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."
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
skeptics. Jan Kreider, an engineering professor and the
founder of the University of Colorado's Joint Center for Energy
"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."
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.
quote: we'd need the following number of new power plants: 2 nuclear, 5-10 coal, *or* 25 natural gas.