds of feet up in the air, for wind power, and the installation and maintenance costs of those machines?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sunshine and fairy dust... last I checked anyway.
        • 5 Years Ago
        invisiblepidgeon,

        That's not what I said (read it again).

        I said the larger one is more efficient than the smaller one. In general, a larger power generator will be more efficient than a collection of smaller ones producing the same collective output.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The grid is not the only problem.

      Lithium is the key ingredient.
      Bolivia has half the world's known supply and China has that resource all tied up neatly in its own pocket.

      Here's some more food for thought:

      Toyota Secures Crucial Lithium Supply
      By Andrea Tse 01/20/10 - 10:41 AM EST

      NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A Toyota(TM Quote) affiliate has secured a stake in a major lithium project that could help the world's largest automaker maintain its lead in electric and hybrid cars.

      Toyota Tsusho, in which Toyota has a 22% stake, has been chosen by the lithium project's owner to develop the Salar de Olaroz project in northern Argentina.

      Australian-listed Orocobre said it picked Toyota Tsusho as a joint venture partner for the trading house's understanding of key future customers' supply chain situations.

      The project's development costs could fall between $80 and $100 million. Toyota Tsusho will fund the completion of the feasibility study for the project.

      Afterwards, the trading house will acquire a 25% stake in Salar de Olaroz. Toyota Tsusho is borrowing at a low rate from the Japanese government to secure a stake in the lithium project.

      Initial commercial production is slated to begin in late 2011.

      Lithium has become a hot commodity of late, as auto-companies increasingly seek to power their electric and hybrid vehicles with the more energy-efficient lithium-ion batteries.

      http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/story/10664076/1/toyota-secures-crucial-lithium-supply.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA

      Wonder what GM is up to lately?
        • 5 Years Ago
        GM buys their batteries from suppliers, not directly. You should ask what LG Chem is doing.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Don't forget the upcoming plug-in Prius either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Here comes the negative spin.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have been saying this all along! Rolling blackouts, brown-outs, rate cap deregulation, plus the transportation taxing agencies are going to want their pound of taxed flesh. About the only way this will work for the consumer is to install a solar array in the back yard. Oh wait, no yard, front or back; then you're at the mercy of the fragile power grid!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Says who? There is no mention as to who contradicts the electric companies in this article but, I've just read the same article saying it is Toyota's prediction that this will happen. I think Toyota is getting scared of the Volt. It's the kind of thing I would expect from Toyota.

      http://gm-volt.com/2010/01/20/toyota-exec-thinks-plug-in-cars-will-produce-local-power-outages-gm-doesnt-agree/
      • 5 Years Ago
      Although this will be a huge draw of power, most of it will be at off-peak hours, which will lessen the stress on the system for the most part. With all the complications involved in bringing electric cars to market, I really question whether any automakers have figured out if its the best solution, or just want green points. I'd rather wait a few years, give us some sensibly powered and efficient gas cars, and provide some options - I don't like how the only choice seems to be electric.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Even if they're being charged at night it's still going to be a nightmare...I don't know about where you live but from what I recall I've experienced plenty of brownouts and a couple blackouts over the years, especially during heatwaves and such from everyone running their ACs when they get home.
        So if the infrastructure as it is already flips out during hot summers, what do you think will happen when it's a hot summer and half the people on the block are trying to charge their Volt while gunning the AC?
        At least the Volt can also run on gasoline, but I'd be pretty peeved if I had a pure EV and not only does my home AC no longer work because the power is out, but my car is out of power.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, they will probably be plugged in upon arrival at home, from the commute.

        Just as the HVAC system is ramping back up after being dormant in an un-occupied house.

        Just as the TV and video games come on.

        Just as the home computers get warmed back up.

        Just as the oven, stove, refridgerator (open door losing cold air), and microwave get fired up for dinner preparation.

        Just as the evening load of laundry gets going.

        Just as all the activity in the evening of a household gets started.

        Seems easier to plug in the car in the garage before walking away from it, than to go back out there before bedtime, in pajamas, to remember to plug in the car, so that it isn't dead the next morning.

        And most houses might have A 220-240 volt circuit, maybe two or three. (kitchen range, air conditioning, and electric clothes dryer.) But usually they don't have an abundance of amps over what they are already using.

        Most houses probably still use 100 amp service, and only use 200 amp service if they are already needing more current.

        A battery charger doesn't need just voltage, it needs AMPERAGE. Amps are what are going to power that electric car... and they have to be input, just as surely as gasoline in a normal car.

        And thanks, but I think I'll stick to filling up my tank at the gas station in 10 minutes, than running an electric car that takes hours to charge a less energy-dense propulsion system.

        I don't begrudge people who want to try it... but I am not seeing a clear and present advantage to it yet. And I don't want a lithium battery stack in a car that I might someday get into an accident with. Even leaking gasoline doesn't auto-ignite and engulf like lithium exposed to an oxygen atmosphere.


        Oh, and I guess this is today's Volt bump, by putting the pictures on the front page again today.... what will it be tomorrrow? It gets bumped every day now.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly, most of the charging on these vehicles will happen overnight...when people are sleeping....and NOT watching the big screen TVs, or using the microwave or hair dryers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My basic plan is simple. Don't live in California.
      • 5 Years Ago
      any excuse to post a volt photo,eh guys?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Autoblog Mandatory Daily Chevy Volt post: posted.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Still in question, why all car companies make electric cars look way uglier than gasoline ones...
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's simple. A gallon of gas contains 36kWh of energy. The battery in a Tesla contains about 50kWh of energy. A Volt battery only provides 8kWh of energy (it contains 16 but won't relinquish half of it).

        So electric cars in effect have tiny, tiny gas tanks. Thus they need to be really efficient to get anywhere before running out of juice. So they must be super aerodynamic and such. So EVs must be "styled by wind tunnel" more than a gas car and they are.
      • 5 Years Ago
      NO kidding!! Wow I never saw this coming, way to go BIG Government. You are forcing us to to drive these cars in the future and oh look you didn't prepare ahead of time once again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        They're forcing us to drive the Volt? I must have missed the memo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The power companies don't need to upgrade the infrastructure for electric cars, the power companies need to upgrade the infrastructure to get us out of the 1920's.
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