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DETROIT - JANUARY 12: The charging port of a CT&T e-Zone Hatch electric vehicle displayed during the press preview for the world automotive media North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opens to the public January 16th. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images)

EV Buzz Sweeps Utilities

America is poised for a battery revolution that will transform vehicle transportation in America and lead to a surge in demand for electricity, utility executives from around the country were told at the Edison Electric Association annual meeting in New Orleans this week.

David Danielson, U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary, said that American motorists are rushing to buy electric vehicles at a much faster pace than they bought hybrids in the first five years they were on the market.

In a few years, there will be 330,000 EVs on the road and amount to 1 percent of all new cars sold, he said.

Sales will escalate as the cost of batteries to power the EVs plunge.

David Danielson


“I see a tremendous opportunity for cost reduction in batteries,” Danielson said.

In less than five years, the total value of batteries flowing into the grid will for the first time exceed the value of batteries now being used to power consumer electronics – like laptops and cellphones, Danielson said.

Tesla’s two top executives, in turn, told the utility leaders that growth in electric vehicle sales will escalate.

Elon Musk, Tesla chief executive, said that by the end of 2017, Tesla will be selling its model 3 vehicle for around $35,000 – and it will have a range of at least 200 miles before needing a recharge. That would make the car affordable to the middle class – and will eliminate the “range anxiety” motorists have with early model EVs, Tesla believes.

 JB Straubel, Tesla chief technology officer, said that the media is fixated on painting Tesla as a toy of the rich. While most early technology is expensive – that changes as product evolution occurs.

Chuck Caisley, Kansas City Power & Light, said,  “We flat out dispute this is a rich person thing.” In fact, Caisley said, an EV can be leased today for about the cost of fuel to power today’s gas guzzler.

Chris Womack, Southern Company president of external affairs, said that he would like more first generation EVs sold into such places as rural Alabama, where few Teslas now roam. Residents there can be sold on the notion of “it’s cool to have an EV,” Womack said.

The bottom line for utilities is that EVs represent new demand for electricity at a time when most utilities have seen power sales tumble or stagnate.

Musk said that Tesla estimates EVs could wind up doubling utility loads “in the long-term.”

Chuck Caisley


Utilities like KCP&L will welcome such sales, Caisley said, as it will ease the power company’s cost of transitioning to accommodate more distributed generation on the grid.

Alan Oshima, Hawaii Electric president and chief executive officer, said EVs can be useful as a way to store energy as deployment of solar generation continues to grow.

Utilities need to work with employers to accelerate deployment of workplace EV charging stations, Oshima said. “Workplace charging has to be a big part of what we do to get people to use electricity when we want them to use it,” he said.

Danielson said that 200 companies today provide workplace charging for EVs.

“We expect it to grow significantly in the future,” he said.


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