Plug in ... but where? - Metro US

Plug in … but where?

If I ask, “What infrastructure might we need, to make it possible for a bunch of us to replace our gasoline-powered vehicles with pure electric vehicles?”

And you answer, “A bunch of really, really, long extension cords.”

Well, that would make me think you’re not taking this infrastructure thing seriously enough my friend.

OK, maybe you got more pressing concerns to worry about — like how to program your PVR so you don’t miss any more episodes of Cubical Makeover.

Thankfully, there are a bunch of concerned citizens, consultants, governments, and eager business enterprises who have all been busy of late, envisioning that electric-car future. Let’s take a quick look at what they’re picturing, and worrying about:

• Charge stations with high-voltage power (400- 600 volts), so “fill ups” can be done in minutes.

• Charge stations that will also allow payments by credit cards, and figure out how much to charge, based on the real time cost of electricity.

• The first wave of charge stations will be in city cores, and near bus, train, and subway stations. Charge stations on the prairies? Maybe later.

• Another or supplemental option is places where drained battery packs can be quickly exchanged for fully-charged packs. But for that to work we will need standardized battery packs.

• More electricity will be needed and it will have to be clean (wind, solar, wave, etc). Putting coal-generated electricity into vehicles will not make the carbon footprint go down a size.

You can see we’ve got a way to go yet. That’s why some feel hybrids, will be very popular and necessary until we transition to an electrical future. They don’t need that expensive infrastructure we talked about.

But surprisingly, governments here and around the world seem willing to invest in electrical infrastructure. California and Israel are well on their way, and there are big projects planned for Arizona and Oregon.

I think this is because they see it as more of their purvey, like garbage collection and the water supply. To them, hydrogen is just another fuel; so let the fuel companies worry about that.

Ontario recently initiated some incentives so that one out of every 20 vehicles driven in the province might be electrically-powered by 2020.

These incentives include customer rebates of up to $10,000 and the installation of charge spots at Ontario government and Toronto’s Go Transit locations.

As usual, the automakers are not totally on board. They’re leery about putting all their expensive R&D eggs in one basket, lest some other technology comes along and blows them out of the water.

For instance, someone might finally figure out how to capture all that methane produced by cattle flatulence. If that happens and all you’re building is electrical motors, well, that would be a bummer.

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

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