France to spend millions on electric vehicle infrastructure, but what is the future of 'plugging in'?
October 10 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment Year: 2011 Rating: 5 Hot
In recent years advocates of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles have argued ‘the infrastructure for electric cars exists. We only need to plug in our cars at night while nobody is using the electricity.’ This was the source of their disdain for the other electron energy carrier hydrogen. Why waste time on building something new, when it already exists?
It turns out that this observation of our electricity grid was only a snapshot of reality, not the description of a future-ready system for supporting electric vehicles. The world’s electric grids are not ready to support commercial vehicle fleets. And now auto makers like Renault are leading efforts to rally utility grid operators, energy storage companies and entrepreneurs to prepare for the electrification of the global auto fleet.
France’s EDF & Renault creating the future
Business Week is reporting on a pledge by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Paris Auto Show to dedicate 400 million euros ($549 million) in state support for the development of electric and hybrid cars.
The funds are likely to be packaged with a major agreement between Renault and France’s utility EDF to jointly develop the infrastructure needed to recharge electric vehicles, allowing Renault to deliver vehicles in 2011. (The French government owns 85 percent of EDF and 15 percent of Renault.)
GDF is already the owner of the world’s biggest corporate fleet of electric vehicles and has an obvious stake in developing a “smart” charging stations.
Meanwhile Business Week confirms that Renault-Nissan is to establish infrastructure in Israel, Denmark, Portugal, the U.S. state of Tennessee and the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, with production plans for electric cars from 2011.
Are electric recharge stations the best path?
Futurist Jamais Cascio has been quoted as saying ‘The road to hell is paved with short-term distractions.” And as someone who has followed the hype cycle of transportation propulsion systems I wonder if a strategy based solely on batteries and electricity could be that? A short-term distraction.
The future of vehicle fueling infrastructure might actually be more complicated than just plugging in. Why should we hedge our bets with powering electric vehicles around other electrons carrier systems like fuel cells and capacitors? (Continue)
Hedging our bets on batteries and fuel cells
It is hard to hold a serious strategic conversation about the future of transportation systems when most people are simply eager to implement the quickest, easiest solution.
The good news is that battery powered cars are coming and industry leaders recognize that we will need to invest in new infrastructure.
The bad news is that we still have not had a serious strategic discussion on which electron production and storage alternatives are best suited for automobile applications. There is still a strong case to be made that batteries cannot provide a long term, low cost solo platform for electric propulsion vehicle systems. What about capacitors and fuel cells?
A note from a previous post:GM Kills Combustion Engine
Electric cars are very complicated machines- and they will require a combination of electron power systems including batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors. Not one device ‘to rule them all’. Batteries alone are not likely to be the end game.
The future of electric cars rests on tapping the cost and performance advantages of all systems working together.
The good news is that advanced lithium ion batteries appear to have enough juice within them to support the first generation of electric vehicles. Hence the rush to expand infrastructure.
The bad news is that it only confuses the general public and distracts us from accelerating development of another form of electron power that can match the cost and performance of gasoline combustion engines. Hydrogen, the chemical storage version of electricity. While H2 was over-hyped during the Dotcom Boom, it is a potent source of energy that cannot be ignored. Appliance based H2 production and solid state H2 storage systems are evolving. And fuel cell membrane costs are dropping quickly. Stay tuned.
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