Posting in Energy
Customers driving EVs spend more time in stores when they are plugged in.
There are comparatively few electric vehicles on the road, but researchers are beginning to uncover consumer behavior trends that could influence everything from how utilities charge for electricity to where and how people shop.
Electric vehicle charger maker ECOtality has learned that electric vehicle (EV) owners spend significantly more time in stores than typical customers when charging at those locations. It has installed chargers at retailers including IKEA, Kohls, Cracker Barrel, and Fred Meyer under a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE).
"We are in the process of vetting information from retailers," said ECOtality's chief innovation officer Don Karner. There is an opportunity for retailers to push information to users on sales when they plug in outside of the store, and retailers are finding that EV owners are more affluent buyers, he added.
It will be interesting to know whether EVs will draw consumers toward the all-in-one megastore, small town municipal lots for stroll down Main Street, or both. Charging will be faster as battery technology improves, but likely will never be a quick as pumping a tank full of gas.
ECOtality is collaborating with automakers, the DOE, and Idaho National Laboratory researchers to determine what could happen as EVs become more common. It is amassing data through the DOE's EV Project, which collects aggregate data on all aspects of vehicle utilization from where they are driven to the battery's state of charge. No personally identifiable data is shared.
The EV Project began in October, 2009 after the DOE granted ECOtality US$99.8 million, followed by an additional $15 million in 2010. Partners in the private sector matched the funding bringing the grand total to $230 million. The funds were used to place EV chargers in homes and throughout major metropolitan areas. 4,066 Nissan LEAFs and 427 Chevrolet Volts are participating.
Another finding was that there is an opportunity for utilities to stagger when EVs charge through offering off peak pricing. There is a strong correlation between rates and when EV owners plug in, Karner explained. Over 5,000 MWHrs of energy was charged to project vehicles in Q1 2012.
"EVs are plugged in 7-8 hours, and only draw power for two," Karner added. "There is an opportunity from a utility load leveling standpoint to move charging around in the time it is plugged in to take advantage of renewables that may be in surplus during late evening hours."
A separate pilot project jointly operated by American Honda Motor Co., IBM, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is now underway to develop new technology that will uphold the power grid’s reliability when it’s time to plug in.
The pilot's purpose is because today’s power grids simply cannot handle an influx of EVs plugging in during peak hours. The solution manages charging for each vehicle taking battery state and grid conditions into account. It also aims to make it easier to find a charge while on the road.
The EV project releases quarterly reports, and an upcoming focus will be to examine how charging away from home impacts EV utilization. As EV owners drive on, ECOtality hopes to learn what charger locations work and why, and why less effective locations fail.
"We are very early in the process even thought we've collected 35 million miles worth of data. People are getting used to vehicles, and the longer they have the vehicles the more they tend to drive. Trip distances are so far in line with the national average of miles traveled per day," Karner said.
(Image credit: ECOtality)
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Aug 2, 2012
They are the most successful electric vehicle bar none. Millions have been sold worldwide as opposed to the few thousands of electric cars, yet electric cars are being subsidized by millions of dollars, ebikes nothing. In fact ebikes are getting a rough road to be legalized in North America in contrast to the red carpet treatment of electric cars.
As electric cars become more common the short ranges and long recharge times become more obvious problems. Further developments in battery technology should improve this situation only slowly, if we can judge by the last 25 years of battery research progress. One answer is quick swap battery packs that can be changed by automated machinery placed at gas stations and other locations, but that's likely to be a problem for people used to tanking up every 300-350 miles. A better approach may be the one that a Stanford University research team is studying. Their system uses inductive coupling to power vehicles as they drive down major highways.http://phys.org/news/2012-02-wireless-power-revolutionize-highway.html Range will be unlimited so long as you stay on main routes and you'd recharge for local driving during your commute. As a bonus the system could easily be modified to keep vehicles on path and at the proper speed, with the potential to space them more closely for added fuel economy (reduced wind resistance), as well as allowing a greater volume of traffic to flow safely during peak periods. The big challenge will be generating enough power to electrify major roads, with each car needing as much as 10 kilowatts of power and trucks perhaps 30-40 kilowatts. Electric motors are over 90% efficient compared to around 25% for internal combustion engines. Combined cycle electric generating plants approach 60% efficiency so allowing 7-10% losses for transmission and inductive coupling still leaves this system twice as efficient as conventional vehicles.The comparison will improve steadily as alternatives and next generation nuclear power grow. Electric highways are a logical path to pursue if we are really serious about getting away from fossil fuels.
If a retailer provides free EV charging can they write that off as a marketing cost? Or will eco elitists claim they are being greedy and should somehow absorb the cost. ( a common phrase being used inside the DC beltway when discussing mandates placed on businesses these days) And I have to ask, why are EV owners always looking for a free lunch? Why are EV proponents always trying to justify that free lunch? An EV owner makes a decision to buy a vehicle with limited range. Why are they expecting to get free charging everywhere they go? If I buy a car with a 2 gallon gas tank, to save on hauling the weight of 96 lbs of gas around plus the lighter tank, can I expect the mall to refill my tank? Its only 2 gallons. What is the big deal? Shaving 110 lbs off the weight of my car will gain me up a half a mile per gallon which is good for the environment. I want my free lunch.