Vehicles – Electric

Getting a (plug-in) charge in Madison

Posted on July 1, 2009. Filed under: Vehicles - Electric |

From a story by Bob Hague on the Wisconsin Radio Network:

phev_plug_small (2)Drivers of plug in electric vehicles will soon be able to charge up on the streets of Wisconsin’s capital city. Madison Gas and Electric is the first utility in the nation to make electric vehicle charging stations publicly available, with the purchase of six such stations to be installed around the city, according to MG&E’s Steve Krause.

“One of the disadvantages (to electric vehicles) now is when you don’t have a public charging station, is you have to either charge the car at your home, or you have to charge it a prearranged location,” said Krause. “People that want to use electric cars all day long, either in town or even town to town, need a place to refuel that vehicle, and these charging stations will do that. We also have an additional bonus. All of the power that will be used to power these cars will come from renewable sources, and it will be primarily wind energy.”

This is a demonstration project and for now, electric vehicle drivers won’t be charged for the juice. MG&E’s Don Peterson said the utility sees this as a business opportunity eventually, so they’ll be collecting data. For example, how many electric vehicles are out there in the Madison area? “We really don’t know how many electric vehicles are out there,” said Peterson. “The estimates go to anywhere from 25 to 75 vehicles.” That’s a number that could be increasing fairly rapidly: Peterson noted that a Madison area car dealership is already doing a brisk trade, converting Toyota Prius hybrids into all electric plug ins.

“We see this is as a business opportunity, but right now each charging station, installed, is costing somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000,” said Peterson. “We’re exploring avenues for grants and additional research money, but right now this is an MG&E funded program.”

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Wisconsin utilities would consider buying electric cars

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Vehicles - Electric, Vehicles - Hybrid |

From an article by Rebecca Smith in the Wall Street Journal:

The auto industry’s quest to launch a new generation of electric cars may get a big boost from a sector with much to gain from getting advanced vehicles on the road: U.S. electric utilities.

Top executives at several utilities are mulling the possibility of ordering thousands of the vehicles — known as plug-in electric cars — as an expression of support for the technology they fear could be derailed by the auto industry’s financial traumas. The cars would run primarily on electricity, with gasoline to extend their range, and would recharge by plugging into standard electrical outlets.

Utilities stand to gain by selling the electricity needed to power the cars. Because power companies own tens of thousands of cars for their own company fleets, the idea under discussion involves putting in a substantial order to put weight behind development and, perhaps, persuade Congress to give the auto industry the assistance it needs.

“Our industry is interested in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, and it seems like a good idea for auto makers and us to pull together,” says Bill Johnson, chief executive of Progress Energy Inc., Raleigh, N.C.

Another reason the sector is keenly interested is that it has excess generating capacity at night when power plants mostly go to sleep because demand drops. A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federal energy lab, found that 73% of the nation’s light vehicles could be recharged with the existing utility infrastructure if the vehicles were plugged in overnight. Such a shift from gasoline to electricity as a primary transportation fuel could displace an estimated 6.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 52% of current oil imports.

Another report, by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded research group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, concluded that if 60% of U.S. light vehicles were electrified by 2050, it would increase national electricity consumption by less than 8%. But it would cut total U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions by 450 million metric tons annually, equivalent to taking 82 million cars off the road. . . .

Utilities would take possession of vehicles when they debut, likely in 2010 or 2011 if development efforts stay on track for cars such as the Chevy Volt, Saturn Vue or Ford Escape.

“If we get enough of us together, we could put in a very large order and maybe a big down payment,” says Dick Kelly, chief executive of Xcel Energy in Minneapolis.

“I would do it,” says Gale Klappa, CEO of Wisconsin Energy, adding that his utility has about 3,000 vehicles in its fleet and replaces 20% each year.

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Some cities, utilities work to conserve electricity

Posted on November 6, 2008. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Vehicles - Electric, Vehicles - Hybrid |

From an article by Gena Kittner in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Communities and the utility companies that distribute electricity are taking steps to conserve energy, in part by changing the way they get around.

In Dane County, a Toyota Prius used by Stoughton Utilities has been converted to a plug-in hybrid and is the first municipal utility in the state to do the transformation.

The same conversion is anticipated in Columbus where the parking lot at City Hall has been equipped with electrical outlets to encourage residents to use electric cars.

Columbus, about 30 miles northeast of Madison, also could become the first city in Wisconsin to convert its street lighting to energy-saving LED lighting.

These energy-saving steps, including upcoming hybrid conversions in Sturgeon Bay, Plymouth and Waupun made possible through grants from Wisconsin Public Power Inc., are examples of utilities trying to conserve the power they’re putting out.

“It’s our goal to get 25 percent of our electrical energy and fuel by green renewable resources by 2025,” said Steven Sobiek, director of economic development and energy sustainability for Columbus.

The proposal in Columbus is to convert a quarter of the 500 conventional street lights to light-emitting diode fixtures, or LEDs. It’s a feasible project because Columbus is a smaller city, Sobiek said.

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DOT short-circuits electric vehicle use

Posted on September 5, 2008. Filed under: Vehicles - Electric, Wind |

Despite the tremendous advantages of electric vehicles, as outlined in Jeff Anthony’s article on plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, the Wisconsin Department of Transporation stands in the way of their wide-spread use, according to an article by Tom Kertscher in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Maybe when the big bikes rumble through again in five years for Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary, NEVs will be hogging part of the road with them.

Chrysler GEM cars are a new addition to the vehicle inventory at Martin’s Garage in Union Grove. The vehicles start at about $8,000, though the state has licensed only 68 so far.

Then again, maybe not. Since December, when a new state law allowed communities to legalize “neighborhood electric vehicles,” the state has licensed just 68 of the vehicles.

Still, at least a half-dozen Milwaukee-area communities have adopted ordinances allowing NEVs on local streets, and at least five more are considering such ordinances.

“They’re really convenient to run on electricity,” said Mequon resident Eric Davis, who doesn’t own an NEV but has used them. He asked the City of Mequon to adopt an NEV ordinance, and a Common Council committee began discussion of it this month.

NEVS are covered, four-wheel vehicles with a windshield, doors, seat belts and other protection. They must have a top attainable speed of at least 20 miles per hour but not more than 25 mph. They’re supposed to be able to run 30 miles on one electric charge, which can take six to eight hours.

In municipalities that adopt NEV ordinances, NEVs can operate on local streets that have speed limits up to 35 mph. State Department of Transportation approval of the ordinances is needed if municipalities want to allow NEVs to cross state trunk highways – a provision that some object to.

“It makes it impractical,” said Jackson Police Chief Jed Dolnick, of the requirement for state approval. Dolnick backed the NEV ordinance that was passed in his Washington County community.

Davis agreed, saying other states generally allow NEVs, and that restrictions are imposed only when communities adopt ordinances to limit their use.

Phil DeCabooter, a DOT official, said Wisconsin’s law has restricted the number of communities that pass NEV ordinances. He said ordinances in nearly 20 communities have been blocked because DOT has refused to allow NEVs to cross state highways while traveling on local streets.

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