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Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Details, details, details..

Tuesday’s announcement by Northeast Utilities that the company will develop 575 recharging stations in Connecticut and Massachusetts for electric cars like the Chevy Volt ought to be a cause for celebration for anyone who is anxious to see this country reduce its dependence on gas powered vehicles.

The Volt is scheduled to make its debut in late 2010 and NU’s project gives the company, which is the corporate parent of Connecticut Light & Power and the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., the opportunity to be environmentally conscious while at the same time slowly preparing itself - and its transmission grid - for a future where such vehicles are in wider use.

But before anyone gets too excited about what this means, let’s consider some of the details that might get lost in the excitement associated with this announcement.

For starters, the company’s current business model for the project calls for half of the $1.38 million price tag to be paid for with a US Department of Energy grant, which is scheduled to be announced in June.

Al Lara, an NU spokesman, says the company “is committed to the project” even if the grant money doesn’t come through. But Lara acknowledged that if the grant money fails to materialize, the company would have to reassess whether it could build all of the recharging stations with its own money.

Then there’s the issue of where these recharging stations would be located.

Plans now call for about 500 of them to be built in the garages of people who own plug-in electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt. NU’s logic, according to Lara, is that the average home doesn’t a have a 220-volt outlet in its garage and that’s what it takes recharge vehicles like the Volt.

But what’s just as important in making electric cars part of the mainstream if American life is having enough recharging stations available in easily accessible public places, the way gas stations are now. NU’s current plans call for only about 25 recharging stations to be accessible to the public.

The Volt comes with a small gas powered engine to repower the battery after the vehicle has gone 40 miles on a single charge. But my guess is the motoring public would have a greater level of comfort if people knew that there was going to be more than two dozen recharging stations spread among Connecticut’s 169 towns.

Finally, there’s the issue of how the recharging stations would be operated. NU’s Lara says the company is still working out the details like how the owner of an electric car would pay for using a recharging station and security issue associated with the facilities. Those are pretty important details if the company expects the business to add to its bottom line. not detract from it.

There’s no question that NU’s plan is forward thinking. But there needs to be a lot more focus on the details involved if the plan is to be successful.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Storm Connors said...

Paying for charging facilities in an individual's home is a really dumb idea unless the owners would make them available to other EV drivers.

Putting them in the state commuter parking lots and highway rest areas would make lots of sense.

Putting them in Walmart parking lots would be useful, but unless other stores were offered the same deal, it would be unfair.

April 8, 2009 at 3:12 PM 
Anonymous bobev99 said...

We already HAVE 240 volts in garages, Us guys with welders, table saws,other toys, er, I mean, tools> So charging my Jetta Electric isn't an issue?IF these folks at NU wanted to REALLY help out put the plugs at Commuter Lots, Theaters , Stupermarkets, train stations, even Rest Stops on the turnpike. Wal*Mart? Sure! Great PR, "get charged TWICE"in the Lot and the Store!Restaurants? Perfect, as you could charge while stuffing yur face!No more "Will I MAKE it home?"

April 12, 2009 at 11:55 PM 

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