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Chevy Volt

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Congress is also considering more tax credits for EVs and hybrids over vocal voices for and against such measures

In the wake of what some are calling the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, many Americans are looking at energy alternatives to fossil fuels -- nuclear power, solar, wind, and geothermal -- with new eyes.  A critical part of that equation is developing vehicles that can tap those energy sources.  With the first EVs from the world's major auto companies set to launch later this year, the pressure -- and excitement -- is on for this new market.

One critical question is how to implement an EV friendly infrastructure.  Part of the charm of the gas or diesel engine is that you can fill up your tank virtually anywhere in the country within minutes.  Faster chargers could do almost that for EVs -- charging them within 15-30 minutes.  However, it will take a massive investment to deploy these chargers across the nation.

The Obama administration is pushing legislation in the Senate that would invest taxpayer money to create EV chargers and other infrastructure in 15 key areas, much like the government's investment in rail a century and a half ago.  Energy Department Assistant Secretary David Sandalow told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee states, "Starting with a smaller number (of communities) would allow us to focus resources and build a team of experts that can support a more widespread rollout.  We need to invest in 21st-century technologies."

The bill would come at a cost of $10B USD to taxpayers – many say that's a small cost, though.  Sandalow states, "The direction of the bill is a good one.  We think this moves in a very positive direction."

That direction would be towards President Obama's goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on America's streets by 2015.  The bill in the Senate, authored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and two others, would put the $10B USD towards giving $250M USD to up to 15 communities.  A House version of the bill comes in at $6.6B USD and would give $800M USD to five "deployment communities" to put 700,000 EVs on the streets.  Both bills have been criticized for including two few communities, which critics say could slow adoption.

A separate bill is even more controversial.  The bill would give tax credits or direct government-funded rebates to buyers of efficient vehicles like hybrids or electric vehicles, while fining those who buy less fuel efficient vehicles like truck and large SUVs.  The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Detroit's Big Three carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven other automakers, opposes the measure.  

Kathryn Clay, the group's research director, states, "We believe the legislation should allow manufacturers, fuel providers and communities the flexibility to invest in multiple electric drive pathways, including fuel cell electric vehicle and related hydrogen infrastructure.  We have significant concerns about an approach that would limit investments to a handful of communities, particularly at such an early stage of electric vehicle deployment. This creates a small number of communities that would 'win' and receive significant federal dollars while the rest of country loses out."

Recent surveys indicate growing interest in electric vehicles, though.  And Nissan's initial production run of 14,000 2011 Nissan Leaf EVs has already been sold out via pre-orders.  In total, 20,000+ pre-orders have been placed.  The launch of the 2011 Chevy Volt by General Motors is anticipated to draw similar excitement later this year.

Still the movement has some informed skeptics.  Jan Kreider, an engineering professor and the founder of the University of Colorado's Joint Center for Energy Management, states, "There are inherent chemical limits to what a battery can do."

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank, adds, "All-electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be."

With vocal voices on both sides, the ball is now in Congress's court to find a consensus between the House and Senate on what, if any EV-related measures are best for Americans, and how to be encourage the new industry.

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The simple solution.
By titanmiller on 6/23/2010 9:14:56 PM , Rating: 1
Instead of filling your battery in one go like we do with gasoline or diesel, fill it every time you stop. Now the grocery store doesn't just sell food, they also sell electricity at every parking spot. The same would be true of every business with a parking lot. Forget about parking meters; use electricity revenue to replace meter profits.

In the connected world we live in now. The very first locations to have plugs would be easily located with GPS enabled smart phones. A simple matter of 'directions>nearest plug' and your phone routes you directly to the location. In dash navigation could compare your current charge status with the distance to the nearest plug. It would let you know when it is critical to plug in based on the driving distance.

RE: The simple solution.
By Lazarus Dark on 6/23/2010 10:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
I like your thinking. Accept, as much as I love the all-in-one convenience of my Droid, that navigation needs to be built into the car... with NO service contract. Provided that only navigation data is provided, a lifetime subscription to nav service should be included with the vehicle cost because now that I think about it, for the next 20 years this navigation will actually be essential for electric vehicles while charging infrastructure is being built out.

RE: The simple solution.
By shin0bi272 on 6/24/2010 12:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
Thats kinda the problem... these things take 8 hours to charge at 120v or 1-2hrs at 480v. Then after your hours of charging you get to go a handful of miles and then you have to wait a few hours again. It also doesnt tell you this but the guys on top gear found out when they tested the new tesla roadster last year that if you drive fast in an EV you get (stunning voice) LESS MILEAGE! (/stunning voice) The top gear track is like 1mile around I think they said and the Tesla roadster couldnt go around it at top speed of the Stig's (aka Michael Schumaker) driving. So if you floor it with an EV you get really shitty mileage.

Then if you wanted to put 480v plugs at every business or parking space (first of all how dangerous is that?) youd have to put money in the parking meter and in the power plug meter to be able to charge your car to have enough charge to drive home. That roll out of power stations is a HUGE expense. That expense will likely be done on the federal state and local government level through mandates. Mandates mean taxes go up so the people who got federal subsidies to buy an EV also get subsides to have a charging station put in... so in other words...

The ecomentalists get a free ride in both the purchase of their cars AND the refueling of their cars for life because they believe in something that has been proven to NOT BE OUR FAULT! Why should everyone get to buy the eco nutjobs a car and gas for life because they support us all giving up a little more of our freedom to the government? Please go read "the road to serfdom" or "atlas shrugged"... you will never think that these stupid ass EV's are a good idea again.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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