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Plug or Play

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I recently saw an advertisement from our local electric utility.  It showed electrical plugs being plugged into power strips, outlets, etc.  The message was that electric usage will be here for a long time.  The message certainly wasn’t about energy conservation as it was about the fact that we will continue using a lot of it.  What caught my eye, though, was in the last scene, the worker, with hard hat and all, is shown plugging in a Chevy Volt with the utilities name emboldened on the door.   It got me thinking about electric cars and the polarized factions for and against.  So I wondered, what is really happening with electric cars worldwide.

According to Clean Energy Ministerial, the Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI) is a global cooperative on the development and deployment of electric vehicles (EVs).  The initiative aim is the global deployment of 20 million EVs by 2020.  So, what progress has been made toward the goal and who is participating?

 There are pilot cities that are participating in the deployment.    It just so happens that there is a recent (May 2012) publication called the EV City Casebook, A Look at the Global Electric Car Movement.  It highlights cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and Hamburg, Portland, Oregon, New York City, LA, Shanghai, and areas like the Research Triangle in North Carolina, Goto Islands, Japan, and North East England as being on the leading edge.  That’s the good news.

However, looking closer at the Casebook it shows that to date there is little progress toward the goal.  The US is looking to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.  In a report in Forbes in June, the number 3.5 million by 2015 is being floated.   3.5 million is a long way from 20 million.   However, the EV City Casebook does a great job looking into the individual cities and their relationship to sustainability.  For instance, take Amsterdam.  There is an expectation that by 2040, “nearly all kilometersdriven will be powered with electricity generated by windmills, solar panels and biomass plants. The canals will be filled with silent electric boats. Cargo will be transported over the road and water using electric power. The city will even smell better and sound quieter thanks to electric transport. Fossil fuels will be unnecessary when travelling in the city. Harmful emissions will be dramatically reduced, as will the costs of electric transport. All of this will make Amsterdam an attractive city in which to live, work and play —all thanks to developments that are being put in motion today.”  Amsterdam, with a population of 780,000+ expects to have 10,000 EVs on the road by 2015.

One thing that particularly caught my eye in the section on the city of Hamburg, Germany, was a highlighting of the lessons learned; 


  • Demonstrate technical feasibility
  • Identify barriers
  • Implement innovative solutions
  • Create local added value
  • Launch first business models

The electric car, or should I say an electric car, has been designed, developed, and implemented, but the project does not end there.  There has to be a wider spread acceptance.  Countries are looking into various incentives to encourage the purchase and usage of EVs.  Perhaps one day we will be able to have better smelling and quieter cities.  And remember, we think that part of the project should be to consider the effects and methods of generating the power so that there is something coming down the line when the EVs are plugged in to charge.  We also think that the project include the ultimate method of disposal of all of the EV after its useful life (batteries included in this case).

Posted by Dave Shirley on: July 11, 2012 11:04 PM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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It seems to me that this is an example of a project with no sponsor or real stakeholders. If customers (citizens) wanted an electric car, they would make it happen, or at least they would become stakeholders who would agitate for getting an EV. If current day EVs do not have any perceived benefits for the stakeholders, why would they want a project that creates such a deliverable?

This sounds like the kind of projects where it is mandated from the top down, with the bulk of the stakeholder powerless (pardon the pun) to resist.

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